Honey Balsamic Bean Salad Recipe

Inspired by a recipe in Miranda Gardiner's Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjack - a simple bean salad tossed with lots of toasted almonds, fresh thyme, and an assertive honey-balsamic dressing.

Honey Balsamic Bean Salad

I was browsing the shelves at Omnivore Books the other day when Celia, the owner, pointed out a medium-sized hardback with a texty cover and orange spine - Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjack. I flipped through the first few pages, bought it, and brought it home with me (thank you Celia!). Written by Miranda Gardiner, the book started as a how-to cooking manual written for her father not long after her mother passed away. He was on his own, in his sixties, and learning to fend for himself in the kitchen for the first time. The first recipe she showed him was a chewy flapjack - hence the title.

Honey-Balsamic Bean Salad Recipe

Miranda lives in a beach house in South Devon with her husband and three children. Her dad lives on the north coast of Cornwall, a two hour drive from Miranda. The book may have started as a binder for her father, but the collection of recipes grew to include a blend of family recipes - (primarily Cornish), recipes related to extended family (Finnish), and those inspired by friends, travels, and restaurant experiences. The recipes are interlaced with stories and snippets of family history. Little vignettes that made me nostalgic for just about everything - picnics, real summers, the smell of salt water...

Honey-Balsamic Bean Salad Recipe

There's a chapter inspired by Miranda's annual pilgrimage to the family summer house in Finland. Daily activities include collecting berries and cooking sweet waffles on a 50-year old lakeside griddle. Her tone is casual and unassuming, and it fits just right with the type of food she includes here. The chapters leak and meld into each other around themes like travel, beach-front living, and in-season cooking resulting in a charming, eclectic mix - equal parts food memoir, travel diary, and how-to manual for dad.

Honey-Balsamic Bean Salad Recipe

Most of the recipes are no-fuss, and few require special equipment. Many feel like off-the-cuff weeknight plates tossed together with whatever is on hand and in season - in a good way. The book has a number of veg-friendly recipes, a number that are easily adaptable, and plenty of baking inspiration. Today's recipe was inspired by Miranda's bean salad made with green beans, chickpeas, borlotti and pintos. As I mention in the head notes, green beans aren't quite in season here, so I chopped up a head of Romaine lettuce instead, and added extra crunch and nuttiness with toasted almonds. The simple-yet-assertive honey-balsamic dressing and fresh thyme bring everything together. An easy summer salad. As far as other recipes go - in one article, Miranda mentions her favorite recipe from the book is the Polenta Cake, so I'd like to try that. I also made a note to try a veg-version of her Rocket & Buttermilk Soup.

Honey-Balsamic Bean Salad Recipe

If you come across Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjack, take a few minutes to flip through it, I suspect many of you will like it. Worth noting: this is a U.K. edition, most of the recipes are in weights rather than volume. No big deal if you have a kitchen scale.

I'll include a few related links below, and for those of you who have been longtime readers, I couldn't help but think of this: A Letter from an Unwilling Cook. I haven't heard from Barry in a few years, but my hope is that he is still at it. Barry, if you're still reading, please email and let me know how you're doing.

Related links:

- Website: Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjack Website

- Book excerpt and recipes in The Guardian: How I taught my father to cook

- Miranda on Twitter: @mirandagardiner

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Honey-Balsamic Bean Salad

As I mention in the main post, the original recipe called for green beans, which are out of season here in San Francisco as I type this. I chopped up a head of structured, romaine lettuce instead. I also added and tweaked a few things, as I'm prone to do. If you're trying to come up with a substitute for the green beans, imagine ingredients that might go nicely with the honey-balsamic vinegar. And I suspect it goes without saying, but you can certainly play around with the type of beans you use here. I would have used borlotti beans in place of the black beans, but I went with the beans I had on hand, rather than make a trip to the store.

8 oz / 225 g (about 1 1/2 cups) EACH cooked chickpeas, pinto beans, black beans

1 small head of romaine lettuce, washed, dried, shredded

1/3 cup / 1 oz / 30g sliced almonds, toasted

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons runny honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4+ teaspoon fine grain sea salt

10 sprigs fresh thyme

Combine the beans, lettuce, and most of the almonds in a large salad bowl. Set aside. Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil, honey, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and sea salt in a small container. Taste, and adjust to your tastes.

