Blackened Green Bean and Quinoa Salad

blackened green bean and quinoa salad

I was a ridiculous child. Stubborn, bookish and bossy, I never hesitated to express my opinion. I got into trouble for speaking out in classrooms (“But Mrs. Weaver, I don’t want to do that next”) and for making a face whenever my little brothers ate some food that I thought was disgusting. Take fresh green beans from my grandmother’s garden, for example. Our green beans came in a can at home and I wanted them in a can at Grandma Virgina’s, thank you. My mother would sigh, tell me I’m crazy and crank open a can of Green Giant.

blackened green beans and yellow wax beans

I came to my senses and stopped eating canned green beans years ago, but I never replaced them with fresh green beans. You know that little squeak you hear when you bite into a cooked, fresh green bean? My younger self did not agree with food that squeaks, and I’m not sure my adult self does, either.

That said, I couldn’t pass up these multi-colored string beans from Kansas City’s River Market last Saturday. Surely I could find a way to make these enjoyable, I thought. Then I zoomed over to Trader Joe’s for a “quick” grocery run, but of course I couldn’t find everything I needed there. Not one to give up, I found myself at a second, third and fourth store. Maddening, right?! By the time I got home that evening I was so cranky that I felt like taking a tequila shot for each of the four stores that don’t carry tahini.

green bean quinoa salad with feta

Fortunately, I didn’t need any of those ingredients to make this improvised end-of-summer quinoa salad. I’ve seen quinoa at big grocery stores lately and green beans shouldn’t be hard to come by this time of year. I used a technique similar to that of last week’s broccoli pasta: sauté the green beans for a few minutes, then cook them all the way through by steaming in a bit of water. You’ll end up with squeak-free, crisp-tender blackened beans, which contribute tons of flavor to the finished salad.

Before I go, I feel compelled to tell you that something was missing from this salad when I photographed it, but I couldn’t figure out what that something was. I finally recalled the classic almonds-with-green-beans combo from my grandmother’s table and threw some slivered almonds in a pan to toast. Almonds make all the difference, so even though they aren’t shown in the pictures, please add them at the end as directed. And hey Mom, look! I’m eating real green beans and not taking tequila shots. Your little girl is all grown up.

Blackened Green Bean and Quinoa Salad
5.0 from 2 reviews
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 4
Sautéed green beans in a simple end-of-summer quinoa salad with corn and cherry tomatoes. Top with toasted almond slivers (mandatory) and feta (optional)!
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed under running water in a fine mesh colander for a couple of minutes
  • 1 pound long green beans, aka haricots verts (roughly 3 cups)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ medium red onion, sliced into very thin strips
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 corn on the cobs, stripped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1½ to 2 small lemons, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • ⅓ cup sliced almonds (highly recommended)
  • crumbled feta (optional)
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups water and the quinoa. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 to 17 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, cover and set aside.
  2. Chop off the straggly ends of the green beans. Cut them on the bias (diagonally) into 2- to 3-inch long pieces.
  3. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the green beans and a sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until spotty brown (4 to 6 minutes).
  4. Use a wooden spoon to push the green beans from the center of the skillet. Add another teaspoon olive oil and the minced garlic. Cook the garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir the garlic into the green beans.
  5. Grab a baking sheet to cover the pan and keep it handy. Add the red onion to the pan, followed by the water and cover until the beans are bright green and crisp (about 2 minutes). Uncover the pan and increase heat to medium-high. Cook until the water evaporates and the beans are lightly browned (3 to 5 minutes) and remove from heat.
  6. Transfer the green beans to a big mixing bowl. Add the cooked quinoa, chopped cherry tomatoes and corn kernels. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and pour it into the salad bowl. Toss to combine. Add salt to taste. If it doesn't taste like an end-of-summer party, add another squeeze of lemon and maybe a dash of red pepper flakes.
  7. In a skillet over medium-low heat, toast the almond slivers until fragrant and golden. Top the salad with toasted almonds and feta, if you'd like, and serve.
Green bean cooking technique adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.
Make it vegan: Skip the feta.
Make it nut free: Leave out the almonds, although it is a highly recommended topping!
Storage suggestions: This salad keeps well in the fridge, covered, for a couple of days.


  1. says

    Wow this looks amazing, my kind of salad! Those beans are so beautiful!
    I hate those days where you know exactly what you are looking for at a store, should be easy in and out and then you end up on a wild goose chase. One of my biggest pet peeves for sure.

  2. says

    I am all too familiar with those four-stop grocery days – and yes, it is absolutely maddening. I’ve convinced myself that it comes with the territory of being a plant based eater, but it still drives me wild when I go somewhere only to find they don’t stock tamari. Or almond butter.

    Anyhow, this salad looks delicious. To this day (mind you, I’m a grown human), I refuse to eat green beans unless they come from my Oma Eva’s garden. So, maybe I’ll be able to convince her to make this for me when I go home. She would think she was sooo hip for cooking from a recipe on the internet.

    • says

      Why is almond butter so hard to come by, anyway?! It’s 2012! C’mon, grocery stores. If you make this salad with your Oma Eva, I hope you both love it.

  3. says

    What a pretty salad, Kate! I’m not a green bean gal myself, but you’ve never steered me wrong with recipes this far, so I trust this is one amazing meal! Now about those tequila shots… :)
    Happy weekend, friend!

  4. says

    MMM looks good! Thanks for sharing.
    I love KC’s River Market. The city is near & dear to my heart as I spent 6 months there last year. I miss the Trader Joe’s too, though I never did try to find tahini there. Wish I had them here in Canada :)

  5. says

    I hear you… Don’t you hate that when a quick little trip to the market, becomes a shopping odyssey. I get SO grumpy too.
    Love your quinoa salad ( I’ve got quinoa on the brain myself). Green beans, almonds, feta… all good to me!

  6. says

    This looks super yummy! Quinoa is definitely my grain of choice and it’s always refreshing to see another way to use it in a recipe! The blackened green beans is an innovative new kick! Thanks!

  7. Luis Lujan says

    Pine nuts are good with this if you don’t have/want almonds. I also made it another time with Trader Joe’s Omega Trail Mix that has an assortment of nuts n seeds with dried cranberries and it worked really well.
    PS: Saw the West Elm piece. Congrats!

    • says

      Glad you’ve enjoyed this salad, Luis! It didn’t go over as well as most of my other recipes lately in terms of comments (maybe people don’t like green beans?!). Pine nuts and assorted nuts sound like great substitutions. Thank you for the congratulations, too!

  8. Tracy says

    Love this! I made this on Monday and it makes a lot so I’m having a big bowl for lunch today, warmed up a bit in the microwave. I also used bulghur wheat instead of quinoa because I had it on hand.

  9. Jenny says

    Delicious! I was searching for a recipe to use up the tomatoes, green beans and corn that came with my CSA share, and this worked out great. Thanks!

  10. Elinor says

    This might actually be my favourite grain salad ever. The combination of textures is phenomenal– definitely don’t skip the toasted almonds! It’s a little bit involved but if you multitask it comes together fairly quickly. I’ve made it several times now and will definitely continue to do so as long as I can get fresh sweet corn!

  11. Abbie says

    Wow this was amazing I savored every single bite. I made this in the winter even though it is a summer dish but it was still fantastic! Can’t wait to taste these veggies once they are in season. The toasted almonds and feta cheese really gave it a burst of flavor. Thank you Kate!

  12. says

    I made this last night and it was fantastic. It made more than what I’d consider 4 servings though so next time I’ll use less than a cup of quinoa and use more greenbeans. Even my husband loved it and we both had seconds. One of my new favorite C+K recipes!

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