Monday, July 13, 2020

Trader Joe's Balela

A certain "source for authentic Latino cuisine" has been in the news lately, and without mentioning its name or getting into divisive politics, I'll just say that Sonia and I have been talking about beans a lot as of late. We discussed our mutual love of beans in general, and in particular, we got into garbanzo beans and black beans, since they're both staples of our ever-deepening pantry.

I made the assertion that garbanzos will be much more convenient when the power grid goes down, since they're generally meant to be served cold or at room temperature, while black beans are only palatable when heated. Sonia disagreed and stated that she'd happily consume black beans cold as well, also pointing out that a particular stereotype about her ethnicity is not only true, but that if anything, her people's reverence for frijoles is understated and only partially understood by los gringos.

All of this discussion took place before picking up this new (?) refrigerated bean salad from Trader Joe's. Apparently Middle-Easterners are nearly as enthusiastic about beans as our south-of-the-border amigos. Also, my assumption that black beans had no place in any cold dishes was dashed to pieces. This balela is chock full of garbanzos as well as black beans, and they both work beautifully in this mixture.

To me, this salad tasted like the two aforementioned bean types, mixed with something akin to pico de gallo, with some oil and vinegar dressing on top. Ingredients-wise, it's really not a far cry from that. There's a hint of citrus flavor and a barely-detectable amount of spice from the chili pepper and garlic. The faint "dried mint" element is perhaps the most uniquely Middle-Eastern or Mediterranean aspect of the salad.

It's crisp, refreshing, filling, and not too shabby in the calories and fat departments. It's perfect for summer. I found it a nice break from typical lettuce-cabbage-spinach-based salads. And obviously, there are far fewer carbs in here than in any kind of pasta salad.

$3.29 for the 8 oz tub. Might be a repeat purchase, or we might try to make our own. Four stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.


  1. Garbanzos are King, but I was surprised to find that I like red beans more than the others. They're...creamier? Am I imagining that?

    1. I don't eat red beans much, but I'll have to revisit them soon now that you've mentioned them.

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  2. similar salads!


  3. I definitely agree that red beans are creamier. I lived in Korea for 9 years and they put them in tons of desserts. Japan too. They're not my cup of tea served as a sweet, but they're super popular.