black bean salad with spelt berries

Hello July! Summer is certainly upon us, regardless of what the wildly fluctuating Stockholm weather may be doing. We’ve had some smoking hot days followed by some cool and rainy days. On the nice days we’ve been packing up some drinks and heading about four blocks north of our apartment to a spot we refer to as ‘the hill’ (technically called Monteliusvägen) where we can gaze at the three gold crowns of Stockholm city hall and watch hot air balloons float lazily by. It’s pretty awesome.

We’ve also been busy cramming food and drink into ourselves like we’ve been having one long weekend after another. Oh wait, we have had one long weekend after another. First it was Midsommer, the highest of Swedish high holidays, where everyone vacates the city and heads to their sommerhus to party the weekend away. Except us expats with no sommerhus to head to, but we made out okay by throwing ourselves a Midsommer orphans grill. You can read all about it here on my first post for the Foodists.  

The next weekend, on Canada Day, Paul and I packed a backpack full of pasta salad and wine and hopped first on a train and then a bus to the adorable little seaside town of Trosa (pictured above), about 70 km south of Stockholm, where Paul ran in the Trosa Stadslopp. Running is a pretty big deal in Sweden, and races are often all day, full family events. When we arrived the small town was already packed, and we got there just in time to see the toddler heat which was just about the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen; little Swedish tots, some barely walking, race numbers pinned to their t-shirts, huge grins on their faces, walking the race course (with a little help from mom and dad, mainly with balance) to the cheers of the onlooking crowd. Paul ran a *slightly* longer route, and maybe just a smidge faster; he finished 5th overall in the 9.1 km race. Weird distance, but fun times. 

After the race we sat by one of the canals and drank some beers before venturing back to Stockholm. We arrived back late at night and hungry, so took a wander from the train station to Medborgarplatsen, a lively public square in our ‘hood,  where we wolfed down some tasty late-night street food. And then some more.

The next afternoon our friends and neighbours, Alison and Max, threw an American Barbecue to celebrate the 4th of July a couple of days early. I helped Alison make a tonne of food, and then I ate a tonne of food. And I maybe had a drink or two. If you’re looking for a killer classic American potato salad recipe to take with you to a barbecue or potluck this summer, I recommend this one. I also pulled off, at Alison’s request, a macaroni salad that tasted *just* like the kind that comes from a bucket. <shudder>

The point being, at the end of these two food-centric weekends, I was feeling rather like I needed to go on a bit of a cleanse. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but I do have a teeny hot-pink bridesmaid’s dress to squeeze into in exactly one month, so I’ve been making an effort get in a lot more whole grains and vegetables and a lot less beer and mayonnaise drenched salads. We’ll see how long that lasts.

This black bean salad is loaded with diced veggies, and balanced with chewy spelt berries*, which combine with the black beans to form a complete protein. Fresh dill and a tangy dressing with both balsamic vinegar and lemon juice pull it all together. This salad is great as a side dish, and is a well rounded main dish as well. It packs up and travels well and can be easily taken to a picnic or a potluck. Enjoy.

One year ago: Wild Rice and Chickpea Salad

Black Bean Salad With Spelt Berries Recipe:

Serves 4 as a main, or 8 as a side.

I can think of many variations on this recipe; if you don’t have black beans, you could easily swap in chick peas or another bean of your choice instead. The spelt berries could exchanged for another chewy grain, like short grain brown rice, wheat berries, farro, barley, or bulgar. Switch up the veggies depending on what you’ve got ripe in your garden, or what you find at the market.


2 cups cooked black beans

2 cups cooked spelt berries* (from 1 cup uncooked – see note below)

2 cups diced cucumber (about 1 medium long English)

1 red pepper, diced

1 large tomato, diced

1 small red onion, diced

1 clove garlic, finely minced

2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped


2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp dijon mustard

1/4 tsp sea salt


In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients together, set aside.

In a large bowl, combine black beans, spelt berries, cucumber, red pepper, tomato, onion, dill, and garlic. Pour dressing over top, and toss to thoroughly coat the salad. Serve.

Do ahead: salad ingredients can be combined and kept, undressed, in the fridge in a covered container 2 days in advance. Add dressing about an hour before serving and let stand at room temperature.

*I should note that in Sweden what I have been finding at the market for these grains is called matvete (food wheat) or matdinkle (food spelt). A little research reveals that this is the whole grain with a small portion of the outer husk removed, so the grain cooks up quite quickly, in about 15 – 20 minutes. If you are buying wheat berries or spelt berries with the husk fully intact, you may need to soak them overnight prior to cooking.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2011


  1. Cammy says

    This is just what I have been looking for! Could a person use barley or quinoa instead of the spelt berries? I’ll probably throw in a big handful of chopped up chives since I’ve a humongous bag in my fridge.

    • says

      I think either barley or quinoa would work, but I would choose barley as the closest substitue – it has the same nutty taste and chewy texture as the spelt berries do. Chives sound good too, let me know how it turns out!


    • says

      It was the first time I had tried them. Good, but not super different from wheat berries, so if that is all you can find, go ahead and use that instead. Or barley, or brown rice. Enjoy.

  2. Dennis says

    Nicely written and fun to read, particularly after having spent some time there and know the hill, City Hall and how beautiful it all is … and oh yes, I love the look of that bean salad!! Are you making extra Cammy??

  3. Cammy says

    Wow, just made this. It was utterly delicious (we were fighting over the last spoonfuls) and so wholesome.

  4. Mary Aronson says

    Hi. A friend recommended your blog recently. I read a bit and was impressed so I joined your email list. I tried the black bean salad last night – terrific. I am not familiar with many “whole grains” and had no clue as to what spelt berries are or where to get them (or where to even look in the grocery store), so I just used brown rice and did 1/2 black beans and 1/2 garbanzo beans (chick peas). My family enjoyed the salad very much – I brought leftovers to work for lunch today. Thank you very much.

    • says

      I’m sure that brown rice would have been delicious! You may be able to find wheat berries, spelt berries, farro, and other whole grains near the more common grains (like rice and barley) in your grocery store, or in a bulk food store or health food store. I love chick peas, I bet the combo was great. You may like the Wild Rice and Chickpea salad, its one of my favourites!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *