Rice and Bean Salad Recipe

I hardly ever eat meat or fish when I’m alone. I may have a bit of ham or chicken on occasion if there is some left over from another meal, but other than that, my solo appetite favors a plant-based diet, with a few dairy products (yogurt, cheese) and eggs thrown in.

And because I eat most of my weekday lunches at home, in my own company (I admit I’ve become frightfully attached to the quiet and solitude of my workdays) and as an accidental vegetarian, I started to worry about protein: was I getting enough?

It’s hard to say, since I’m not so worried as to weigh my food and tally up the grams of protein, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to be a little more diligent about my grain-and-legume combos, as in this rice and bean salad.

Getting enough protein from a vegetarian lunch bowl

A quick reminder to those of you who don’t spend their lives reading nutrition articles: most animal products provide what’s called complete proteins, meaning they contain optimal proportions of all the essential amino acids (= the smaller units that constitute proteins) the human body can’t manufacture, and therefore needs to obtain from its diet. Plant products, on the other hand, don’t provide that same balance in essential amino acids, offering good amounts of some and low amounts of others. But as Mother Nature would have it, the amino acids found in grains and those found in legumes are complementary*, so that combining the two essentially results in a complete protein. Ha!

You don’t have to eat the two at the same time — you could eat a grain at one meal and a legume at the next, as the amino acids are said to remain available for a possible hookup for twelve hours — but they happen to go really well together, as illustrated in many culinary cultures**: think couscous and chickpeas, pita and hummus, baked beans on toast, rice and lentils, corn and beans, rice and beans, pasta and beans…

Batch-cooking for easy lunches

And so I resolved to cook a batch of some type of grain and some sort of legume at the beginning of every other week or so, and incorporate it into my lunches on subsequent days. It’s also a big time saver, naturally, because a minimal effort on Monday promises near-instant lunches after that: all I need to do then is add a form of fresh vegetable to the mix, raw or cooked, and we’re in business.

Today’s rice and bean salad is an example of one such preparation: it uses a mix of beans and other legumes I bought on sale at the organic store — it was marketed as a soup helper — and an organic, fair-trade brown rice from Thailand I really like (it is fragrant and not too chewy, and it cooks quickly). The legumes and rice are soaked and cooked separately, then tossed with fresh herbs (chervil, in this case) and a mustardy vinaigrette.

I eat it slightly warm the first day, then cold or at room temperature. It works well over a bed of mixed greens, as a wrap in lettuce leaves or rice paper, plopped in a bowl of soup, or “refried” in a skillet and eaten in a tortilla. In all cases, it is wonderfully filling, improves as it sits, and can be easily transported for lunch at the office, where I hope you’re able to find a little quiet and solitude from time to time.


* You can get similar results by combining seeds, nuts, and protein-rich vegetables (such as leafy greens or broccoli) with grains and/or legumes.

** I thought about this for a while, but couldn’t find a good grain-and-legume example in the French culinary repertoire, apart from a lentil soup one might eat with bread. Can you think of examples yourself? Update: A reader pointed out that the provençal soupe au pistou is an example, involving beans and pasta. Thanks Anaïk!

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Rice and Bean Salad Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 13 hours

Makes 4 to 5 servings.

Rice and Bean Salad Recipe


  • 240 ml (1 cup) mixed dried beans and legumes (my mix includes borlotti beans, kidney beans, tiny black beans, adzuki beans, split peas, red and green lentils, and chickpeas)
  • 240 ml (1 cup) brown rice
  • A 3-cm (1-inch) piece of dehydrated kombu seaweed (see note below)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (not the real kind sold at the price of platinum in teeny bottles, but a decent one nonetheless)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 rounded teaspoon strong mustard
  • Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil (or the good oil of your choice; you can use a little hazelnut or sesame or walnut oil in there, too)
  • A small bunch chervil or flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Mixed greens for serving


  1. Soak the beans in a large bowl of cold water for 12 hours, or up to a day.
  2. A little while before cooking, soak the rice: rinse in fresh water, drain well, and put in a medium saucepan. Add the volume of water recommended on the package -- mine says to use double the volume of water, but I use a little less (1 4/5 cups rather than 2 cups) because I like the texture better that way -- and let the rice soak in the water for 20 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Rinse the soaked beans in fresh water and put them in another medium saucepan with the kombu. Cover with cold water (no salt) by about 2 cm (1 inch), cover, and bring to a simmer. As the water comes to a simmer, a white foam will collect at the surface; skim and discard it.
  4. Cook the beans at a low simmer for 1 hour, or until the beans are just cooked through: you want them to retain their shape, and not turn to mush. Drain, remove the seaweed, and let cool slightly.
  5. While the beans are cooking, get the rice started. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt to the pan, cover, bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook at a low simmer, without disturbing, until all the water is absorbed -- this will take anywhere from 12 to 40 minutes, depending on your particular type of rice. Remove from the heat and let rest for 10 minutes, then uncover and let cool slightly.
  6. In a large salad bowl, combine the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and Tabasco sauce and pepper to taste. Add the oil slowly, stirring to blend and form an emulsion.
  7. Add the beans and fold them in gently with a spatula; you want to coat them with the dressing without mushing. Fluff the rice with a fork (to separate the grains) and add it in along with the herbs -- again, using a gentle hand. Taste, correct the seasoning and (probably more important) the acidity of the dressing, and serve in shallow bowls, on a bed of mixed greens.
  8. Leftovers should be placed promptly in an airtight container in the fridge, and eaten over the next 2 days. They can also be frozen.


Kombu (or kelp) is a seaweed that comes in black strips; look for dehydrated kombu at natural food stores and Japanese markets. Adding it to the cooking water for beans enhances their flavor, and makes them more tender and easier to digest.


This post was first published in March 2010 and updated in January 2016.

  • It sounds phenomenal warm. Mmmm.

  • I do hope you serve that with honeycomb! ;P

  • Erin

    This is a perfect post! Just last week I realized that I never eat meat alone either and I eat alone quite often. I do however make large batches of Spanish style lentils or spicy Mexican pinto beans with brown rice to eat for lunch during the week. I’m glad I’m not the only ‘accidental’ vegetarian :)

  • Lovely recipe.

    On the whole we tend to think in the west that we need a lot more protein than we actually do. The big thing to watch out for on plant based diets is B12 (but if you’re eating eggs you’re good to go!)

  • what a nice combo! and healthy too, cheers from london

  • Edward

    I shall start my week cooking up the beans as you have suggested. What a wonderful idea, especially for my wife’s pack lunch.

    You could try using rapeseed oil – it adds a lovely nutty flavour. Just like olive oil, it’s essential to get a good – extra virgin, cold press.

  • Good to eat less meat! This is healthy diet!

  • Lans

    A grain of salt:

    It is generally a BAD IDEA to eat cold sticky rice. Note that I specified STICKY rice. This means a rice that cooks into an extremely sticky mass. Brown rice will cook into individual grains, but sticky rice will form what essentially amounts to a “thick rice mass”. Eating this mass cold WILL cause bad stomach aches and indigestion. In general, anything labeled “glutinous” or “short-grain” with rice immediately following should be eaten PIPING HOT.


  • vetmed

    In Louisiana cuisine, a cousin to the fabulous French we have the GLORIOUS red beans and rice which is revered all over the south and southwest!

  • So the “accidental vegetarian” phenomenon is more common than I realized! I’m one when cooking for just myself, too — brown rice and beans, quinoa and lentils, bean and veg soups are my go-to’s, along with lots of sauteed dark, leafy greens. Thanks for this lovely recipe.

  • Sam

    Why do you choose the different temperatures to eat it at on different days?

    Is it contrasting the correct flavor?


  • Thank you all for your response!

    Vetmed – Absolutely! Though I believe that particular Louisiana staple comes from the Creole heritage rather than the French.

    Sam – It’s just that I eat it right after I make it on the first day, so it’s still warm. On subsequent days, I eat it straight from the fridge, or let it come to room temperature on the counter.

  • I do this for my lunches too, it is so convenient. I make a quinoa/wasabi/avocado/adzuki salad that is fantastic wrapped in lettuce or rolled in a tortilla. I really love this type of thing in the summer for dinner. You can cook it in the morning so you don’t have to heat the house when it is boiling hot outside.

    Great post!

  • Just chiming in as another accidental solo vegetarian here! Especially since I started getting a veg box delivery.

  • Interesting- I just posted meal I eat alone as well! Similar to you, I gravitate towards non meat meals in that case (although I topped mine with a little bacon… total weakness). YOur recipe looks like a total winner! I look forward to trying it out soon. Thanks for the post!

