Middle Eastern Chickpea Salad (Balela) ~ You know I love a great bean salad as much as I love Middle Eastern food, and this hearty Mediterranean chickpea salad paired with creamy labneh is healthy, and full of flavor, fiber, and protein. It’s also a lot of fun to eat.
Spring has sprung (almost!) and welcome to recipe #2 in my March Main Course Salad Challenge, where I’m sharing a hearty main course salad every Wednesday in the month of March to inspire you to go green once a week this season, and hopefully beyond. My main course salad #1, in case you missed it, was this Salmon Cobb Salad.
I’ve got quite a collection of bean salads here at tvfgi, from the classic American potluck versions to more exotic international recipes. While we normally think of a bean salad as a side dish, I figured it was time to feature one of them as the star of the meal.
What is balela salad?
Balela, pronounced ba-LAY-la, is a Middle Eastern chickpea and black bean salad made with chopped tomatoes and lots of parsley and mint. Garlic and lemon, too.
I’ve great islandized my balela with extra crunch from cucumbers, peppers (of course!) and briny olives.
My Middle Eastern balela salad is a complete meal served with thick creamy labneh and some great pita bread for scooping everything up.
This bean salad is one of the healthiest things you can put in your body ~
- beans are full of protein and soluble fiber. They’re being studied for their ability to reduce the risk of heart disease (by lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol) and type 2 diabetes. They appear to promote a longer life span, too.
- Beans help with weight loss by keeping you feeling full and satisfied, and controlling blood sugar.
- The herbs are packed with vitamins and minerals, aid digestion, and help detoxify and support the liver.
- Tomatoes and olives contain antioxidants which fight heart disease and cancer.
- The cukes are hydrating and give you vitamin K.
- Even the olive oil and lemon dressing contributes antioxidants and Vitamin C.
Ok, I love beans, but they cause gas!
- Beans can cause gas, and the problem affects some people more than others. It’s because beans contain certain starches that we can’t digest; we lack the enzyme that does the job. The process of breaking these sugars down in our body is what causes gas.
- Don’t let gas stop you from eating beans ~ for most of us our bodies will gradually get used to them, start slow and work up to about a 1/2 cup serving a day. If you are one of the unlucky ones who still has problems, Taste of Home has some good pointers for de-gassing beans.
In this case the ‘greens’ in your salad are herbs; parsley and mint, to be exact.
It’s a combination that is common in Middle Eastern cuisine, and it’s an important feature of this salad. I like to pop them in the processor to chop them up, it does the work in no time. Don’t skimp on these herbs, it looks like a lot but they chop down to nothing, and they’re what give this salad its distinctive flavor.
The simple lemony vinaigrette dressing features a bright red Middle Eastern spice called sumac. It’s made from the berries of the sumac bush and it looks a little like chili powder. It’s not spicy, but has a lemony tang, and I’ve used it in dressings before (it’s in my Fattoush Salad, of of my favorites!)
What tips this salad over into main course land is the thick labneh and pita bread. This salad would traditionally be eaten using torn pieces of pita as scoops. You can toast the pita if you like, here’s my method if you want to do it yourself.
Did you know you can easily make your own fresh pita bread?
Pita bread is easy to make, and doesn’t require any special skills or equipment, in fact, it can be ‘baked’ right in a pan on the stove top. It’s a great recipe for a beginner bread maker, and is so satisfying.
Here is my recipe for How To Make Perfect Pita Bread.
And guess what? You can also make your own homemade labneh!
Here’s How to Make Labneh (yogurt Cheese) I highly recommend you give it a try, it was a total surprise to me how much we all loved it. It’s part of our regular routine now. Basically you will just drain regular yogurt so that it becomes thick and spreadable. Delicious.
I like to mince the herbs and the garlic in my food processor, it makes the job quick and easy and everything gets finely and evenly chopped.
- 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and well rinsed
- 7 ounces canned black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup finely chopped tomatoes
- 1/3 cup minced red onion
- 1/3 cup finely chopped bell peppers, assorted colors
- 1/3 cup finely chopped cucumber
- 1/4 cup finely chopped black olive
- 1/4 cup halved or sliced stuffed green olives
- 2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
- 1 packed cup parsley leaves, minced
- 1/2 packed cup mint leaves, minced
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp sumac (more to taste)
- salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Whisk together the dressing and taste to adjust any of the ingredients.
- Add all the salad ingredients to a large bowl and toss lightly with the dressing.
- Serve with labneh, either along side, or on top, and fresh pita bread, toasted or not.
Make this balela salad recipe your own~
- Feel free to play with the proportions of any of the ingredients. Add more black beans, or omit them entirely.
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