Black Bean Salad

What is it about a black bean salad that practically shouts, “summer potluck”? The mercury has been edging past a hundred degrees lately here and I’ve been getting nostalgic for some of the picnic foods I remember having often as a kid.

The basic structure of a black bean salad is black beans (canned or freshly made) with corn kernels (canned, frozen, or fresh). Parsley, basil or cilantro can add a bitter to the flavors. Tomatoes, lemon juice and or lime juice some acid. Jalapeno or cumin will give it a kick, and avocado and olive oil will smooth it down.

I find adding a little bit of sugar almost always helps balance the acid from the citrus and tomatoes, and makes for a better tasting salad.

Obviously, this salad will be extra good if you have freshly cooked corn and beans on hand. But if you don’t, just use the canned beans and frozen corn (we used white corn here).

Black Bean Salad Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

We've sample many brands of canned black beans (see our Black Bean Burrito Bowl for details). Our favorites for flavor are S&W Premium Black Beans, Bush's Best Black Beans, and Goya.

This black bean salad uses cilantro. For those of you who don't like cilantro, feel free to substitute with fresh basil.

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, rinsed and drained (or 1 1/2 cups of freshly cooked black beans)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn, defrosted (or fresh corn, parboiled, drained and cooled, or grilled and cooled)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions (including onion greens) or shallots
  • 2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced, or 1 whole pickled jalapeño pepper, minced (not seeded)
  • 3 fresh plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice (about the amount of juice from one lime)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sugar (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

1 In a large bowl, gently combine the black beans, corn, chopped green onions, minced jalapeños, chopped tomatoes, lime juice, and olive oil. Gently fold in the chopped avocados.

2 Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with sugar to taste, enough to balance the acidity from the tomatoes and lime juice.  Chill.

3 Right before serving, add the chopped fresh cilantro.

33 Comments

  1. Tammy

    Delicious! My mom makes a very similar recipe, but with cumin added (and no sugar – for some reason the cumin adds a nice balance so we’ve never needed the little kick of sweetness added). This is a great recipe for improvisation – you could add any number of other veggies (like bell pepper – my favorite) and it would still be crunchy and refreshing. Thanks for the post, I always forget about this salad.

  2. Vanessa

    Perfect – refreshing, full of vitamins AND taste! Great for a potluck! For a summer dinner you could round out the meal with grilled fish and avocado horseradish sauce, and vegetarians could do a seared tofu. Love the recipe, can’t wait to make for my next bbq!

  3. Diggliana Alvarez

    Your site is great, I love bean salads…I make a mix lentil salad and sweet red peppers…

  4. jonathan

    To add sweetness without adding sugar, try to use fresh picked sweet corn (no more than one or two days old – max), and roast/grill it at a high temp. for a 5 – 10 minutes. Scrape off the cob, and…voila! Bob’s yer uncle…

  5. Nance

    Great recipe. Tastes wonderful with avocado thrown in.

  6. Niru

    This salad tastes absolutely delicious!!! It’s really easy and quick to make, and is a good source of protein and veggies. Very fresh and colorful as well. Just a small suggestion…the jalapenos can probably be cut down to one or even half..I found two a bit too spicy!!

  7. Pat

    I too, use ground cumin and no sugar in this recipe. The cumin adds a lot of heartiness to it. Heat the cumin up in a small flat skillet first to release the flavor of it before adding it to the salad.

  8. Diana

    This recipe looks really colorful and pretty. I was thinking of bringing it to a potluck. The only problem I see is that it has avocadoes, which get brown quickly. Do you think that if I make it the night before and put it in the fridge the avocados would stay green?

  9. juliana

    Great recipe! the added sugar made a huge difference! :)

  10. kaisha

    This was a huge hit at dinner last night!

  11. Jenni

    I am currently living in Central Europe (Slovakia) and I made this for our dinner on the train to Budapest. It was really yummy! I added chicken that I cooked in olive oil and garlic. I had to be creative as I couldn’t find all the ingrediants, but it turned out really yummy. I used fresh black beans (only way we can get them here). We can’t get jalepenos, fresh cilantro or fresh basil and I forgot to buy the green onions. (I added dried basil to the olive oil and let it marinate). I added cherry tomatos instead of plum (can’t be picky about the kind of tomatos I can find). And our avacodo was as hard as a rock and tastless. But, even with all that, it was really yummy. And by adding chicken, it is hardy enough to have for dinner.

  12. Darlene Brown

    I made this recipe recently for a small gathering and it was a big hit. I had been looking for something that would have lots of flavor, look good, and be able to please the vegetarians as well as the non-vegetarians. It was a success!