  • This is similar to mujaddara, which is a real favourite in my family. I throw in brown rice and lentils in one pot, rinse, then cook in vegetable or chicken broth. When it’s ready, I serve with fried onions and yoghurt – it’s so easy and delicious! And good either warm or cold. xo

  • I love dishes just like this one, you have a wonderful variety in your dish. Fresh chervil is fabulous, this is the type of dish I want to take to work for lunch. I would be the envy of my co-workers.

  • If you’re so inclined, a viable alternative to rice is orzo. I also like to add some cooked, chilled yellow sweet corn kernels.

  • Rice dish really comforts me. Good to have your salad for breakfast too! It saves us until lunch time :

  • Great post! A lot of people don’t know the importance of food combining to get a complete protein.

    From the Latino angle, we’ve been eating arroz y frijoles together for eons. The beans are varied: pinto, black, habichuelas, lentejas, etc. Just made a lentil and wild rice salad with plantains.

  • The Paris Food Blague

    aha! perfect protein. proof that lentil soup and bread are meant to be.

    i also worry (and by worry i mean get confused for a while and then eat some more baguette) about protein consumption….this looks like a healthy, cheap way to fix that problem.

    a plus!
    the paris food blague

  • hannah

    Sometimes I like my rice al dente; sometimes not. If you don’t want it chewy, especially with short grain brown, (such as the organic Lundberg from California) just let the rice sit in it’s measured ammount of water for an hour or more before cooking.

    Congratulations on your decision to make a tinier footprint! And thank you for mentioning Fair Trade.

  • Hi everyone, here are a few Italian grain-and-legume combos: pasta e fagioli and pasta e ceci, winter staples for the accidental vegetarian! For spring-summer: risi e bisi.

  • msue

    I love the term ‘accidental vegetarian’!

    A combo of legumes & grains is precisely how I make most workday lunches. Like you, I make a larger portion that gets divided into 3 or 4 servings. That, with a nice piece of fruit, makes my perfect lunch bag treat.

    My recipe of the week varies a lot, and can include quinoa, wheat berries, tofu, and almonds. At present, I like the the addition of chopped fresh veggies, plus sometimes a little steamed & chopped kale mixed in. Often I’ll add some halved cherry tomatoes. Their juiciness keeps the salad nicely hydrated until the day I eat it.


  • marjorie

    Why do you soak the rice before cooking ?
    I am from Reunion island where white rice is eaten at almost every meal (and often with beans or lentils !), and I have never heard about that. Is soaking necessary because you use brown rice ?
    Thank you !

  • Hi Clotilde.
    The notion that plant proteins need to be combined to make “complete” protein is well out of date.

    Let me quote you Rose Elliot in “Vegan Feasts”. She’s quoting the American Dietetic Association from 1993:

    “Plant sources of protein alone can provide adequate amounts of the essential and non-essential amino acids, assuming that dietary protein sources from plants are reasonably varied and that calorie intake is sufficient to meet energy needs. Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds and nuts all contain essential and non-essential amino acids. Conscious combining of these foods within a given meal, as the complementary protein dictum suggests, is unnecessary.”

  • Me again.
    As for the total amount of protein, being a vegan and a runner (and a bit of a nerd) I’ve checked my intake by devising an Excel chart to calculate the amount I eat.

    Without making any particular effort, I easily get more than the 1.6g per day per kg of body weight recommended for endurance athletes. For most people, 1.4g per kg of body weight is enough. (These recommendations are from Anita Bean’s “Complete Guide de Sports Nutrition”).

    Having done all that, I did go out and get a life. Honest. 8-)

  • This just looks so clean and refreshing. Love it.

  • Happy to see I’m not alone when it comes to hardly ever cooking meat for myself! I love the rice and beans combination–I add a little sour cream, homemade salsa and I’m good to go!

  • Kathie – I love orzo (in French, it’s called pâtes langue d’oiseau, bird tongue pasta!) but it’s strangely difficult to find around here.

    Rose – Thanks for the helpful links!

    Marjorie – I first read about pre-soaking rice in a Japanese cookbook, and I’ve taken to doing so (for white and brown rice alike) because I find it yields a more pleasant texture once cooked. Try it and see what you think!

    Pauline/Aspiring Vegan – I actually don’t think that what Rose Elliot writes contradicts the fact that you need to combine different sources of plant proteins in order to get the amino acids the body needs.

