A tasty and tongue-tingling starter (or side)
When you think of Mexican-style food, you may not picture salad. Let’s change that, shall we?
This green-bean salad works with any Mexican-themed meal. But its mild spicing plays well with other cuisines, too.
Healthy, tasty, versatile. That’s our kind of Mexican hat trick.
Recipe: Mexican-Spiced Green Bean Salad
Green beans are available throughout the year. But we like them best from May through October, when locally grown ones show up in our markets.
We found this dish in Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless, and have slightly adapted his recipe.
The salad dressing calls for green tomatillo salsa. You can use store-bought or make your own (see our post on Salsa Verde).
Prep time for this dish is about 15 minutes. This dish serves 4 as a starter or side.
For the green-bean salad:
- ~1 pound green beans
- kosher salt for seasoning the cooking water (to taste; see Notes)
- ½ red onion (or to taste)
- 2 or 3 tablespoons crumbled cotija cheese for garnish (optional)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil (or other salad oil of choice)
- 4 tablespoons green tomatillo salsa (bottled or homemade; may substitute red salsa — see Notes)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3 to 4 pinches kosher salt (to taste; see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- additional chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
- We generally prepare the green beans several hours before serving, then let them dry: Place a large pot of water on the stovetop and bring it to a boil. While the water is heating, snip off the ends of the green beans (if necessary), then rinse the beans. When the water boils, pour a tablespoon or two of kosher salt (to taste) into the water to season it. Then add the green beans. Simmer the beans for 4 to 6 minutes, until cooked (to taste; we like ours slightly crunchy).
- When the green beans are done, drain them. Then immediately immerse the beans in a large bowl of ice water (use about a tray of ice cubes). Chill the green beans for a minute, then drain them again. Spread the green beans out on paper towels to dry.
- Peel the red onion and cut it in half. Cut one half of the onion into thin slices or dice it (reserve the other onion half for another use). Place the onion slices in an airtight container and refrigerate them until ready to make the salad.
- Crumble or grate the cotija cheese, if using. Place the cheese an airtight container and refrigerate it until ready to make the salad. See the next step for instructions on the cilantro garnish, if using.
- Make the salad dressing: Place the olive oil and salsa in a small lidded container. Squeeze the lime juice and add it to the container. Add a few pinches of kosher salt (to taste). Add the cumin. Wash and dry the cilantro, chop it, then add it to the container (you may want to reserve some chopped cilantro for garnish). Place the lid on the container, then shake it to combine the ingredients. Refrigerate the dressing in the container until ready to make the salad.
- When ready to make the salad: Place the green beans and red onion slices in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Shake the salad dressing again (it will probably have separated), then add about half the dressing to the green beans. Toss the beans, adding more salad dressing if necessary (you can refrigerate any remaining dressing for a few days, reserving it for another use).
- Plate the salad, then add a sprinkling of crumbled cotija cheese and/or chopped cilantro for garnish, if you wish. Serve and enjoy.
- You can blanch the green beans (Step 1) several hours ahead of time. We generally let the cooked beans sit out at room temperature, but you could refrigerate them if you wish.
- Don’t have tomatillo salsa? You could substitute red (tomato-based) salsa. But we think tomatillo salsa works better in this dish.
- We like to use red onion in this dish, but you could substitute white onion if you prefer.
- If your red onion is particularly small, just use the whole thing in this dish.
- Want additional veggie flavor? You could add some sliced fennel or leeks to this dish. We haven’t tried that, but it sounds good.
- Need a substitute for green beans? Bayless suggests sugar snap peas or Chinese long beans.
- We like cilantro (a lot). But if that isn’t your jam, you could substitute parsley. Or just skip it altogether.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If substituting table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
Full of Beans
“Never thought about Mexican salads,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “But I’m cumin around to the idea.”
“And you thought I didn’t know beans!” I said.
“Well, you hit the mark with this one,” said Mrs K R. “My tongue is salsa dancing.”
Mine too. Cause these are some holy frijoles.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Salsa Verde with Roast Tomatillos
Salsa and Pcante Sauce
Beet and Red Onion Salad
Chipotle Sweet-Potato Salad
Fennel, Orange, and Arugula Salad
Summer Green-Bean Salad
Or check out the index for more
Love this original idea John. Tomatillos in a dressing sounds lovely . That sounds fabulous and so easy. Need to get this recipe on our list as we just bought a pack of green beans from the farmers market.
That’s a nice salad John. I never thought about adding a Mexican flavor to a crunchy green bean salad.
Hi Bobbi, this is so simple and SO good! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Gerlinde, it's a fun salad, and just loaded with flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
You can't go wrong with a Rick Bayless recipe for a starter, John. This sounds delicious. I totally need to try it.
Hi Terry, Rick Bayless is wonderful! Love his approach to cooking. And love this dish, too -- so simple yet tasty. Thanks for the comment.
My tongue is salsa dancing too. Love your take on Mexican spiced green beans.
Hi Balvinder, salsa is SO tasty, isn't it? And works really well as part of a salad dressing. :-) Thanks for the comment.
That's a very beautiful and crunchy salad. I have been eating lots of roasted green beans..time for a change!
