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This old-fashioned three bean salad recipe is an easy side dish that you can stir together in about 10 minutes — no cooking required! Pack it for picnics, bring it to a potluck, or offer it alongside a burger at your next cookout.

Close overhead image of a bowl of 3 bean salad.
Table of Contents
  1. Canned Three Bean Salad
  2. Health Benefits of 3 Bean Salad
  3. Ingredients
  4. How to Make Three Bean Salad
  5. What to Serve with Three Bean Salad
  6. Preparation and Storage
  7. Recipe Variations
  8. Tips for the Best Three Bean Salad Recipe
  9. Three Bean Salad Recipe

I’ve been making grandmas three bean salad for as long as I can remember, and it totally reminds me of my childhood. There’s just something delicious about that classic sweet and sour dressing paired with tender beans and crisp onion, which creates the most perfectly satisfying vegetarian side dish!

Canned Three Bean Salad

One of the best features of the original 3 bean salad recipe is its convenience. The tasty dish comes together with just a handful of simple ingredients that you can keep stashed in your pantry for last-minute meals. Plus, there’s no cooking necessary, and it only requires about 10 minutes of hands-on prep time!

What is three bean salad made of?

The classic three bean salad recipe includes canned beans — typically a combination of kidney beans, cut green beans, and golden wax beans or garbanzo beans — along with onion. The ingredients come together in a dressing made with oil, vinegar, sugar, and salt. As I said, it’s quick and easy!

Health Benefits of 3 Bean Salad

There are many great health benefits from the beans in this salad. They are excellent sources of dietary fiber, protein, B vitamins, and many other important vitamins and minerals. Some studies show that they can help reduce blood sugar, improve cholesterol levels, and help maintain a healthy gut, too.

The olive oil in the dressing is full of healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, while the apple cider vinegar may lower blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and improve heart health.

Process shot showing how to make three bean salad.

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for this recipe for three bean salad. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step preparation instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Canned kidney beans: drained and rinsed.
  • Canned cut green beans: they’re nice and soft, straight out of the can, so you don’t even need to worry about parboiling or pre-cooking the beans.
  • Canned cut golden wax beans or garbanzo beans: both of these varieties are common in a three-bean salad, so pick whichever you prefer. Wondering what’s the difference between green beans and wax beans? Green beans get their color from chlorophyll, while yellow wax beans are simply green beans that are bred without this pigment (source). The two beans taste almost exactly the same!
  • Onion: I prefer a sweet Vidalia onion for savory crunch, but you can use red onion, white onion, or yellow onion as well. Even chives or green onions will work!
  • Olive oil, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and salt: come together to make the simple salad dressing.
Pouring dressing over canned three bean salad.

How to Make Three Bean Salad

This easy side dish is gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan, and it comes together in just minutes! I’ve included the detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick overview:

  • Combine beans and onion in a large mixing bowl.
  • Whisk together the dressing, or shake together the ingredients in a jar.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss to combine.
  • Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Square overhead shot of a bowl of three bean salad.

What to Serve with Three Bean Salad

You can serve this salad cold, warm, or at room temperature. There are many dishes that go well with the side, including:

Side shot of grandma's three bean salad on a wooden table.

Preparation and Storage

  • Prepare the salad at least 1-2 hours before you plan to serve it. This allows the vegetables time to marinate in the dressing, absorbing more flavor.
  • The salad is best if enjoyed within 24 hours; however, it will stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • I do not recommend freezing this salad, as the vegetables will have a mushy, watery texture when thawed.
Canned three bean salad in a white serving bowl.

Recipe Variations

  • Add a can of drained corn to the salad for some sweetness. You can use corn in place of the onion, or add an 11-ounce can of corn in addition to the rest of the ingredients.
  • Just about any variety of canned beans will work in this salad. For instance, swap out the wax beans or chickpeas and try navy beans or white beans, lima beans, pinto beans, pink beans, black eyed peas, black beans, or cannellini beans.
  • Use cut fresh green beans instead of canned green beans. If starting with fresh beans, you’ll need to boil them in a pot of boiling water until crisp-tender, transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process, and drain them well.
  • Instead of apple cider vinegar, try distilled white vinegar or red wine vinegar.
  • Sweeten the dressing with honey rather than sugar. Just make sure that you really whisk or shake to incorporate the honey into the other ingredients.
  • Swap out the extra virgin olive oil and use vegetable oil or canola oil instead.
Square side shot of a bowl of three bean salad.

