Bean salads are popular warm weather fare in many parts of the world. Typically served cold, the salad may use a single type of cooked bean or combine several different varieties (In the United States, salads may be named according to the number of types of beans they contain, i.e. “two bean salad”, “four bean salad” and so forth.) Since many recipes rely on canned beans, the salads are easily assembled, but the quality of the beans is crucial. Look for brands that have small, firm beans, not big mushy ones.
The beans typically are tossed in a vinaigrette with chopped fresh vegetables such as onions, peppers, or tomatoes and fresh herbs or spices. The vinaigrette preserves the dish temporarily without refrigeration and, as a result, bean salads have been favorite picnic fare at least since the 19th century (bean salads should not be left out for longer than two hours but, when refrigerated, they can be kept for from 3 to 5 days, especially if the recipe does not include meat or dairy products). Bean salads often are better the day after they are made.