Homemade Three Bean Salad for Parties and Picnics

This fresh, homemade three bean salad has quickly become one of my favorite side dishes to serve up.

Vertical image of three bowls of an assorted bean dish with silverware, and text in the center and bottom of the image.

Why is this recipe so fantastic?

Well, you don’t need a lot of fancy cooking techniques to get this salad on the table, and it takes less than 15 minutes total to prepare.

It’s one of those classic pantry dishes that is a potluck favorite everyone will enjoy.

To start with, all you need is to know how to use a can opener, and how to boil water.

Yes, it’s really that simple to pull this recipe together.

Vertical image of two small bowls and one large serving bowl of a colorful salad.

It has this sweet pickled flavor that will pucker your mouth just a bit, so it stands up to those big and bold summer flavors that are coming hot off your grill.

Let’s break down exactly how to make this recipe, shall we?

To start with, you get your cans of beans out of that pantry of yours. Open up the cans, and be sure to rinse the contents well.

The reason you rinse those kidney and garbanzo beans is because they are canned in water and salt. While they sit in the can, they release a kind of murky liquid that’s filled with starch, and extra sodium.

Vertical image of a large white bowl with an assorted legume dish with a wooden spoon on a blue surface.

Throw them in a colander, then rinse them off well with cool water before adding them to the dish.

For the green beans, you want to be sure to blanch them. This means that you add those prepped pieces to a pot of boiling water and cook them briefly.

After a few minutes, you transfer them to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. This will also help them to keep their bright green color. It also keeps that crisp-tender texture that really makes for a fun element in the salad, contrasting nicely against the other two kinds of beans.

For an even more colorful combination of ingredients, you can substitute half of the green beans for yellow wax beans, and prep them the same way.

Vertical top-down image of a large serving bowl and two small bowls with a bean and legume mixture, with a glass of white wine, napkins, and silverware.

Finally, the last element you have is the dressing. The dressing really ends up being a marinade for the beans, because you let the salad sit in it for a few hours before serving it up.

That way, every bite is saturated with a sweet and sour flavor that is unbelievably irresistible.

While you could make this delightful side dish with canned green beans, I don’t recommend it. Considering how easy it is to blanch them, you a better flavor when they are nice and fresh. You want that crunch and that freshness in every bite.

However, if you have to use canned or frozen in a pinch, make sure you drain them really well and rinse them with cold water. This will result in a softer salad overall, and you may want to add a little extra seasoning to elevate the flavor of the finished product.

Vertical image of three dishes, two small bowls and one large white bowl, with a colorful vegetable and legume salad.

If you want to make this salad even more hearty, remember that you can add some cubed, cooked chicken to serve it as a main course. This is something that I love to do with my leftovers, if I happen to have any when I make this recipe throughout the summer.

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Horizontal image of a large white serving bowl with a bean salad.

Homemade Three Bean Salad

  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


Three bean salad is a classic recipe that will totally blow you away. A sweet and tangy dressing is the ideal pairing with whatever you cook up this summer.


  • 2 cups green beans, or a combination of green and wax beans, ends trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 1 15.5-oz can red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 15.5-oz can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, add green beans and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and drain. Add green beans to a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking process. Let rest for a few minutes.
  3. Drain the beans and add to a large bowl.
  4. Drain canned beans and rinse with cold water. Add them to the bowl along with the onion. Set aside.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper until combined.
  6. Pour dressing mixture over bean mixture. Toss to coat evenly.
  7. Chill at least 3 hours before serving.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Blanching
  • Cuisine: Vegetarian

Keywords: three bean salad, green beans, kidney, garbanzo, chickpea, side dish

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prepare Vegetables, Drain Beans, and Measure Remaining Ingredients

Horizontal image of assorted colorful ingredients in two rows on a gray surface.

Trim the ends off the fresh beans. Cut them into thirds and set aside.

Peel and chop one medium red onion. Set aside. Not your favorite kitchen task? Check out our tips to say goodbye to those tears!

Drain the canned kidney beans and chickpeas. Rinse with cold water in a colander and set aside.

Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.

Step 2 – Blanch

Horizontal image of a colander with blanched green beans.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat.

Add the fresh beans to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 2-3 minutes.

Remove from heat and drain. Transfer to a large bowl filled with ice and water to stop the cooking process. You could also rinse them under cold water in a colander until they are cool, if you prefer.

After a few minutes, drain the beans or remove them from the ice bath with tongs, and transfer them to a large bowl. Add the onion.

Step 3 – Make Dressing

Horizontal image of a metal bowl with a light brown vinaigrette stirred by a whisk.

Add sugar, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to a small bowl. Whisk together until combined. Freshly ground peppercorns will provide the best flavor.

Step 4 – Assemble

Horizontal image of a large white bowl with 4 different colorful ingredients organized in sections.

Pour the dressing over the bean mixture. Toss to coat evenly.

Horizontal image of a large white serving bowl with a bean salad.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours before serving.

Can I Make This Salad the Day Before?

You certainly can make this three bean salad the day before you plan to serve it. While you need to chill it for at least 3 hours before serving, you can chill it for an entire day ahead as well.

Horizontal image of two blue bowls filled with a colorful legume salad next to silverware.

The longer you let the salad rest, the more the flavor of the dressing will seep into each type of bean in the bowl. It gets better with time.

Do you need more salad ideas for side dishes to serve your guests? Check out the following recipes:

Horizontal image of a fork holding pieces of a vibrant salad.

What occasion would you serve this recipe for? How will you customize this dish? Maybe throw in some bell peppers and blanched fresh summer corn like we do in our other bean salad recipe? Tell us in the comments below. Come back to rate the recipe as soon as you try it for yourself.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on June 10, 2015 by Jennifer Swartvagher. Last updated: September 2, 2022 at 9:32 am. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

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