Recipes,  Salad,  Side Dishes

Balela Mediterranean Bean Salad

Balela Salad
Balela Salad

Sitting down to write this, I can’t ignore the giant elephant in the room.  As of today, it’s been exactly one year since I’ve posted anything on Former Chef.

It wasn’t intentional. Nothing overly dramatic happened to prevent me from posting. I wasn’t trekking across the Gobi Desert. I wasn’t kidnapped by pirates. Time simply got away from me. Life happened.

So why am I back now and why with this recipe? Can deliciousness be inspiring? I think so. This salad was so good I felt I finally had something worth sharing.

Last weekend we had some family members come into town with only enough time to stop for a visit at lunch. I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare and I knew that they ate mostly vegetarian. I made this salad, along with my favorite quinoa and butternut squash salad, a platter of grilled vegetables (asparagus, red peppers, zucchini), and some grilled eggplant with lemon thyme yogurt. The best part was that all of it was done before they arrived, maximizing the time we could spend together.

The meal was a hit, especially the balela salad. There were 5 adults at the table and there were little leftovers. Plus, it’s always nice to hear, “this was the best lunch I’ve had in years!” I was just happy to see the family, cute toddler included.

The rest of the meal; butternut squash and quinoa, grilled vegetables, and grilled eggplant with lemon thyme yogurt.
The rest of the meal; butternut squash and quinoa, grilled vegetables, and grilled eggplant with lemon thyme yogurt.

Balela is a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern salad, typically made with garbanzo beans and black beans, fresh herbs and a vinaigrette. I’ve taken some liberty here and added white beans as well as the red bell pepper (yellow would look nice too).

There’s not much other history or information as to the origin of balela available online, which is a bit surprising. You might recognize it if you shop at Trader Joes or Costco as they often have it there. If anyone knows anything, please share in the comments.

Mediterranean Bean Salad

Balela salad, a Middle Eastern inspired bean salad.
Prep Time15 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: salad, salad, healthy, side
Servings: 6 cups


For the salad:

  • 1 can white beans 15.5 oz, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can black beans 15.5 oz, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can garbanzo 15.5 oz, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 each red bell pepper small dice
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion about 1/2 of a medium sized red onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint chopped

For the dressing:

  • 4 fluid ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 fluid ounces white wine vinegar
  • 2 fluid ounces lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 tsp sumac
  • kosher salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp)
  • freshly ground black pepper about 1/4 tsp


  • Rinse and drain the beans and place them in a medium mixing bowl. Add the halved cherry tomatoes and diced red onion.
  • Mix the dressing by combining all ingredients. Chop the herbs but keep separate.
  • Add the dressing to the beans, and fold all ingredients together to combine. Taste for seasoning.
  • Fold in the herbs. Taste again for seasoning.
  • The flavor is best if you can let it sit for at least an hour before serving.

I’d love to hear from you. Does this sound like a salad you would enjoy? Are there any types of food or recipes you’d like to see here in the future? Help a girl out! I’m looking for some inspiration!

Also, I didn’t completely disappear from the internet in the last year. I’ve been working a lot on my travel blog,, where we just had our 20th anniversary, which is positively ancient in blog years. I’ve completely redesigned the site and posted a lot of new content, so check it out if you love to travel!


  • Pam Valente

    So there you are 😉 Been wondering about you. Yes, yes, yes. But even more interested in the butternut squash and quinoa dish – did you use the same dressing on that dish?

  • Susan Claire

    This sounds like a great dinner in the summertime when it’s still 85 degrees at 6 o’clock, and it will make good use of all those cherry tomatoes in my garden. Yesterday I ran into a recipe that used sumac. Hadn’t heard of it before, and here it is again! I’ll get back to you when I have made this recipe and let you know how we all liked it.

  • Jan

    Hey there! Thanks for the inspiration. I’m always looking for recipes for our book club–we have some elaborate potlucks. I’m hosting the club today and I’m already making scalloped sweet potatoes, but I know your Balela salad will go over really well next time.

    Can’t wait to try the butternut squash and quinoa, too! Thanks for posting.

    Also took a look at your travel website. My friend from San Francisco Bay just told me this morning she’s thinking of taking a train across country to visit her aunt in Virginia. Your timing is awesome!

    • formerchef

      I often make the quinoa and butternut squash for big parties too and it’s always a hit. Thanks for checking out my travel blog! The train trip across country was quite the experience. 🙂

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