Old Fashioned Three Bean Salad

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This homemade Three Bean Salad recipe is a family favorite that’s easy to prepare and tastes delicious!

This easy side salad has three types of beans (we use canned beans to make it extra fast to prep) marinated in a sweet and tangy vinaigrette dressing.

close up of plated Old Fashioned Bean Salad

Why You’ll Love This Bean Salad

This recipe comes from my mother-in-law and it’s a favorite!!

  • This old-fashioned three bean salad is both fast and easy to prep!
  • The dressing is sweet, tangy, and honestly so delicious.
  • This recipe uses canned beans making it easy and no soaking or boiling is required.
  • This is best made ahead of time so it’s perfect for any gathering or BBQ!

Ingredients for 3 Bean Salad

What’s in Bean Salad?

BEANS: This salad uses a mixture of 3 types of canned beans. I usually use green and yellow beans along with red kidney beans but use any kind you’d like.

Change them up based on what you have on hand (or whatever your preference for beans in salad is). Great options include lima beans, navy beans, chickpeas/garbanzo beans, cannellini, among others.

VEGGIES: Celery, green peppers, & onions are added to the beans in this salad for a texture and bright color.

When purchasing the onion for this recipe, choose white onions with white papery skin (not yellow skin) as they’re milder and add great flavor to this recipe!

DRESSING: This simple dressing is both tangy and sweet. Be sure you use celery seed (not celery salt) and don’t skip it, it makes a big difference in the taste (I also use it in coleslaw dressing).

How to Make Bean Salad

  1. Make dressing: Simmer the dressing per recipe below. 
  2. Combine all ingredients: Drain the beans and place in a bowl with bell pepper, celery, and onion.  Toss with the bean mixture.
  3. Marinate: Let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

To ensure everything marinates evenly, we place this in a freezer bag or container with a lid and shake or turn it a few times as it marinates.

Old Fashioned Bean Salad ingredients in a bowl and a pot of dressing

Using Fresh or Dried Beans

This recipe can be made with dried beans or fresh green or yellow beans. Either will need to be cooked first.

  • Trim green/yellow beans and cook in boiling water with a pinch of baking soda until tender crisp.
  • If using dried beans, they should be cooked and cooled according to package directions. You can also find more cook times for dried beans here.

What Goes With Bean Salad?

We most often serve bean salad at BBQs or picnics with ribs, coleslaw, corn, and beans.

This side dish is sweet and tangy so it pairs well with grilled foods like burgers or grilled chicken.

top view of Old Fashioned Bean Salad in a bowl

Storing Bean Salad

Bean salad can be stored in an air-tight container or ziptop bag in the refrigerator for 5 days.

It can also be frozen for up to 3 months, the vegetables will soften a little bit. To make ahead for lunches, separate the salad into single portions and freeze.

More Classic Salads


A Sweet Return

I truly have the most amazing Mother-In-Law, I don’t think I could’ve hand-picked a better one myself. Sometimes when my mother-in-law comes for a big turkey dinner, I send her home with leftovers in containers.  Last week I was so excited to see that she had brought back my containers because when she returned them they sometimes come back full of food too!  Bran muffins (and my kids totally love them too), sometimes her amazing baked beans, and one day, this amazing bean salad.

I’d been sneaking spoonfuls out of the fridge all day long when I finally phoned her and asked for the recipe! She originally found this recipe in an old cookbook called “Women in Uniform” and it’s a great version of a classic bean salad.

Did you make this Bean Salad? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!

top view of Old Fashioned Bean Salad in a bowl
5 from 19 votes
Review Recipe

Bean Salad

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Chill Time 12 hours
Total Time 12 hours 25 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Author Holly Nilsson
This Bean Salad has been a family staple for years. 4 kinds of beans and a hint of white onion, all dressed in a sweet tangy vinaigrette dressing.

Ingredients

  • 14 ounces green beans
  • 14 ounces yellow beans
  • 14 ounces red kidney beans
  • 14 ounces lima beans optional
  • ½ cup green pepper thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup white onion thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup celery chopped

DRESSING

  • cup white sugar
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

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Instructions

  • Drain all of the beans well. Combine beans, green pepper, celery and onion in a bowl.
  • Heat all dressing ingredients in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved and mixture is hot.
  • Pour the hot dressing mixture over the beans and toss to coat. Refrigerate overnight turning or stirring occasionally.

Recipe Notes

To ensure everything marinates evenly, we place this in a freezer bag or container with a lid and shake or turn it a few times as it marinates.
Ingredient Tips
Beans: Any kind of beans are great in this recipe. This recipe can be made with dried beans or fresh beans. Either will need to be cooked first.
Try any of the following:
  • lima beans
  • navy beans
  • chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • cannellini
Onion: When purchasing the onion for this recipe, choose white onions with white papery skin (not yellow skin) as they're milder and add great flavor.
Celery Seed:  This is an important flavor in the dressing, ensure you are using celery seed (and not celery salt). You can purchase celery seed in any spice asile (it is also a great addition to coleslaw dressing).

Nutrition Information

Calories: 154, Carbohydrates: 32g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 205mg, Potassium: 486mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 280IU, Vitamin C: 17mg, Calcium: 52mg, Iron: 3mg

(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)

Keyword bean salad, four bean salad, how to make, three bean salad
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
plated Old Fashioned Bean Salad with a spoon and writing
close up of Old Fashioned Bean Salad in a bowl with writing
ingredients to make Old Fashioned Bean Salad in a bowl with a title
ingredients in a bowl to make Old Fashioned Bean Salad with finished dish and a title
About the author

Holly

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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!

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Recipe Rating




Comments

  1. Made exactly as written. My first reaction was that it tasted netter than anything I’ve found in a grocery store deli. 2nd reaction was it may be better than anything from a potluck.
    One change I may try – a little less oil. I’m a northerner and we tend to use less oil and butter than some southerners.
    Thanks for the recipe share.5 stars

    1. When I first stirred this up, I thought there looked to be more oil than necessary. By the next morning, the oil amount was perfect as written.
      I’ve put this in my “good enough for company” collection of recipes. Even good enough for a church pot luck.5 stars

  2. Thanks for this and allowing me to print this cold bean salad recipe. Your site has been usefull to me in comparison to some online which were just an exercise in frustration. I really needed this recipe and I will mark your website as a favorite and come back and check it out (after i have been to the store and made the recipe which I needed for tomorrow)

  3. Really good bean salad I did only add 1/2 C SPLENDA I like it on the tart side enjoyed by all! Thank You5 stars

  4. This bean salad was excellent! I used garbanzo, canellini, kidney, and French cut green beans. Next time I will use a little less sugar. Thank you!

  5. I have been trying for years to try to find a bean salad recipe like my mom used to make with no luck, but this one is it !!!
    Sweet but a little tangy , mm m mmm , delicious! Thank you for sharing!5 stars

    1. I’d cook them to your desired doneness, then pop them into an ice bath to stop them cooking further. Enjoy Lynn!