The Salad That Makes Kidney Beans Cool

October  7, 2015

Give kidney beans a chance. 

I could really go for some kidney beans right now is a thing that no one has said, ever. (I have never said it, have you? And if you have, are you sure it wasn’t part of a nightmare?) 

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Kidney beans are the picked-last kids at recess, left—awkward and standing alone—after the cooler and prettier and taller kids get chosen to play. I do not condone this behavior at recess, by any means, but I have to say: I understand it in the pantry. Kidney beans don’t have a lot going for them. 

The only questions they answer are those of thrift and pragmatism, like how am I going to bulk up this chili? or what is the canned food I can stock that no one will ever be tempted to eat before doomsday comes? They “bulk”; they do not “brighten” or “sing” as we’ve known other, cooler, prettier foods to do. Which is why I only ordered them at Kachka in Portland, Oregon, because they were cleverly disguised on the menu as lobios salad. They pulled the wool over my eyes with a word I did not know! And with horseradish vodka. 

But: The kidney beans were bright! They sang! They were the best thing on the table. I stole them from my dinner companion and scooped up every last one with pita chips. And then I vowed to learn how to make lobios salad—and what it actually meant.

Lobios is a simple, traditional Georgian herby bean salad, and there's nothing all that surprising in the recipe—the heady marigold, maybe, or the tart-sweet pomegranate molasses—and the whole thing is three steps, if your beans are already cooked. (They are, aren’t they? You’re a good little Tamar Adler, right?) It takes well to a little adaptation, too: We’ve made this with harissa instead of Turkish hot pepper paste, and the thing still sang on pitch. I’ve eaten it cold, out of a deli container; perfectly room temperature and winged with pita chips at Kachka; I’ve piled it, 4 days old, with a couple of fried eggs. Still wonderful. Still winning. 

Choose your ingredients wisely, it teaches us, yet again—and prepare them well—and you can make even the Eeyore of legumes into something you’d serve to the most intimidating of dinner guests.

You can make phrase I could really go for some kidney beans right now actually true. You can pick the kid picked last, and make him the M.V.P.

Lobios Salad (Spiced Kidney Beans with Herbs and Feta)

Serves 4 to 6

For the salad:

2 quarts cooked kidney beans
2/3 cup sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped and sieved to remove
1 cup crumbled sheep's milk feta

For the dressing:

1 clove garlic, minced
4 teaspoons Turkish hot pepper paste
1 teaspoon ground marigold
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Sarah C
    Sarah C
  • prettyPeas
  • Fried Parsley
    Fried Parsley
  • Kenzi Wilbur
    Kenzi Wilbur
Kenzi Wilbur

Written by: Kenzi Wilbur

I have a thing for most foods topped with a fried egg, a strange disdain for overly soupy tomato sauce, and I can never make it home without ripping off the end of a newly-bought baguette. I like spoons very much.


Sarah C. December 29, 2015
So, we're going to have to ask: what is ground marigold and where do we get it?
Kenzi W. January 4, 2016
Ground marigold is very popular in Eastern European cooking—it's a little earthy, a little citrusy. And it's available online! Or if you live near Kalustyan's in New York, they're sure to have it.
prettyPeas November 2, 2015
Well, the recipe sounds good, and I believe kidney beans can be made acceptable with great flavors like this, or a rajma masala. But, it is still hard for me to believe they wouldn't be better with a tastier, less mealy bean like scarlet runner or pinto.
Fried P. October 29, 2015
Bring kidney beans back! Totally agree. They are often underrated but can be surprisingly refreshing! Thanks for sharing and spreading the kidney bean love!