Love the idea of tomatillo salsa in the salad dressing! I'm going to have to try this. We love tomatillos.
Love this vibrant green color, so pretty and delicious ☺
Hi Angie, we've made this salad with leftover roast green beans -- it's good! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, you'll really, really like it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Natalia, we love the green that green beans get when you blanch and then shock them. So pretty! Thanks for the comment.
Great salad John, and I am loving the dressing...tomatillo salsa and a hint of cumin...sounds delicious...thanks for the recipe.
I hope you are having a fabulous week!
Hi Juliana, the salad dressing is dynamite. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Very fresh indeed, and this dressing is divine. Beans with a Mexican twist, it sounds wonderful, thanks for sharing :D
Hi Merryn, the dressing is superb. And the whole dish is pretty darn good! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I make but little Mexican food and green beans are not my favourites however many vegetables I eat This recipe however I find very moreish as a first course and shall certainly copy . . . am beginning to look for cumin in Mexican recipes - use it often naturally in Asian, Middle Eastern and North African cooking but never as a sole spice . . . interesting !
He Eha, it's usually cumin, coriander, and chile of some sort in Mexican cooking (and quite often oregano, too). Just wanted a more subtle flavor in this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
About the only thing that I was able to grow this year was beans. And holy moly, this recipe is perfect!
Hi Abbe, enjoy. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Cotija cheese...tomatillo salsa....could this get any better?! Favorites of mine for sure!
John, I wish we had your fresh green bean season. Ours seems to only last about two weeks. We love green beans and love Mexican food so this is a must try. Now, I must go for a search for tomatillo salsa as it's not common here. So what you have cumin up next? (sorry I could help myself)
How on earth have I missed this recipe in Mexican Everyday??? I have to give this one a try.
John, this will definitely be a hit at my house! I used to watch Rick Bayless on PBS--must look him up again. And I have one jar of my homemade tomatillo salsa in the freezer, so ...
Hi Ashley, the cheese really adds some nice depth of flavor to this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ron, LOL! Haven't decided exactly what's cumin up next -- just need to decide which recipe I want to run next. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lea Ann, there are some gems in that cookbook! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Jean, you're lucky to have tomatillo salsa on hand! It goes so quickly around here, we have to make a fresh batch each time we want some. Not that I'm complaining. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I've been OBSESSING over roasted green beans lately, so um, I guess I am going to need to MEXICAN SPICE THEM UP! :D
Bookmarked. These green beans look vibrant and delicious.
Perfect! Wish I had this recipe when I made my Mexican dinner (post finally coming this weekend!) The flavors are perfect!
Hi GiGi, this salad dressing is terrific with roasted green beans. Ask us how we know. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, they're great! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi David, looking forward to reading about your Mexican dinner! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love green beans but I never thought to do a salad! This sounds like a dish I would eat many a times! Great recipe
Hi Ansh, we LOVE green bean salads. One of our favorite summer starters. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love tomatillos and your salsa recipe looks delicious. So interesting to combine it with green beans. I like the sound of it! :-) ~Valentina
Hi Valentina, this is a neat recipe -- really flavorful. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kinga, it is. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is such a nice change of pace than just a simple little side of dressed iceberg alongside enchiladas or tacos. Its vibrancy also helps cut the richness of those often meaty, cheesy standards.
Hi Carolyn, it's really a neat recipe -- tons of flavor, pretty healthy, and a bit different. Winner! :-) Thanks for the comment.
A great side for grilled meats, or even to have as a tasty vegetarian main.
Hi Denise, this does make a nice, light main. Or a wonderful side or starter. :-) Thanks for the comment.
we love green beans in this household, and these look great. hubby sometimes makes Greek green beans with tomatoes and lots of garlic. so delish! cheers sherry
Hi Sherry, LOVE green beans and garlic. We make a similar dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.
John, I have two of Rick Bayless' cookbooks but have been a bit lazy about whipping up some of his recipes.You've inspired me to get going!
I love fresh Mexican dishes like this! And, that salad dressing sounds delicious.
Hi Fran, you NEED to get going with Rick Bayless. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lisa, the salad dressing really is nice. :-) Thanks for the comment.
We've been eating fresh green beans about twice a week, because, like you said, this time of years you can buy from local farmers and get the freshest beans. Can't wait to try your salad recipe. Some great flavors going on there. Thanks John!
Hi MJ, love green beans at this time of the year. And really, really like this recipe -- neat flavors going on here. :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a creative twist on green beans -- love the use of salsa verde with them!
This looks like a terrific dish, John! We love fresh green beans and Mexican spices, but I've never put them together! :) Can't wait to give this green bean salad a try.
Hi Amy, salsa verde is good stuff! And it's wonderful with these beans. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Marcelle, green beans are often overlooked in Mexican dishes, but they shouldn't be. They want to play, too! :-) Thanks for the comment.
One of my favourite dishes in our Mexican restaurant is their avocado, jicama and mango salad, so delicious. I’m pretty sure I’d love this one too. Rick’s food is awesome!
Hi Eva, that sounds like an excellent salad. As is this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
A lovely refreshing salad with all the goodness.
Hi Taruna, loads of goodness in this beauty. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi R, it's good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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