Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs

This festive vegan grain salad is full of tart cranberries, protein-rich white beans, pine nuts, and the freshest herbs of the season.

This Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is the perfect vegan side dish for Thanksgiving.

We’re stepping a bit outside the Thanksgiving box today. Because, although not a traditional holiday side dish, this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is completely worthy of a spot on your holiday table. It’s full of dried cranberries, whole grains, white beans and seasonal fresh herbs like fresh rosemary, sage and thyme. It’s quite literally a Thanksgiving explosion in your mouth. You’re going to get this one on the menu STAT.

Grain Salads FTW

I’ve been a big fan of grain salads for quite a while now, as evidenced by this Spring Fava Bean and Burrata Grain Salad, this Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad and this Herbed Grain Salad with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans. I love them because they are filled with a ton of healthy ingredients and filling to boot. The whole grains give them plenty of heft to make them completely suitable as an entire meal, although they are equally delicious served alongside other delicious dishes you typically serve up for a holiday meal.

I’m not joking when I say tell you this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs tastes like your entire Thanksgiving menu in a bowl. Sure, there’s no turkey in there (although you could easily add some) but just the cranberries and the fresh herbs alone are enough to mentally transport you to arguably the most well-known food holiday of the year. I love allll the fresh herbs, but there’s also just something about fresh sage in a recipe that really screams fall and all the deliciousness that comes with it.

A bowl of this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is filling enough to be a delicious vegan holiday meal.

Don’t Go Against the Grain

As far as making the dish goes, it couldn’t be easier. Not only does it come together fairly quickly (the longest step will be cooking up the grains) but it can also be made in advance and served cold or at room temperature. This means it’s easy to fit into an already busy cooking and kitchen schedule once T-day rolls around.

For the whole grains, I used a combination of farro and Italian couscous because they were what we had on hand, but feel free to use other varieties such as quinoa, barley or even wild rice. I also added in some toasted pine nuts, and I highly recommend you do not skip this step, even if you want to sub in some other type of toasted nut for that little extra crunch. (Pecans? Almonds? So many possibilities.)

This Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is an easy, make-ahead side dish for the holidays.

I would also like to point out that said Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is completely vegan, which makes it a delicious, high-protein option for anyone in your group that may have certain dietary preferences. It’s a great way to serve them up some protein and filling flavor without having to bend over backwards trying your hand at a Tofurkey creation.

Since I was developing recipes so far in advance this holiday season due to our little one’s arrival, I served this up as a side dish at my mother-in-law’s birthday celebration we held down here in Santa Barbara at the beginning of October. Let’s just say my sisters-in-law were already requesting I make it as our contribution to the Thanksgiving meal when we go celebrate with them in a couple of weeks.  I hope you decide to add it to your menu as well!

Serve this vegan Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs as a hearty side dish or light, healthy meal during the holidays.

Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs
Prep Time
10 mins

This festive vegan side dish is full of filling whole grains, protein-rich white beans and pine nuts, and the freshest herbs of the season. 

Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Servings: 6 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
  • 2 cups cooked grains of your choice (I used a combination of farro and Italian couscous)
  • 2 15.5-ounce cans Great Northern or white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  1. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to two days before serving.

Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs |

Cowgirl Plate: The Ultimate Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

This Cowgirl Plate is as big on healthy protein as it is on flavor. It’s also perfectly acceptable for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

Cowgirl Plate | CaliGirl Cooking

Are you ready for a big plate of deliciousness today?

You might want to buckle your seatbelt and hold on tight for this wild ride I’m about to take you on. Best thing about the Cowgirl Plate? Even though it has a few different components, they are all super easy to make. It’s one of those things where you’re like, “I didn’t know something so simple could be so delicious!”

Cowgirl Plate | CaliGirl Cooking

But, before we get to the recipe itself, a little backstory. This is a dish that my fiancé and his friends would actually go out on “man dates” for to a little lounge-y, upscale Mexican restaurant here in Santa Barbara. There are a few things that may surprise you about very tall, athletic manly men specifically going out to order this Cowgirl Plate:

  1. It’s vegetarian (I don’t know about you but it’s quite the feat to get my meat-lovin’ man to eat anything vegetarian. It’s got to be darnnnn good.)
  2. It’s HEALTHY. When was the last time your man was like “Hey babe, I’m going out with the dudes tonight to get a healthy and nutritious meal.” I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, but I’m guessing that doesn’t happen too often.

Cowgirl Plate | CaliGirl Cooking

So we had this local restaurant, we had this Cowgirl Plate, we had this great excuse for a healthy meal and then something tragic happened. The restaurant decided to “rebrand” itself and go in a different direction and, much to our dismay, the owner told us the Cowgirl Plate would not be coming back. Talk about a MAJOR disappointment.

