Our Favourite Picnic Salad

Created by Laura Wright
5 from 1 vote

Our favourite picnic salad has a little bit of everything and packs up very well. Creamy potatoes, crisp vegetables, fresh herbs, white beans, capers, and shallot dressing.

Image shows a bowl of a potato salad with asparagus, white beans and radishes.
Image shows a kitchen scene with ingredients and cut lilies on the counter. The kitchen has open wood shelves and shiny white subway tile in the background.
Image shows thinly sliced shallots marinating in vinegar, in harsh sunlight.
Image shows mini potatoes covered in water in a saucepan.

Truthfully I do make some version of this salad every time we go on a picnic. This week though, I was motivated to make it because I had some majorly overcooked navy beans. I’ve never in my life enjoyed tuna or tuna salad, but vegan mock tuna-style salads with a lightly mashed/chopped chickpea or white bean base are such a dream to me. I just love the crunchy celery and punchy add-ins like shallots, capers, and herbs. It’s great on a sandwich, but way better with creamy potatoes, asparagus, tangy sherry vinegar, and green beans.

So this particular version of our picnic salad is inspired by those extremely hippie-dip mock tuna sandwiches and mushy overcooked beans. I am seriously in love with the recipe genesis here.

I finally caved and picked up an Instant Pot on sale a couple weeks ago. I’ve made some very fine lentil stews, a tasty batch of broth, and a perfect pot of steel cut oatmeal, but beans have been a journey so far. There are a lot of cooking charts and (slightly differing) pieces of advice online, but the freshness of your beans factor in as well. Always learning! In the meantime, slightly mushy beans are perfect for our recipe as it stands. If your white beans are perfectly cooked, you can still make this salad ;)

If you have some great plant-based Instant Pot recipes that you love or just some resources that are helpful, please send some of the links in the comments. I’d be so appreciative! Hoping I can get the hang of this thing in time for next Fall and Winter to share some cozy stewed things. It really is such a cool machine.

Back to our recipe though! Usually when I tote this picnic salad along on a trip, I bring a container of baby arugula as well. We pile the potatoes and veg on top of the greens, and then eat that with a little spread of olives, fruit, maybe a fancy cultured vegan cheese/a dip, some crackers etc. This salad is just as delicious in the comfort of your home as well. Also yes, I totally make some version of this every year. Those spring cravings! See here for a niçoise-ish salad and here for a roasted potato salad—both with a similar flavour and feel :)

An up close, overhead shot of asparagus spears on a wood background.
Image shows a wooden cutting board with asparagus, green beans, and herbs nearby or on top. A beige linen towel is nearby as well.
Image shows green vegetables in a bowl of ice water in a sink.
Image shows potato salad ingredients in an enamelware bowl, before being mixed together.
Image shows a bowl of a potato salad with asparagus, white beans and radishes.

Our Favourite Picnic Salad

Our favourite picnic salad has a little bit of everything and packs up very well. Creamy potatoes, crisp veg, white beans & shallot dressing.
5 from 1 vote
Our Favourite Picnic Salad - The First Mess
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings 4


  • 1 medium shallot, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 ½ lbs mini potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup cooked white beans
  • 1 stalk celery, fine dice
  • ½ lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed
  • lb green beans, ends trimmed
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup finely sliced chives
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley


  • French lentils would be excellent in place of the white beans. Really, any cooked bean or lentil you have is perfect.
  • I like to thinly slice the shallots with a mandoline so that I can get a solid onion-y bite here and there. If you want this salad to look a bit tidier and have a more even shallot dispersal, you can mince them instead.
  • If you have dill lying around/growing in your yard, a handful here would be great.
  • If you can’t find sherry vinegar, white wine vinegar is a good substitute.