Run your fingers up each thyme sprig, removing the leaves. Add to the salad bowl along with a good amount of the dressing. Toss well, and add more dressing if you like. Finish by sprinkling with the remaining almonds.

Serves 4- 6.

Inspired by a recipe in Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjack by Miranda Gardiner (Hardie Grant Books, May, 2010).

Prep time: 10 minutes - Cook time: 10 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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What a charming story to go with a tasty, simple recipe! I love pairing new sauces with beans, and sounds so tasty. Thank you for sharing the recipe!

Heather Christo

I love this recipe. I have made it three times since you posted it, and each time taking it to different social gatherings. Needless to say it is a hit and everyone loves it. Not your ordinary bean salad and super fresh! Thanks for sharing...


It is nice to pass the family history down. Thanks for sharing this great salad.


What a great recipe and beautiful pics too. Never enough bean recipes in the summer- such an easy thing to make and let hang out with itself in the fridge a little while.

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen)

I made it and we loved it. I added a touch of shallots to the dressing and then threw in some dried cranberries at the end. Delicious!


This is the best thing I have eating in months! The flavors are just so right together. I didn't have thyme so I did a mix of basil, chives, and parsley and it was delish! I can't wait to make it again.


I just made this little gem of a salad and it's just delicious! I love the combination of the honey and balsamic, fantastic...easy....and great for a summer dish :)


just stumbled upon your blog and i can't get enough. this salad sounds so wholesome and healthy. can't wait to try it

mina @ sending postcards

This is spectacular! Perfect for a hot summer night when I don't want to turn on the stove/oven and make my kitchen even hotter! I added new rainbow carrots that I picked up fresh from the farmers' market today - a good addition because they're still soft and little. Thanks!


I tried this recipe using just chickpeas and it's really yummy! I also added cherry tomatoes and some shaved parmigiano cheese. Supa good :-)


I made this salad for dinner tonight! (ours had string beans.) Absolutely delicious, with a cool variety of flavors and textures. Good job. Yes I imagine a number of "honey-balsamic" dishes in our future.


Heidi, Thanks for the link to the story 'Unwilling to Cook' and the update. It's great to see that you are touching people's lives (and he was a great writer too) Keep spreading the love like butta!


This recipe was really top-notch. My boyfriend is a real chickpea hater, so I always have to sneak them in when I'm in the mood. He didn't even realize he was eating them until the last bite.


This post made me think of the "Letter from an Unwilling Cook" too! It's crazy how long I've been reading your blog - time flies. Thank you for the years of inspiration.


Perfect timing. Made a double batch for a pot-luck last night, and still have a bit of leftovers for today. Thinking I will like the flavors even more today. Had no lettuce. Subbed back in the green beans (steamed them very lightly prior to mixing them with the other beans). Yum!


I just made this salad tonight but without the almonds and lettuce. It is absolutely delicious! I wish it wasn't almost 11 pm because I want to keep eating it!


If anyone is interested in the cookie cutters pictured on the cover of the book, they're from Ikea. I have the set, and they make very cute cookies, though it can be hard to get the moose's legs out unbroken from the cutter. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/30133046


"Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjacks" is such an unusual title! Love the bean salad.

Shaheen {The Purple Foodie}

Made this salad last night and even my kids (ages 3 and 7) loved it! Nutritious and kid-approved!


I made this for my vegetarian coop and they loved it. In the future, I would use 1 Tablespoon of honey instead of 1.5 tablespoons. I think less honey would still make a sweet contrast in the dressing.


What an interestic book! And such a sweet concept. This salad sounds really differt - I would not have paired honey and beans. I'll have to try it!


This looks like a good read with great recipes and family pictures. The bean salad is perfect choice for summer picnics!

Pam @ Cooking world

Hei, hei! In Illinois we are coming into summer and the garden is well on it's way! Salads like this make me wish I lived in a year-round warmer climate so the vegtables weren't so long in the making! But we have heirloom string beans (pole) on their way and also wax beans so I think this recipe will be fantastic to try. Thanks Heidi for the delicious tasting and looking recipes!


Thanks for sharing a great recipe. I've just finished my 2nd lunch (same salad twice a day!) and loved it!!! When I tasted the dressing last night it tasted quite acidic, so I put more honey, yet it still was somewhat more acidic than I'd had hoped. Then again, the acidic flavor got all mellowed out when I tasted again this morning before I toss the salad (for lunch). By the time I had my 1st lunch (at the normal lunch time), the lettuce was slightly wilted, but the dressing was so good I sopped up all of it with a piece of bread I had with the salad. I'll be making this again soon! Thanks!


