The Pinto Bean Salad

A story about my dad, his famous bean salad, and creating family memories.

He was the chief cook at our house.  And cook he did since there were seven children around his table!  Every summer there was one salad that was always on the table – Pinto Bean Salad. I dare say it would show up during other seasons – but its primary appearance was on our summer table.

As I reflect back on times with my dad this Father’s Day or any day, the clearest pictures seem to revolve around our family meals and the prep that went into them. If I sit still, and close my eyes, I can hear my dad saying these very words: “Can someone grab the bean salad and get it onto the table?”   

As kids we had ample opportunity to learn our way around the kitchen under my dad’s tutelage.  This salad was one of the first dishes I ever learned to throw together….and yes, I mean throw together because it’s not the kind of recipe that requires a lot of measuring.

Most classically trained chefs will tell you that one of the first things they learn in the kitchen is how to use a knife.  There’s a little bit of chopping and dicing that this recipe requires – and my dad was not shy to hand us a knife to get the job done.  Thankfully, I don’t recall any serious mishaps…..maybe a few onion tears, but no trips to the ER for stitches! 

Another thing about this salad (and I think why it is enjoyed by all who partake) is that it has perfect balance.  A touch of sweet mayo creaminess, crisp bits of onion, tangy tart pickles, and salty cheddar cheese shreds all coming together with the simple earthy pinto bean to make a perfect bite! 

As a child, I loved to make this salad or to eat it and I’m still loving it today. I’m loving to know that such a simple thing brings sweet memories of my dad.  I’m loving to know that my grown children love and make this salad in their homes and now I’m loving to share it with you.   I hope you’ll make the salad, but I also hope you’ll be inspired to create and  pass on to your children – not just great recipes – but sweet memories!

From my table to yours,


PINTO BEAN SALAD  (serves 8)

2 cans of pinto beans, drained (do NOT rinse)
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1/2 cup dill pickle, diced
2 Tablespoons mayo
2 ounces of white cheddar, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
In mixing bowl gently combine drained beans, onion, pickle, mayo, cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Chill until ready to serve.  
Variation:  add diced jalapeno