This quick and easy Cannellini Bean Salad is healthy, delicious and full of flavor! Chock-full of buttery beans, crisp fresh veggies, peppery arugula and crunchy croutons, this crowd-pleasing white bean salad is anything but boring or bland! It’s the perfect cold salad for any occasion – from potlucks and holiday parties, to work lunches and fast weeknight dinners! (Healthy, Vegetarian)
Update: This post was originally published in April 2019. I made updates to the post below to include more information about this easy white bean salad recipe! I also added step-by-step photos so you can see exactly how simple it is to marinate beans (and dish them up as a beautiful salad!) right at home!
Hi, friends! I hope you had the most wonderful Easter! My holiday was lovely; however, after all the deviled eggs and Mimosas, I’m craving food that is light, nourishing and refreshing! Which brings me to today’s recipe for marinated white beans! This feel-good Italian white bean salad is the perfect way to reset and reboot after the indulgent holiday weekend!
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White bean salad: recipe overview
Tender, creamy white beans, crunchy celery and pungent shallots tossed in a silky, creamy, tangy lemon parmesan vinaigrette. Served on a bed of peppery arugula and sprinkled with delicate chives; golden brown, Italian seasoned homemade croutons and crispy, thinly sliced radishes, this cannellini bean salad is next level delicious!
Refreshing and hearty, this flavorful bean and vegetable salad is something you can feel good about eating! It’s perfect for picnics, potlucks, workweek lunches or as a simple and delicious side to compliment family dinners!
The best part of all – aside from the amazing flavor – this white bean salad is incredibly stress-free and easy to prepare! Plus, it’s a great way to use up those canned beans sitting in your pantry and that loaf of bread in your bread box that is about to go stale!
Why you will love this bean recipe
- Incredibly easy to prepare! This white bean salad recipe is easy and fuss-free that it feels wrong to even call it a recipe! This simple salad takes mere minutes to prepare and requires little more than tossing and stirring ingredients!
- Simple, economical ingredients! This bean salad is made with just a couple cans of beans, a few pantry staples, such as olive oil, and fresh ingredients – all of which are easy to find and budget-friendly!
- So fresh and flavorful! Cannellini salad is proof that sometimes it’s best to keep it simple! The combination of simple ingredients, fresh vegetables and a robust dressing produce a hearty, yet healthy salad that is seriously delicious!!
- Adaptable! This recipe for cannellini beans salad is very adaptable – it’s the perfect way to use up any fresh produce you have hanging out in your kitchen!
- Prep ahead! All the ingredients in white kidney beans salad hold up great in the refrigerator, making these beans perfect for Sunday meal prep!
- Any occasion! This easy white bean salad is perfect for any occasion! This Italian bean dish packs great for work lunches or picnics and potlucks! Plus, it makes the perfect healthy and easy side dish for family dinners!
- Pairs well with anything! You can enjoy this herby bean salad as a light stand-alone meal; however, it also tastes great alongside fish and seafood, chicken, steak or pork, and more!
What’s bean salad made of?
This cilantro tomatillo sauce is bursting with flavor and totally addictive! This recipe relies on 7 easy to find, simple ingredients (plus a few pantry staples!) to create a vibrant, refreshing sauce that everyone will love!
Ingredients in cannellini beans salad
- Canned white beans: I typically use two cans of cannellini or Northern beans; however you can use any variety of white beans you love! (See below for varieties of white beans to use in salads!)
- Shallot: One large shallot provides a delicate onion flavor. You can thinly slice or finely chop the shallot, depending upon your preference; however once chopped, it should measure to a roughly 1/2 cup.
- Substitution: If you prefer a more astringent onion flavor, swap out the shallots for red onions! Or, for a more delicate flavor, scallions (green onions) are a great swap! If using scallions in this Tuscan bean salad, treat the white and light green parts of the scallions as the shallot substitute, and reserve the dark green parts for garnish!
- Celery: A rib of celery or two brings an element of crunch, as well as a natural saltiness and distinctive flavor to this navy bean salad!
- Arugula: Four to five cups of peppery arugula lends the perfect slightly bitter backdrop that brings all the flavors together!
