Our Favourite Picnic Salad

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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.
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Our Favourite Picnic Salad - The First Mess
Prep Time: 25 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 45 mins
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: 02/05/2018)
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
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