  • Mince or finely slice the shallot with a mandoline. Transfer shallots to a large bowl and cover with the sherry vinegar. Add some salt and pepper and stir. Make sure that the shallots are covered in vinegar. Set aside to soften for at least 5 minutes.
  • Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover them with water. Place the saucepan on medium-high heat and bring the potatoes to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook potatoes until they are just tender, about 13-16 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked potatoes to a plate or bowl and allow them to cool slightly. Reserve the cooking water.
  • To the bowl with the shallots, stir in the capers and mustard. While whisking, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl. Whisk until you have a unified dressing. Once you can handle the potatoes, cut them into quarters and place them in the bowl with the shallot dressing. Add the white beans and celery to the bowl as well. Stir to combine and set aside.
  • Bring the saucepan of water back up to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Cut the asparagus and green beans into bite-sized pieces and add them to the saucepan. Boil vegetables until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Drain the vegetables and place them in an ice bath or run them under cold water to shock them and stop the cooking process.
  • Dry the asparagus and green beans with a kitchen towel and add them to the bowl with the potatoes, white beans etc. Add the radishes, chives, and parsley as well, and toss everything to combine. Check the salad for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
02/05/2018 (Last Updated 25/10/2022)
Posted in: earthy, gluten free, grain-free, main course, nut free, quick, refined sugar-free, salad, salty, side dish, sour, spring, summer, vegan, white beans


5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

Recipe Rating

  • Sarah Van Meer

    Hi Laura!

    We are so looking forward to making this salad for a spring picnic-themed baby shower this weekend! I’m curious – would you recommend any other vegetable in substitute for the asparagus? We have a couple of other dishes being prepared that have asparagus, and don’t want to go to heavy on it!

    • Laura

      Hi Sarah!

      You could double the amount of green beans or even add some freshly shelled (and briefly boiled–like 30 seconds) Spring peas to this! I’d be super tempted to add the peas if you have them in season where you live.

  • A

    I didn’t have asparagus but made this last night anyway and loved it! Tossed the beans in with the potatoes during the last 5 minutes of cooking just to be faster, and used the entire can of white beans to avoid leftovers. Delicious!

  • Kim M

    Just sampled a portion ahead of sharing at a cookout this afternoon. I hope everyone loves it as much as I do. Such a colorful and delicious dish. Thank you for sharing!

  • Tiffany

    This is fabulous!!

  • Susan Shores

    I’m new with the Instantpot, too. I would love for you to post your successes with the Instantpot. Thanks.

  • Theresa

    This recipe was delicious. Made it with French lentils. Turned out very well. :-)

  • Cassie Thuvan Tran

    YES to tri-colored potatoes in a salad! Japanese sweet potatoes and purple sweet potatoes are my favorites. I have never tried actual vegan tuna, not even chickpea tuna-style sandwiches, so I wouldn’t know how it tastes! I really do want to try it though. The combination sounds heavenly!

  • Jocelyn Beatty

    I have had a lot of luck with the “Vegan Under Pressure” cookbook charts. I agree, I found a bit of a learning curve with beans but it is so worth it! I have gotten to the point where I have completely eliminated the need for canned beans because dried can be prepared so quickly!
    Also, I would love a “stock in the IP” recipe!

  • The Modern Proper

    What a gorgeous salad! I definitely am going to try this out this summer.

  • Shauna | Linden & Lavender

    I just made the recipe this weekend. It was delicious (and pretty)! The capers in it really bring this dish to the next level. Thanks!

  • courtne

    could you post some kitchen must haves

  • Patricia Scarpin

    Give me anything with asparagus and potatoes and I am a happy camper! This looks so delicious!

    • Laura

      I feel the same way! Honestly just anything potatoes is a win hehe. Carb love :D

  • Shannon Murphy

    This salad looks like everything I want to eat this time of year. Re IP recipes, I’m sure you’ve seen it but Heidi Swanson has done a whole run of IP recipes over the past few months.

    • Laura

      Thank you so much Shannon! Appreciate the recommendation, and I hope that you get to try this salad soon :)

  • Laura

    Amy Chaplin’s instructions for pressure cooked beans in her At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen has never steered me wrong for beans in the instant pot! This looks delicious!

    • Laura

      Ah of course! Amy’s book is such a resource and I knew that she was a pressure cooking advocate. Perfect. Going to go pull that one from the library ASAP.

  • Jackie

    Reminds me of how much we adore your Niçoise-ish salad – in fact, I think I’ll make it tonight! I’m sure this one will be fantastic as well.

    • Laura

      They definitely have a similar “salad spirit” hehe. So glad you love the niçoise too!

  • Marta

    This looks dreamy and fresh! I’ll be trying this as soon as spring settles here :)
    As for some instant pot recipes I believe Heidi from 101cookbooks has some great ideas as she too bought one a few months ago and has been adding some lovely recipes :)

    • Marta

      P.S. I think there is a tiny error with your link for the vegetable slicer ;)

      • Laura

        Yes, Heidi is the queen of higher vibe IP resources right now! Thanks for catching the error too, Marta. All fixed ;)