We tried begging the owner for the recipe, but he was keeping it under lock and key, so I decided to take it into my own hands and recreate it. Now, my version of the Cowgirl Plate is not EXACTLY like the restaurant’s, but I must say it’s pretty darn close and has my own little personal spin to it.

We start with mashed sweet potatoes. But these aren’t just any mashed sweet potatoes. These are magically enhanced with orange juice and a little brown sugar. The tart sweetness that this provides is the perfect contrast to the rest of the dish.

Cowgirl Plate | CaliGirl Cooking

Then we move on to our cilantro rice. If you’re a cilantro-hater, make plain rice, but let me tell you as a cilantro-lover, this rice takes the whole dish to the next level on the flavor spectrum.

Cowgirl Plate | CaliGirl Cooking

Now let’s talk about the beans. Because we’re lazy and want all of this to be easy, we take canned black beans (and even the juice in the can…no draining and rinsing here!) and spice them up a bit with some onion, garlic and tomato. Flavor bomb!

Cowgirl Plate | CaliGirl Cooking

But the beans aren’t quite enough protein for us. Now we need to cook up some eggs (you choose the style!) to really add some bang for our buck.

Cowgirl Plate | CaliGirl Cooking

Cowgirl Plate | CaliGirl Cooking

To finish off the dish, we need to make a simple green salad with an easy olive oil and lemon juice vinaigrette. We’ve got so many other flavors going on in this Cowgirl Plate, we do not need to overcomplicate things.

Cowgirl Plate | CaliGirl Cooking

One last step – and please don’t skip this. We need to caramelize some onions. And we need to add just a leeetle bit of balsamic glaze to really sweeten these puppies up. This is the perfect final garnish for the amazingness of flavors that is called the Cowgirl Plate.

Cowgirl Plate | CaliGirl Cooking

So what do you say? Are you ready to make this right this instant? If you’re lucky enough to have the day off for President’s Day, this would be the perfect light meal to wind down the holiday weekend. Forget about how healthy it is, it is soooo tasty and you will go to bed ready for work tomorrow and dreaming of the next time you can work a Cowgirl Plate into your dinner (or breakfast, or lunch) rotation.

Cowgirl Plate | CaliGirl Cooking

BRB. I’m going to dig into some leftovers right now.

Cowgirl Plate
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 20 mins

This dish is as big on healthy protein as it is on flavor. It's also perfectly acceptable for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

Course: Breakfast, Main Course
Keyword: beans, breakfast, dinner, eggs, lunch, sweet potato
Servings: 2 people*
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
For the mashed sweet potatoes:
  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into sixths
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
For the cilantro rice:
  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or water)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
For the black beans:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 white onion, diced You will use the other 3/4 for the caramelized onions.
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic glaze
For the eggs:
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4-5 eggs
For the salad:
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
To make the mashed sweet potatoes:
  1. Bring sweet potatoes to a boil in a large pot of water. Continue to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are fork tender. Drain water. Add butter, milk, orange juice and brown sugar to pan. Using a hand mixer (or you could also mash the potatoes by hand), whip the potatoes until all ingredients are combined and mixture is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make the cilantro rice:
  1. Place jasmine rice in a small saucepan with chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn heat down to low and place a lid on the pan. Allow to cook for 10 more minutes. Once rice is cooked, stir in cilantro.

To make the black beans:
  1. Heat olive (or avocado) oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until onions are translucent and fragrant. Add garlic, stir to combine. Add black beans and their juices from the can; stir in tomatoes. Bring heat down to medium-low. Let beans simmer for 30-45 minutes. You want their starches to release so the juices thicken up a bit.

To make the caramelized onions:
  1. Melt butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Once butter is melted, add onions. Add balsamic glaze and stir to coat. Lower heat to medium-low. Cook onions slowly on low heat until they are soft and caramelized, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

To make the eggs:
  1. Cook the eggs in any way you’d like!

To make the salad:
  1. Toss all salad ingredients together in a small bowl.

To assemble the Cowgirl Plate:
  1. Place a heaping scoop of the mashed sweet potatoes in one corner of a large oval plate. Next, spoon the cilantro rice in sort of a diagonal across the middle of the plate. To the other side of the rice (not the same side with the potatoes), spoon on the black beans. These will essentially take over the whole half of this plate. The rice will serve as a dam between the beans and the rest of the plate. Next, arrange the salad on the other quarter of the plate that is on the side with the potatoes. Top salad with caramelized onions. Top entire plate with eggs.

  2. When eating, I highly recommend you completely mess up the plating described above and mix every component together.

Recipe Notes

*There will be various leftovers.


Cowgirl Plate | CaliGirl Cooking

All of the feels.