(Note: this post was originally published on August 16, 2020. It has been updated several times since then with additional examples).
The Easiest Summer Black Bean Salad
Are you looking for the fastest, freshest, prettiest rainbow salad? This Mexican bean salad is hearty, healthy, and comes together quickly with no cooking needed.
A few summers ago, I posted this black bean salad on Instagram and you all went crazy over it. I wasn't even planning to post a full recipe on the blog because it just seemed too simple. But your love of this salad gave me a very clear message: you guys are on the hunt for easy, fresh summer dishes that will get you back to your outdoor activities faster.
So here it is- just about the easiest bean salad ever. This summery rainbow salad will allow you to play outside all day, throw everything together at the last minute, and still have a very flavorful and nutritious meal.
Mexican and Hawaiian Flavors
The flavor profile of this black bean salad is very fresh and light, mostly Mexican-inspired with a kiss of Hawaii. The dressing is just lime juice, a bit of agave (or honey if you prefer), freshly grated ginger, and an optional dash of cayenne or hot sauce; keeping the dressing simple really allows the fresh veggies to shine.
For the veggies, I like to use multi-colored bell peppers, mango, purple cabbage, corn, and fresh cilantro for a rainbow effect. Aren't the colors great? But this Mexican bean salad will taste equally as wonderful with fewer colors represented, so use whatever you have on-hand.
Feel free to make whatever flavor swaps you like; this summery rainbow salad is so flexible! Use mint instead of cilantro, pineapple instead of mango, or orange juice instead of lime juice. The whole point is for this recipe to be EASY.
How to Serve Bean Salad
One of the things I love most about this Mexican bean salad is its flexibility; it can truly become anything. Especially for a summer party, this versatility is so important. This salad can be a side dish alongside some grilled fare or can function as a main course for herbivores. It's a delightful chip dip too. Because it can be different things for different people, it's a great dish for a crowd.
I also like that this rainbow salad can be as fancy or as humble as you like. It's quite beautiful when plated nicely, and can make for a great party dish. I've even served it in a papaya half (see the photo below). But it also works great out of a container on a picnic, especially since the ingredients are hearty and stand up well during transport.
Got leftovers? This black bean salad is great in a burrito bowl, on top of a salad, or stuffed into a taco the following day. Don't hesitate to make a double-batch and enjoy the leftovers later in the week.
This pretty rainbow salad works great as a make-ahead meal, so it would be perfect for a summer potluck or even as an easy lunch throughout the week. If you want to make it ahead, the dressing, cabbage, beans, and peppers can happily co-exist in the fridge for a few days. I'd just add the mango, avocado, cilantro, and pepitas right before serving so that they stay fresh.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Lime juice. Lime juice really brings this Mexican bean salad to life. Fresh-squeezed is a must! If you don't have limes on-hand, it also works nicely with orange juice.
Agave. This gives the salad a tiny bit of sweetness for that addicting sweet/heat balance. Use honey instead for a different flavor profile (and if you don't need this salad to be vegan).
Fresh ginger root. I don't suggest making this recipe with powdered ginger; it's not nearly as good. If you don't have fresh ginger root, you can omit it and just go for a acidic/sweet/spicy vibe.
Salt and pepper
Cayenne pepper or hot sauce. Optional, but it's a fun add-in if you like heat.
Corn.If you just thaw out frozen corn, you'll keep this recipe no-cook. But in season, fresh grilled corn on the cob is the tastiest option.
Colored peppers. This will work great with whatever peppers you have on-hand, but of course more colors will yield a prettier rainbow salad. You can use either full-sized or baby bell peppers.
Half a mango. Or use pineapple instead.
Big handful of cilantro. Or use mint, or a combination of the two.
Handful of pepitas
Avocado. An optional but awesome addition to this Mexican bean salad. Add it right before serving to avoid browning.
As you can tell from all the ideas and different photos in this post, this black bean salad makes frequent appearances in our house and on our deck. It's easy, a crowd-pleaser, super colorful, versatile, and infinitely flexible. One time, I even made this into a heart shape as a chip dip for Valentine's Day; see the photo below!
My biggest tip though? Make a double batch! This salad always disappears quickly, and having leftovers for the next day or two is great.
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
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