  13. The Cooking Ninja

    This looks so delicious and pretty in colours. :)

  14. Chigiy

    This salad looks tasty and healthy.
    I never thought of adding a little sugar.
    What a great idea.

  15. J

    I make something similar to this as a dip. I don’t put sugar, but add 1 chopped green bell pepper, one chopped red bell pepper, one chopped yellow bell pepper and about half a cup of chopped Jicama. And I bump up the tomatos to about 6. Serve with tortilla chips. I’ve made a 3 GALLON tub of this for parties and it goes before anything else does.

  16. Amiel N

    Great recipe! I made this tonight with no jalapenos (Shame; didn’t have any). I think I’ll add bell peppers next time, a bit of grated daikon radish, and leave out the cilantro and basil. I love your site!

  17. stephanie

    I made this recipe yesterday for a father’s day cookout, mixing in some red quinoa that I had left over. It was a hit!

  18. Sandy

    I love this type of salad in the summer but it just doesn’t scream summer to me without a little chopped celery. For some reason, celery tastes like summer to me. It must be a holdover from the days when the only produce available was fresh. Thanks for great recipes on a consistent basis.

  19. Marisa

    In my family we call this Cowboy Caviar! Yummy!

  20. Carol

    Try adding a bit of balsamic vinegar or some prepared balsamic vinaigrette (just a couple of tablespoons) it adds great flavor. You can skip the sugar if you use the salad dressing. We always add red or yellow bell peppers.

  21. Billy

    The picture looks delicious. I can almost inhale the black bean salad in one quick sitting. Will be trying this when my family hosts a BBQ this coming weekend, then most likely post a follow up on guests’ reactions to the salad.

  22. Luke

    I had been wonder what to do with the can of black beans I have in the cupboard… I think I have found a solution.

  23. vanou

    We made this tonight, it was great, we ate it with cheese filled pitas. Un regal!

  24. Sarah Marie

    This recipe looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it! I recently stumbled across your blog and I’m hooked on all the delicious recipes you share. I love trying various kinds of bean salads, and this one is next on my list to make.

  25. lizzi

    Thanks for the recipe! It was delicious and every bit as pretty as your pictures.

  26. Betsy

    I made my usual pretty good macaroni salad but dumped in a can of rinsed black beans. It was a hit!

  27. Noel

    This recipe looks really cool and after reading so many comments about its being yummy, I decided to give a try. I have never used black beans before so this is my first time. Hence this question may sound a bit stupid.
    I soaked them overnight and all water is black/brown in colour. Is that a normal thing? If it is, then can I just wash them with water once more and use for salad?
    Another question is, should I decide to cook these beans (for any other recipe than salad) should I use this water for cooking or not? I herd that you don’t use such colured water for red kidney beans as its a bit toxic.
    Thanks for the answers in advance.

    Discard the soaking water. Fill up a pot with fresh water and cook the beans in that. You need to cook the beans before using them in this salad. ~Elise

  28. Catherine Morell

    This is the freshest summer black bean salad I have ever had! The only changes I made were a)making sure I used white corn, b) leaving out the basil and adding more cilantro…because I looove cilantro, c) using grape tomatoes cut in half because they are sweeter, d)adding even more lime juice. Excellent!

  29. Tim

    I made this recipe last night it was great I added some chopped sweet peppers. Not claiming to be some great chef but I would recommend to anyone who tries this to really get the chopping down. There is no cooking involved really so the emphasis is obviously on your assembly. I’m also eating this at my desk, hooray!

  30. Cathy

    This is simply marvey with seasoned rice vinegar on it – no need for extra sugar and it doesn’t add fat. It brings just enough pizazz to balance whatever you’ve put in. I use frozen corn without defrosting so it will chill the salad as I usually don’t prepare ahead of time. This dish is sooo healthy and fabulous tasting, I feel good about pigging out on it!

  31. alicia

    I made this the night before my boyfriend’s birthday party. The only thing different was that instead of sugar I added about 1/8 t cumin and I didn’t add the avocados until about an hour before the party. Before mixing in the avocado I squeezed about 1 t lime juice over the avocado chunks to prevent browning. It was delicious and a big hit with everyone. we used it as both a dip for tortilla chips and as a salad. I also made your chile verde and Spanish rice. I received so many compliments! Thank you for making my party such a huge success!

  32. Penny

    Nice hot day in the Bay Area and this salad hit the spot! Next time I will double the recipe. Elise, your bean salads are a lifesaver for fast healthy, inexpensive and delicious eating!

  33. Gary

    This was wonderful as a salad topper and tortilla chip-topper the next night. Easy,tasty, and healthy. (I skipped the sugar.)

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