Asparagus and White Bean Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette. Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

I get positively giddy when spring rolls around. Not only do we get to enjoy sunsets past 7 p.m., but the season also brings a bounty of new produce to save me from the routine root vegetables of winter. Near the top of my list is fresh asparagus.

While you can certainly find asparagus year-round, it’s at its best in spring. During this season, you can find young, tender stalks that are good enough to enjoy raw, when they’re slightly sweet. For less than peak asparagus – or anytime you want a more vibrant hue – a quick blanch in salted boiling water helps to improve color, texture and flavor.

When shopping for asparagus, I look for bunches where the stalks are all roughly the same size so that they will cook evenly. They should be an even green color with no signs of shriveling and have compact tips. Thinner spears might be more aesthetically pleasing to some, but perhaps counterintuitively, thicker asparagus is actually more tender.

With its mildly grassy, vegetal flavor, asparagus – raw or cooked – is a perfect backdrop for bold flavors. This Asparagus and White Bean Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette features earthy white beans, creamy Manchego cheese and smoky bacon in two forms – with crispy bits and rendered fat in the dressing.

First, you fry up bits of bacon until perfectly brown and crisp, to add salty, umami-filled crunch. What makes this dish special is that you then put the rendered bacon fat to use in a bright vinaigrette to dress the salad. White wine vinegar and Dijon mustard provide a good dose of acidity, while the bacon grease adds a hint of smoky savoriness, all joining forces to become dressing that’s greater than the sum of its parts. (Sure, you could use a more healthful fat, such as olive oil, if that’s important to you, but here my priorities are flavor and resourcefulness.)

If you’ve never had a bacon vinaigrette before, you’re in for a treat. My version creates a balanced, thick salad dressing that just might be your new favorite. (You’re welcome.)


To round it out, canned beans add protein and, alongside croutons, heft to make this substantial enough to be a main course. (The croutons also give this salad panzanella vibes, as the bread absorbs the dressing as it sits.) A small amount of Manchego cheese adds creamy, tangy nuttiness and another layer of umami.

Altogether, this asparagus salad is both bright and earthy with textures that are creamy, crunchy and crisp – a vibrant ode to the season.

Rendered bacon fat is used in a bright vinaigrette to dress the salad. Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Asparagus and White Bean Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

4 to 6 servings (makes about 7 cups)

Total time: 25 mins

This salad features crisp asparagus, with white beans and croutons for heft, Manchego cheese for creaminess, and a double dose of bacon: crunchy fried bits and rendered fat to make a bacon vinaigrette. It can be served as a main with a piece of crusty bread, or as a side for your favorite protein.


Make ahead: The asparagus can be blanched and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.

Storage: Refrigerate for up to 3 days.


4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces

Fine salt

1 1/2 pounds asparagus (2 bunches), woody ends trimmed, cut into bite-size pieces


1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added white beans, such as cannellini or great northern, drained and rinsed

1 cup homemade or store-bought croutons

1 ounce Manchego cheese, crumbled or diced (1/4 cup)



To a cold medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until the fat is rendered and the bacon browns and crisps, about 10 minutes. While the bacon is cooking, line a large plate with paper towels and set it near your workspace. Carefully transfer the bacon to the prepared plate. Pour the rendered fat through a fine mesh strainer into a heatproof measuring cup or bowl. You should get about 1/4 cup.

Fill a medium bowl with ice water and set aside. Bring a medium or large pot of water to a boil and lightly salt it. Add the asparagus and blanch until bright green and crisp-tender – cooked through but still with a snap – 2 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer to the ice water and let cool completely, stirring occasionally. Drain the asparagus and pat dry.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar and black pepper until combined. While whisking, slowly stream in the rendered bacon fat until fully emulsified to form a vinaigrette. Add the asparagus, white beans and croutons and gently toss until evenly combined. Taste, and season with salt or pepper, as desired. Transfer to a serving bowl, if desired, and top with the cooked bacon and cheese.

Substitutions: Instead of white wine vinegar, you can use another type of vinegar or lemon juice. White beans can be replaced by chickpeas. Instead of Manchego, try a sharp-aged cheddar, pecorino or parmesan.

Variations: If your asparagus is very fresh and you enjoy the taste, you can skip the blanching step and use it raw.

Nutrition per serving (1 heaping cup), based on 6: 208 calories, 15g carbohydrates, 19mg cholesterol, 12g fat, 4g fiber, 8g protein, 5g saturated fat, 400mg sodium, 2g sugar

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