    The key phrase in the quote is “assuming that dietary protein sources from plants are reasonably varied” and I think that’s exactly the problem for most of us: I, for one, tend to eat considerably more grains and vegetables than I do legumes and seeds, so I find it helpful to think in terms of combos to remind myself that I should strive to incorporate all the different groups — not necessarily during the same meal, as I indicated, but on regular enough a basis.

    Others may find that their natural appetite (or acquired food habits) leads them to a varied/balanced mix of plant proteins, in which case there’s no need to worry about it because it will all work out in the end, but that’s just not the case for me.

    And thanks for the info about the protein requirement per kilo of body weight. I may one day reach the stage of the Excel spreadsheet, but I’m not quite there yet! :)

  • Adele

    I have been on a sauteed grains kick lately, and love combining barley or farro with edamame, corn, sauteed aromatic vegetables and whatever fresh herbs we have on hand. It’s great served hot as a side dish and as a main course lunch the next day with a fried egg on top. Now I’ll have to try it with greens as a salad composee

  • I’m starting to wonder how many of us are ‘accidental vegetarians’! Me too, when I am alone, eat mainly grains and veggies, the only exception being the odd fish filet, since the other people I normally cook for don’t like it. I recently redescovered how quick and satisfying adding in some tofu can be, for extra protein.

    I started recently to soak my rice, too, and it does make a great difference in texture.

  • TJ

    What a great recipe for lunch!

  • Clotilde, I’ve read that one can make orzo by grating a ball of homemade pasta dough on a multi-sized cheese grater (just pick the size you want), though I’ve never tried it since we can readily buy orzo at the supermarket. I don’t know whether this would also work with the grater disk on a food processor, but maybe someone can try it and report back.

    Adding corn further increases the protein complementarity of the salad, as well as adding color. Bits of sweet red and green bell pepper can provide even more color.

  • Lovely salad and so convenient for lunch. I’m making one today.

  • Funny, while I LOVE to cook for other people, I just can’t be bothered to make meals for myself. This dish sounds very good, but I couldn’t do it for me alone!

  • We eat rice every day with other dish such as the lentil, cowpea, soybean and other bean.

  • Marcia

    I cook dried beans in a small 2 quart Crock Pot. 1 cup beans and 3 cups stock or water. No need to soak. Add 1/4 cup mirepoix and several small cloves of garlic. Low overnight or high for 5 hours.

    Makes cooking for one a lot easier. Can’t do much rice because of type 2 diabetes, but I make a marinated bean salad with all kinds of fresh vegetables. Adding a little cooked orzo is a treat.

    I’m all set on Sunday night for several days worth of lunches–or breakfast.

  • Clotilde,
    OK I see what you’re saying about the different amino acids. But as you’re perfectly omnivorous much of the time, you hardly need to do any striving, do you?

    Anyway, thanks for all the “accidentally vegan” recipes. I get so much more inspiration from your blog than from “proper” vegan recipes featuring items like “vegan bacon” – yuck!

  • Elizabeth

    Your beloved quinoa provides a complete protein as do amaranth and buckwheat, from what I understand.
    * * *
    Also consult the recipe for a simple French lentil soup that Richard Olney records in LULU’s PROVENCAL TABLE. Madame Peyraud prepares a very thin soup that thickens with a generous handful of croutons. I highly recommend making it a day or two in advance since it disappoints otherwise, but is absolutely perfect once it comes into its own.

  • b

    Accidental vegetarian — I have been reading your blog for some time and obviously missed that post. I am going to try this recipe.

  • I eat the same way…every day my lunch looks like yours, though I like to add ethnic twists: try it with cumin and chili powder, guacamole and salsa for a Mexican twist, or a Persian cuke and yogurt salad. Nothing like good food to bring us together. Le monde est tout petit!



  • I feel like an “accidental vegetarian” too, I usually eat more veggies, pasta and legumes than meat or fish, maybe because I’m from Sicily and there, our mediterranean diet is full of this products (many traditional dishes are like chickpeas/or lentils+pasta, broad beans cream+pasta! etc. etc.). I really like your healthy salad and the twist of the original dressing.

  • Love your blog and while I am a new follower, I can’t help but notice how wonderfully versatile, adventurous & informative you are… just last week, I was searching C&Z for vegan options & was impressed to read your post on the Live/Raw Cooking Class! Nice.

    G&L combos are very satisfying. One of my favorites is: coconut rice with black-eyed beans & spinach.