- Substitution: If arugula isn’t your favorite bitter green, watercress, radicchio, escarole, spinach and frisee are all acceptable arugula substitutions!
- Fresh Herbs: I like to use a mix of chives with dill or basil, though fresh parsley, cilantro and mint are all wonderful options! I recommend a combination of at least two different fresh herbs for the best flavor!
- Croutons: While entirely optional, seasoned croutons add a crispy, crunchy texture that perfectly complements the plump, buttery beans! I like to use homemade croutons; however, store-bought work great too!
White bean salad dressing ingredients
This simple white bean recipe gets a boost of robust flavor from a super simple, yet luscious and ultra-flavorful lemon vinaigrette! This bean salad dressing is fresh, zippy, tart, bright and comes together in minutes!
- Oil: For the best flavor, be sure to use a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil! Oil is what gives the dressing body as well as richness!
- Garlic: One small clove of garlic provides plenty of flavor! Use fresh garlic, not the minced variety sold in a jar, for superior taste!!
- Parmesan: Two tablespoons of grated parmesan lends a touch of complex, salty flavor! Be sure to finely grate (not shred) the parmesan! Kitchen Tip: The food processor makes quick work out of grating hard cheeses!
- Lemon: Fresh lemon juice lends plenty of zippy flavor to this white kidney bean salad! I recommend you start with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in your dressing; taste and adjust from there!
- Mustard: A dollop of dijon mustard provides a tangy, sharp depth of flavor!
- Honey: A touch of sweet honey (or maple syrup!) balances the sour lemon, sharp garlic and salty parmesan! I recommend sweetening your lemon dressing to taste!
- Salt and Pepper: Kosher salt and ground black pepper bring everything together and make the flavors shine!
This basic white bean recipe is so easy to adapt! I encourage you to make this butter beans salad your own! Get creative in the kitchen – add ingredients you love and eliminate the ones you don’t! Below are a few different ways you can spice up this northern bean salad!
- Tomatoes: Make a mediterranean bean salad by adding in fresh cherry tomatoes. Or make it Italian by stirring in Marinated Cherry Tomatoes.
- Bell Peppers: Red bell peppers will provide a pop of pretty color and sweet flavor.
- Corn: Buttery corn and white beans are a satisfying combination, especially in Italian salads.
- Cucumbers: Cooling, crunchy cucumbers are a common addition to quick bean salads.
- Eggs: Hard boiled eggs are a classic salad mix-in.
- Cheese: Cabrales, feta, goat and mozzarella cheeses are all delicious pairing options for white beans and arugula!
- Olives: Cannellini beans and kalamata olives are a creamy, briny match made in heaven!
- Nuts: The best way to add salty crunch to salads – nuts. Pine nuts are my pick for this cold bean salad!
- Pasta: Transform your simple white bean salad into a pasta and bean picnic salad by tossing in your favorite cooked and cooled pasta. Stick with short pasta shapes with plenty of nooks and crannies for catching the dressing and goodies.
- Potatoes: Steamed or roasted creamy fingerling potatoes are a great way to make this salad more substantial and filling.
- Radishes: Zesty raw radishes lend a slightly spicy flavor that plays well with lemony bean salads.
- Chicken: Toss in some Rotisserie chicken to make a super simple white bean chicken salad!
- Tuna: White bean tuna salad is one of my favorite easy lunches. I simply drain a can of tuna, mix it with a tablespoon of Greek yogurt (or mayo!), and dollop it over my white beans.
- Cured or Cooked Ham: Prosciutto, cooked pancetta and crispy bacon are all salty, savory additions that make a salad taste like a treat!
What are white beans?
“White beans” is a broad term that defines a group of legumes with white casings and starchy insides. Navy beans, Great Northern beans, Cannellini beans and Baby Lima beans are all varieties of white beans! Protein-rich white beans are a great nonperishable food that can be purchased canned or dried!
Are cannellini beans the same as white beans?