Tips for the Best Three Bean Salad Recipe

  • You do not need to cook canned beans before using them in this salad. Simply drain and rinse the beans and they’re ready to serve!
  • Serve the salad cold or at room temperature. It’s delicious either way.
  • Garnish the salad with fresh herbs, such as parsley, fresh dill, or basil for a bright, colorful finishing touch. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice or lime juice would also be great!
White bowl of easy three bean salad on a wooden table.

More Vegetable Salad Recipes to Try

Square overhead shot of a bowl of three bean salad.

Three Bean Salad

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Chill 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 6 cups
Calories 90.7 kcal
This old fashioned three bean salad is perfect for cookouts, potlucks, and quick weeknight dinners!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 (16 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can cut green beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can cut golden wax beans or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced (about 1 cup total)
  • Optional garnish: chopped fresh parsley, basil, or chives

DRESSING

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, gently combine the beans and onion.
    Process shot showing how to make three bean salad.
  • Whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl until completely combined (or shake in a jar with a lid). Pour the dressing over the salad; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (up to 24 hours in advance).
    Pouring dressing over canned three bean salad.
  • Taste and season with additional salt or ground black pepper, if desired. Garnish with chopped fresh herbs for a bright, fresh, and colorful finishing touch.
    Close overhead image of a bowl of 3 bean salad.

Notes

    • You do not need to cook canned beans before using them in this salad. Simply drain and rinse the beans and they’re ready to serve!
    • Serve the salad cold or at room temperature. It’s delicious either way.
    • Garnish the salad with fresh herbs, such as parsley, fresh dill, or basil for a bright, colorful finishing touch. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice or lime juice would also be great!
    • Add a can of drained corn to the salad for some sweetness. You can use corn in place of the onion, or add an 11-ounce can of corn in addition to the rest of the ingredients.
    • Instead of apple cider vinegar, try distilled white vinegar or red wine vinegar.
    • Sweeten the dressing with honey rather than sugar.
    • Swap out the extra virgin olive oil and use vegetable oil or canola oil instead.
      • Use cut fresh green beans instead of canned green beans. If starting with fresh beans, you’ll need to boil them in a pot of boiling water until crisp-tender, transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process, and drain them well.
      • Just about any variety of canned beans will work in this salad. For instance, swap out the wax beans or chickpeas and try navy beans or white beans, lima beans, pinto beans, pink beans, black eyed peas, black beans, or cannellini beans.

    Nutrition

    Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 90.7kcalCarbohydrates: 10.2gProtein: 2.4gFat: 4.8gSaturated Fat: 0.7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.6gMonounsaturated Fat: 3.3gSodium: 416.2mgPotassium: 100.9mgFiber: 3.4gSugar: 4.1gVitamin A: 115IUVitamin C: 3.9mgCalcium: 21mgIron: 0.5mg
    Keyword: bean salad recipe, canned three bean salad, easy three bean salad, three bean salad, vegetarian side dish
    Course: Salad
    Cuisine: American
    Author: Blair Lonergan

    This recipe was originally published in July, 2019. The photos were updated in May, 2023.

    blair

    Hey, I’m Blair!

    Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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    Comments

    1. Macy Brown From MakeTheBread says:

      5 stars
      This is an outstanding salad come with more healthy for our health….and its remembered my childhood food…it looks soo yummy & more beautiful…i will make it tonight…Thanks for sharing…!

      1. Blair says:

        Thanks, Macy! I hope you’ll give it a try! 🙂

    2. Mein Gmx.de says:

      5 stars
      healthy for our health….and its remembered my childhood food…it looks soo yummy & more

    3. Mary E. Gray says:

      I made three bean salad for Easter. I added bacon bits and feta cheese as a garnish. The taste was enhanced. Still was delicious. The feta cheese was Caribbean style very good.

      1. Blair says:

        Your version sounds delicious, Mary. I love the idea of adding feta. Thanks so much for your note — glad it was a hit!

    4. Marion McClung says:

      Thank you for the reminder of how useful and versatile, not to say EASY, bean salad can be. The older I get the more I hold out against cooking but I really need to eat more vegetables. This just may do the trick. Thanks a lot.

      1. Blair Lonergan says:

        Yes, it’s old-school, but still great! 🙂