  • Rebecca

    Soy is also considered a complete protein. I’m not sure if the book cited above draws its recommendations from a French institution (which might differ from those in America) or if the recommendations are specific to athletes, but the current American Dietetics Association recommendation for protein intake for an average, healthy person is actually 0.8g protein/kg body weight/day.

  • Pascale Mincke

    I’ve been wondering for weeks now what to bring to work to avoid having to buy costly salads from the shops nearby (I work in the “expensive” EU district in Brussels). This sounds like a great, easy idea. I’ll start immediately ! I love your peacamole recipe (which I have already distributed to loads of admirers) and I think it would be a nice supplement as would Baba Ganoush (caviar d’aubergine). One question : do you actually use several beans at the same time ? Have a good chilly week in Paris !

  • Great little salad. Almost a whole meal.

  • dory

    I am mostly vegetarian too. I prepare meat for dinner parties, and for my husband (and dogs who get scraps) but often don’t eat it myself. This looks like a good recipe for me.


  • Vidya

    As a lifelong vegetarian, I get so annoyed when people tell me that vegetarianism isn’t healthy. At school, teachers used to tell me that a vegetarian diet wasn’t adequate for a child and basically hinted that my parents weren’t feeding me properly. They would be so shocked when I said we ate lentils and legumes for protein, and we always ate a variety of grains, not only rice and wheat but numerous types of millet and lots of chickpea and lentil flours. My family has been vegetarian for generations, I’m pretty sure we know what we’re doing. I’m so glad you’re educating people about this.

  • Looks and sounds delicious. But pasta and beans? Where do they eat that?!

  • Love your accidental vegetarian ideas, everyone — very inspiring. Thanks and keep them coming!

    Kathie – The box grater method for making orzo is very intriguing; I’ll give it a try sometime.

    Pascale – I do like to use a mix of legumes for color and texture and flavor variety. This particular one was a ready-made mix I bought at the organic store.

    Dirk – It’s called pasta e fagioli and it’s an Italian classic.

  • Lovely recipe, can’t wait to try it! As a vegetarian (8 months in now) I am constantly on the prowl for a new recipe using beans, which are SO much more versatile than I ever could have imagined as an omnivore.

    I’m going to make up a batch of this for work lunches.

  • Christina Oldenburg

    Garbure, a Béarnaise soup as In Julia Child has beans and potatoes, as well as lots of good vegetables (and flavor!) How would it be with pasta or rice?

    Polenta, being corn, has lots of French possibility.

  • Sue


    In the “ancient” days when we proto-vegetarians used to go in for elaborate balancing schemes, the quantity of grain was always much greater than the quantity of legume, nut or seed. So perhaps the proportions that you usually eat are fine and you don’t need to worry about adding more legumes to your diet. Though the salad looks lovely.

  • looks and sounds great! here in Brazil we eat rice and beans every day so why not try it as a salad! :)

  • Ah, a girl after my own luncheon heart! I live on legumes and grains with fresh herbs, and occasional additions like raw pepitas, mango, toasted corn, edamame, asparagus, grape tomatoes… bulgur is a superb nutty grain (requires no cooking, just steaming, like couscous) that complements so many legumes like the small brown eston lentil. Quinoa is also wonderful in salads matched superbly with corn, mint, queso fresca, toasted almonds. Another yummy salad is kale with pistachios and brown rice. Who needs meat is right!

  • harsha

    unbelievable! cook up rice and legume and eat the leftovers for a week????
    am from India and we consider food that is more than 12 hours old, unfit for consumption! :)
    simply because it qualifies as stale!!!!! :)
    even in colder parts of the country which is somewhat similar to european temperatures( like kashmir) food in winter at sub zero temperatures is not stored for longer than 24 hours, within or without the refrigerator!

  • Harsha – Please note I do not suggest keeping the leftovers for a week. Two days is a maximum; I freeze the rest in individual containers for later days.

  • jackie

    I love farro and make similar mixtures
    with it. salads ,soups.

  • steffygrace

    dear clotilde, do you think that tofu counts as a legume? i often eat plain tofu and rice with black sauce and sesame oil when i’m too lazy to cook.

  • Steffygrace – I believe tofu is even thought by some to count as a complete protein, so your “lazy” meals seem nutritionally sound (not to mention delicious).

  • I saw that you made a reference to a brown rice sold on ArtisansduMonde (fair trade), i just wanted to indicate that you could know buy it online thanks to the new webstore.

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