I will definitely be on the look-out for this cookbook! Thanks for sharing!

The Rowdy Chowgirl

Yummy coz I love deferent kinds of veg. Salad thank so much I love it!


what a wonderful cookbook! i will be on the lookout for that little jem! i loved the letters from Barry featured on your site, very heartfelt and honest in a way that is rarely found nowadays. i hope to hear an update soon. good luck with your new book!

Danielle L.

beautiful photography of the beach house in finland! simple. clean. like a mellow summer day. thank you for your constant inspiration and concious food recipies. keep up the beautiful work!


I too thought of Barry when I read this. I do indeed hope he's still cooking and that we hear from him soon. This is a lovely approach to a cookbook, although also makes me a bit sad. My Dad can't or doesn't cook at all and I wonder sometimes how that will be if one day my Mom passes before him. But recently I've been involving him in pasta making so if nothing else he can say he can fry an egg and roll a mean pasta dough:)


Lovely photos and what a nice review of this food memoir. The contrast texture of almonds and romaine make this salad intriguing--I can't wait to try it.


Thanks for the cookbook recommendation. I have a million cookbooks, but I think I need that one for my collection..

Rocky Mountain Woman

@ Diane — I think she used "flapjack" because in Britain it refers to a granola bar-type cookie, not pancakes/griddle cakes, which is what we use the word for. My boyfriend's British parents always refer to it as "flapjack" (as in, "I'm making flapjack tonight"), never with a plural.


I think all of the bean salads I've made run on the spicy/savory side, but I like the sound of this sweet rendition.


I do enjoy your stories as much as the recipes, which are of course fabulous. With a bean dish like this, I find it useful to add some brown rice, quinoa or even toasted, popped amarath. All have a nice nutty flavor (to varing degrees) and help to make for complete protein. Texture of the dish changes of course but for me it's a plus. Given the weeknight rush I'm usually in in the kitchen, it's best to have the most nutritionally complete single dish I can manage.


Just delish - made it into a main course by adding chopped cauliflower, red bell pepper, peas, corn, mint, parsley and lemon basil... and served it over kale instead of romaine. Huge fan of your site, thanks!


I'd snap this up in a heartbeat, on the cover alone. Terrible habit, that.


Why didn't she say "flapjacks" ...plural? That title is a little too cute for me. I would like the book better with that tiny letter added!


Sounds delicious and healthy. Love beans, they are rich in fiber to make us feel and look fabulous:-) As borlotti beans, I need to learn more about them. Breathe, smile and be happy

Irina Wardas, CHHC

Thanks so much for this review. My father was from Finland so I liked reading your review and the recipe. I have been following you for a few years now and enjoy your site. My husband was a chef (Middle East and Russian) so, I have used some of your recipes with a twist...

Michele Jawad

What a lovely and inspiring-looking book! I'll have to check it out.

Georgia Pellegrini

Heidi, thanks for the reminder - I had heard of this book and thought that it sounded interesting! As for the recipe - well beans are in season here and I love them, so will be trying this one out!


you had me at honey balsamic. but i haven't had any trouble finding green beans down here at the san mateo farmers market. i am going to try this with green beans this weekend. thanks for the inspiration!


Thank you! This is the recipe I have been looking for... I'm so tired of my standard bean recipes and wanted something new, quick, easy and delicious. I'll be making this tonight, for sure. The book sounds so great, too. Love the concept and everything.


As *soon* as I spied this recipe, I got up off the couch, went to the kitchen and pulled down cans of black, garbanzo, and pinto beans which I always, always have on hand, and steamed up the green beans I bought at the farm market this weekend. Made the salad. Bada bing, bada boom -- so easy and the dressing is ridiculously delicious!!! What a fab way to use cupboard staples. Thanks!


This sweet story made me think of my own father's attempts to prepare meals in the kitchen. He was a single dad who always welcomed help from us kids so we all learned together. At some point a friend gave him a book called, "I've Never Cooked Before Cookbook". I loved that book and for years begged him to give it to me to no avail. When he passed away it finally became mine. By then the cover was torn and pages worn, but I cherish it and every now and then still reference it. I love that Miranda has created her own keepsake.


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