Salads often bring up images of lettuce leaves or loads of spinach. But there’s one ingredient everyone forgets and that’s green beans. In this Green Bean Salad, I’ve combined tender and crispy green beans with crumbly cheese and sharp red onions for a delicious light meal that’s simple to make.
With just a little preparation for your beans, this is almost a no-cook meal and can be scaled up to feed more people. You can also try different ingredients into the basic recipe such as different cheeses to personalize it just as you like.
Serve it with garlic bread for lunch or pair it with smoked chicken breasts or grilled steaks for the main meal.
How to blanch green beans for a salad
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. 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
The other part of the process is called ‘shocking’ and involves adding the blanched vegetables to a bowl of ice and water.
Make sure they are completely covered with a layer of ice on the top of them. Use a spider or cooking spoon to add the hot beans into the water and leave them to cool.
Then they are ready to use in the raw green bean salad.
- Fresh green bean
- Salt (for blanching)
- Queso fresco cheese about 1/2 cup
- Cherry tomato halves
- Red onion
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Garlic powder
- Ground black pepper
- Coarse salt (optional for serving)
Fresh green beans are definitely best for the recipe. I find that frozen ones have a weird texture so I don’t use them for recipes. Canned green beads are not ideal because they’ve been processed already but they do work okay for things like slow-simmered green beans.
I like cherry tomatoes as you can cut them in half. You can use grape tomatoes and leave them whole or larger tomatoes and cut them into wedges. Avoid canned tomatoes as they won’t work well and are better for stews and soups.
Queso Fresco is my cheese of choice for this recipe but if you can’t get it, feta cheese works quite well although it is a little saltier. Fresh goat cheese is another option. If you use a more crumbly cheese, add it to the end and cut back on mixing so it doesn’t go to tiny pieces.
How to make green bean salad
- Cut or snap the ends from each of the beans then add to a large bowl with ice and water then set aside.
- Blanch the beans by bringing a pot of water to the boil, add salad then the beans, and cool for 2-3 minutes until they become a brighter green shade.
- Remove them from the hot water and submerge them in the cold water, leaving them there until chilled.
- Remove from the water and spread onto a kitchen towel to dry.
- In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil with vinegar, garlic powder, and black pepper.
- Slice the tomatoes and add to the dressing then dice the onions and toss in the dressing as well.
- Add the dry beans to the mixture and stir.
- Add the cheese and stir gently.
- Taste and add salt if needed then cover with a lid and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving.
- When serving, if needed, sprinkle with some coarse salt.
For some extra crunch, you can ½ cup of toasted nuts. Pine nuts, slivered almonds, or walnuts are all great options.
What can you use in place of balsamic vinegar?
I love balsamic vinegar in this recipe to add a little sweetness but it does change the color of the cheese if you mix it too soon.
As an alternative, you can use white wine vinegar. You may just want to add a pinch of sugar to the dressing mix if you do this so it isn’t too bitter.
Why is salt optional?
I know every chef will tell you to salt every dish but there’s a purposeful omission with this one. The beans are blanched in saltwater so will absorb some of it. The cheese is also salty. So my advice is to leave off the salt until you have tasted it at the end and only add a little if needed.
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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.