Garden fresh green beans are transformed into a beautiful green bean salad. Featuring tender crisp greens beans dressed in a homemade balsamic vinaigrette mixed with crumbly cheese, red onions, and cherry tomato halves.
Fresh green beans provide the best color, flavor, and texture to salads. Longer green beans make for the best presentation while shorter green beans can be easier to eat and allows you to get a little bit of everything in one bite.
To remove the ends from the green beans just snap them near the stem and give it a gentle tug. Modern green beans should not have a string, but I find that sometimes they do. The strings are fibrous and not very edible.
I think frozen green beans have an odd texture so I have never tried them in this salad.
Canned green beans are not the best option for green bean salad. They have already been processed well beyond the crisp-tender stage. Great for recipes that cook the life out of vegetables, like Southern slow-simmered green beans, not so great for salads.
Blanching Green Beans
Green beans should be blanched for this salad. First, it removes the raw taste and secondly it adds a beautiful green color to the beans.
Blanching is simple. All you need to do is boil the green beans in some salted water for 2 to 3 minutes. Basically, once the beans have turned bright green, remove them from the boiling water and add them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
If you have cut your green beans into shorter pieces you might hear some popping when boiling. No worries, it’s just some of the actual beans popping out of the bean pod.
Alternatively, the green beans can be steamed for the same amount of time and dropped into ice water.
Allowing green beans to blanch for too long will result in soft beans. They will also start to lose some of the vibrant green colors we want for this salad.
Shocking Green Beans
Once the green beans have been blanched the cooking process needs to be stopped immediately.
To shock blanched vegetables, prepare a bowl of water with some ice in it. I just use enough to cover the surface of the water. Much more ice than that and you will have to either wait until it all melts or pick the ice out before using the vegetables.
Use a spider or cooking spoon with large slots cut out to scoop out the vegetables and place into the bowl of ice water.
Once all of the cooked vegetables are into the bowl stir until the ice has melted then drain the vegetables.
I prefer cherry tomatoes in my green bean salad. They are bigger and I can cut them in half. Grape tomatoes can be substituted but may be too small for cutting. It will be fine, just toss them into the salad.
I use about 6 ounces of cherry or grape tomatoes. The last package I bought said cherry tomatoes, but they were pretty small and had 10 ounces in it. I used a little more than half of them.
Whole tomatoes can be used and cut into wedges or chunks, but unless you are getting a nice ripe tomato from a garden the flavor may be a bit disappointing.
Just say no to canned tomatoes in this recipe. You would be much better off not using any at all. The texture doesn’t add any value to this salad. Just like canned green beans, canned tomatoes are better left for simmered dishes like soups and stews.
I am a huge Queso Fresco fan and use it just about anywhere I can. I am guilty of even using this on my burritos and tacos!
Queso Fresco is a mild cheese and pairs nicely with the bold flavors from the vinegar and garlic.
A great substitute is feta cheese. Feta is equally as crumbly, although tangier and perhaps saltier.
Fresh crumbled goat cheese is another acceptable option.
When using crumbly cheese, add it at the very end and only mix lightly. Crumbly cheeses will turn into tiny pieces when handled too much.
To Make a Vegetarian Green Bean Salad you should replace the cheese with crumbled tofu or just skip the cheese. It has been recently noted that many kinds of cheese use rennet as a coagulator and this additive is NOT vegetarian.
Best with Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is my favorite for this recipe. It adds just a hint of sweetness. It will also turn your cheese crumbles a gray color if the cheese is mixed into the salad too soon.
Another vinegar like white wine vinegar can be substituted. When using something other than balsamic, this recipe would benefit from a pinch of sugar added to the dressing.
No Added Salt
There is no salt added to the green bean dressing. This is not an accidental omission in the recipe. The recipe as it stands has enough salt for many palates.
The green beans are blanched in salted water and will absorb a bit of salt. Additionally, queso fresco and feta cheese are both on the salty end for cheeses.
Salt can be added to the final dish when plating. The best salt for this is a coarse salt like kosher or flaked sea salt. My personal favorite is Himalayan Pink Salt.
How to Serve
Green bean salad can be paired with a slice of simple garlic bread and served as a light meal. Cold vegetable salads are perfect for summer days when it is just too hot to eat. Ya know, those dog days of summer!
This salad also makes a great side dish and a presentation suited for holiday meal tables.
Green Bean Salad Recipe
- Cut or snap the stem ends from the green beans.
- Fill a large bowl with ice and water, set aside.
- Blanch the green beans by bringing water to a boil in pot large enough to hold the green beans. Add salt and green beans to the boiling water and boil for 2 to 3 minutes or just until they turn a brighter shade of green.
- Remove the blanched green beans and place them into the ice water, making sure all green beans are covered by cold water. Allow the beans to sit in the cold water until all of the beans have been chilled.
- Once the green beans are chilled drain the water and spread out onto a kitchen towel or paper towels to dry.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic powder, and black pepper.
- Slice cherry tomatoes into halves and add to the dressing along with the diced onions and toss to coat the tomatoes with dressing.
- Add the dry green beans to the mixture and stir to coat the green beans.
- Add the cheese and lightly toss.
- Taste the salad and add salt to taste if needed.
- Cover the salad with a lid or plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.
- Sprinkle with coarse salt before serving if desired.