This white bean avocado panzanella salad is so non-traditionally panzanella that I hesitate to even call it by that name. But it’s definitely a bread salad. Crispy, toasted sourdough plays a starring role. It offsets lots of creamy texture from avocado and white beans. The salad is refreshing yet satisfying and perfect for spring or summer.
When I first made this salad, I thought I’d miss the ripe tomatoes that are usually a part of panzanella. However, once I let that expectation go, I was delighted with what I had. The creamy avocado dressing is just a little tart, flavored with basil and lemon. It adds the acidity that tomatoes would usually impart to the dish. It’s a perfect counterpart to creamy pieces of whole avocado, tender white beans, and salty bread cubes.
A classic panzanella is made with bread, onions, tomato, and vinaigrette. Sometimes cucumbers are included. The idea is for the juices of these juicy veggies to be soaked up by torn or cubed pieces of bread. The salad puts slightly stale bread, which soaks up liquids easily, to good use.
For me, homemade panzanella has become just about any salad with bread, which I know is a stretch. Case in point: my winter root veggie panzanella. I even take liberties with the bread, as illustrated by my vegan cornbread panzanella.
But even when tomatoes and vinaigrette aren’t involved, adding bread to a salad usually creates a good contrast of texture. I love whole grains in a salad, of course. But they can sometimes blend in and get lost with beans or chopped veggies. A hearty bread cube doesn’t.
The creamy avocado dressing in this white bean avocado panzanella is key. It adds acidity to the salad, along with flavor from shallots, lemon, and basil. The dressing can be made with white vinegar if you’re out of lemon—I actually like that version a lot, too. The basil screams summer, but it can be replaced with parsley or dill if you prefer.
It’s worth saying that you don’t have to make the dressing for this panzanella. It’s a lovely dressing in its own right, and you can use it on lots of summer bowls and salads. Sometimes I make it for dunking veggie crudites, too. You can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a full week.
Speaking of storage, if you’d like to store this salad, I recommend keeping all of the components separate. I’ve made traditional panzanella and enjoyed how the bread gets even soggier as it sits in the fridge overnight. But I think this particular bread salad is best when it’s freshly mixed. If you’d like to save a little time, you can chop your radishes and make the dressing in advance. Simply add the greens and fresh avocado pieces and dress it when you’re reading to eat.
Radishes are usually a springtime arrival, but for me, white bean avocado panzanella will always be a summertime favorite. That’s especially true because of the cucumbers, which I eat in and on everything (toast, bagels, sandwiches, salads) in June, July, and August. I never get tired of this bright, cooling lunch, and I hope it’ll give you some pleasure, too.