Cannellini beans, also known as white kidney beans, are a type of white bean. While there are a few varieties of white beans, cannellini beans are the largest. Cannellinis have a tender flesh with a nutty flavor. And, since white kidney beans retain their shape and texture during cooking, they are perfect to use in a variety of dishes, from cold or warm salads, to soups, stews, and chilis!
Best beans for picnic salads!
I typically use cannellini beans in this Italian bean salad; however, you can use whatever variety of white beans you love!! Each bean variety has a slightly different texture, flavor and size; however, you can use them interchangeably in this beans salad!
- Cannellini Bean: Cannellinis are large and oval in shape with a meaty texture, nutty flavor and tender flesh. They are native to Southern Italy and popular in Italian dishes, such as minestrone!
- Great Northern Bean: Medium-size Great Northern beans are smaller than Cannellini beans, but larger than Navy beans. They are popular for their mild, nutty flavor and firm flesh!
- Navy Bean: Also known as ‘Pea Beans’, Navy beans are the smallest white bean variety. These pale ivory beans are very mild in flavor, soft in texture and small in size, which makes them quick-cooking! Navy beans are commonly found in Baked Beans and Navy Bean Chowder!
- Baby Lima: Named for the capital of Peru, baby lima beans are small with a smooth shell. Lima beans are also named ‘Butter beans” for their buttery taste and rich flavor!
Kitchen Tip: You can also swap out the white beans entirely and opt for black eyed peas or chickpeas, or a mix of both!
Are cannellini beans healthy?
Cannellini beans are great for you and a wonderful addition to a healthy diet!
Beans, and legumes in general, offer numerous health benefits: they’re an excellent source of vegetarian protein and dietary fiber, along with other essential nutrients!
Cannellini beans specifically are a superfood and loaded with antioxidants, plus they have more dietary fiber than red beans.
Also, white beans are low in calories and they have been shown to help with weight loss since they act as an inhibitor that stops your body from absorbing carbohydrates quickly.
It is important to note, when using canned white beans (versus dried beans), make sure you read the nutrition label to make sure no extra sodium, sugar or other harmful additives are added!
How to make Italian white bean salad?
This fiber-rich butter bean dish is so simple to prepare – you only need a handful of fresh ingredients, plus some pantry staples and 10 minutes of hands on preparation! It’s the perfect last minute side dish to throw together for potlucks and picnics! Plus, it stores great, so it’s a great dish to meal prep for easy grab-and-go lunches!
Three steps to make cannellini bean salad
- Prepare the dressing. Whisk together oil, garlic, parmesan, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and Italian seasonings in a small bowl.
- Marinate the beans. All the white beans and shallots to a medium size bowl. Pour half of the dressing over the beans and toss to combine. Let stand for at least 10-15 minutes so the flavors can develop and marry. Alternatively, you can cover the bowl and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use!
- Add veggies, then herbs: Add the celery, along with any other salad mix-ins you love, such as diced tomatoes (shown below). Gently stir and add the fresh herbs. Gently stir, taste and adjust for seasoning.
- Serve as is: Transfer to a bowl and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve as is (or with crusty bread!) for a quick and easy marinated white beans salad.
- Or, serve as a arugula bean salad: To me, this is the best way to serve simple white beans – over peppery arugula with a generous dusting of parmesan and plenty of crunchy croutons! It just checks all the boxes: crunchy and creamy; peppery, salty and savory, with a hint of sour and tart!
Making simple bean salad step-by-step photos
Below you will find a picture collage showing you exactly how to make this cold bean salad, step-by-step! Please scroll down for the printable recipe card, which contains detailed instructions and measurements!
Serving cannellini beans salad
What goes with arugula and white bean salad?
The simple, yet robust flavors in this quick bean salad are so versatile that it truly makes a great side dish for a wide variety of entrees! You can serve with grilled chicken, fish, or salmon; or simply enjoy as a quick and easy lunch to-go!
- Soups: When the weather gets chilly, soup and simple bean salads are a healthy, yet hearty pairing option!
- Potluck, BBQ and Picnics Sides: This bean vegetable salad is always a crowd-pleaser at outdoor events – just leave out the croutons! You can pair simple bean salads with any type of picnic side dish, such as pasta salads!
- Hamburgers and Hotdogs: Cold bean salads tolerate the heat well, so they’re a natural match for burgers and hotdogs!
- Fish and Seafood: Pair white bean summer salad with your favorite grilled or roasted seafood for a delicious, yet easy dinner! Anything from shrimp or salmon, to tuna and lobster works great!
- Chicken: Keep dinner simple with a rotisserie chicken and marinated beans! Or, indulge and pair your silky beans with crispy fried chicken – YUM!
- Meats and Pork: Fire up the grill and char a few sausages, or flame-broil a couple of steaks! This light navy beans salad pairs perfectly with your favorite meats, steak recipes and pork!
Do you serve white bean salad cold or hot?
White bean salad is traditionally served either cold or at room temperature. This white bean vinaigrette salad is best when enjoyed cool or closer to room temperature!
Storing bean vegetable salad
How long does salad with white beans keep in the fridge?
You should store your white bean salad in an airtight container to maximize quality – and for food safety! When properly stored, this salad will last for up to 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Can you freeze bean salad?
You can absolutely freeze the marinated cannellini bean portion of this salad! Simply transfer the beans to an airtight container or freezer-safe resealable bag. Properly stored, the white bean and veggie salad will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer.
Quick and easy to prepare, plus packed with texture and flavor, this canned bean salad is the perfect for every occasion! Dish is up for light lunches and easy dinners; or serve it as a delicious complement to any potluck or picnic!
Until next week friends, cheers! To light and fresh salads with buttery beans and plenty of flavor!
More easy recipes with beans!
If you love this fresh cannellini salad, try one of these delicious bean recipes next:
- White Bean Hummus (Super creamy dip with peppery arugula and white beans!)
- Tuscan Bean Soup Recipe (One of the most popular soup recipes on this site!)
- Easy Baked Beans with Bacon (The best barbecue beans with bourbon and brown sugar!)
- Best Black Bean Burgers (These burgers don’t mess around!)
- Charros Bean (Mexican pinto bean)
The best White Bean Salad Recipe👇
Below is the complete printable recipe card, along with some of the step-by-step photos! Scroll up for more in-depth instructional photos!
White Cannellini Bean Salad
Optional Mix-ins: Tomatoes, Olives, Thinly Sliced Radish, Sweet Peas, Roasted or Steamed Fingerling Potatoes, Cooked + Cooled Pasta, Steamed Broccoli, Blanched Snow Peas and/or Asparagus, + MORE!
Serve with: Rotisserie Chicken, Canned Tuna (drained), Flaked Salmon, Leftover Grilled Chicken or Pork!
- Whisk the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the oil, garlic, parmesan, lemon juice, Dijon, honey, and Italian seasoning. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk until emulsified and well combined.
- Marinate the white beans + shallots: Place the white beans and shallots in a medium bowl. Add half of the dressing and toss to combine. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. -OR- Cover and transfer to the refrigerator to allow the flavors to marry. (SEE NOTES)
- Add Celery + Mix-ins: Add the celery (and any other mix-in you love!) to the bowl. Gently stir.
- Add the Herbs + Adjust: Add the fresh herbs to the bowl and gently stir. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt, pepper or grated parmesan.
- Serve as is: Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and serve as is; with dressing on the side and plenty of crusty bread! Enjoy!
- Serve as arugula salad: Add the arugula to a large serving bowl. Spoon the beans over the top and sprinkle croutons, more parmesan cheese and more fresh herbs. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the top or serve it on the side! Enjoy!
- Beans: If you do not like cannellini beans or don’t have any on hand, you can substitute any variety of white bean (Great Northern, Baby Lima or Navy) in this salad.
- Arugula: While peppery arugula pairs well with this white bean salad, feel free to substitute your favorite salad greens!
- Croutons: For the best croutons, make your own! It's a great way to use up bread that's about to turn stale! Homemade Crouton Recipe!
- Marinate Time: For the best tasting white bean salad, allow the white beans to marinate in the dressing for at least an hour in the refrigerator.
- Leftovers: White bean salad should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Properly stored, it will keep for up to 3 to 5 days.
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