Bright, Herby Three Bean Salad

If you (like me) never thought much about bean salads, give this one a go, with herbs, spelt and hearts of palm.

beans, bright, herbs, salad, three beans salad
Serving Size: 10

Bright, Herby Three Bean Salad / Katie Workman
In certain parts of the country, a good three bean salad is almost always the anchor to a potluck or picnic, or any kind of gathering where sturdy, crowd-pleasing, portable, and frankly inexpensive food is wanted.

There have been countless three bean salads made with simply the three beans and the addition of some bottled vinaigrette and nothing else, and they’ve most certainly been well received.  But a plain old three bean salad made only with canned beans can feel a bit heavy and monotonous.

In this version the addition of spelt and canned hearts of palm lighten things up a little and provide textural interest.  A generous amount of fresh herbs provide brightness.

Spelt is a whole grain that been around since ancient and medieval times, but now it is only commonly grown in Europe. It fell out of favor in the 1900s, but now that whole grains are back in the spotlight, it’s becoming very popular again.

Spelt is quite chewy and nutty, in large, fat rice-shaped grains.  Some people who have wheat intolerances can enjoy spelt, but it is a member of the wheat family, so it’s not for people who are celiac or who have more serious wheat aversions.  It’s usually soaked for several hours before cooking, which reduces the cooking time.

When you are cooking the spelt for this recipe, make some extra, which is nice to have later in the week in pilafs, soups and stews.  Soak 1 cup spelt grains in water to cover overnight.  Drain the spelt.  Bring three cups of water or broth to a simmer in a medium-sized pot over medium high heat, add the drained spelt, and simmer for about 1 hour until the spelt is tender.

The dressing is quite thick, close to a pesto-ish paste, but it distributes itself perfectly over all of the ingredients when you toss the whole thing together.  Change up the herbs as you like, and feel free to add some other fresh vegetables as well, like diced zucchini, tomatoes or avocado, but add those shortly before serving.

You can make this salad up to three days ahead of time and store it covered in the fridge.

Bright, Herby Three Bean Salad


  • 1 (14-ounce) can hearts of palm, drained
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup cooked, cooled spelt (see above or package directions)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped red onion
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Rinse the hearts of palm and cut them into ½–inch slices. In a large serving bowl mix together the hearts of palm, kidney beans chickpeas, black beans and cooked spelt.

2. In a small bowl or container mix together the parsley, basil, thyme, vinegar, olive oil, onion and salt and pepper. Stir or shake to combine well, then pour the dressing over the bean salad and toss to coat everything well. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

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