Old Fashioned Bean Salad

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This Old Fashioned 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.

This is the perfect make ahead side salad for any get together or BBQ!

Old Fashioned Bean Salad in a white bowl with a title

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.

Spooning out a serving of Old Fashioned Bean Salad with a wooden spoon

How to Make Bean Salad

Bean salad couldn’t be easier. This version starts with canned beans for an easy make ahead salad. You want the beans to marinate in the dressing for at least 12 hours, but up to 48 hours is even better!

  1. Drain beans and place in a bowl with green pepper and onion.
  2. Boil dressing ingredients.
  3. Pour dressing over the beans and refrigerate overnight mixing occasionally.

Overhead shot of Old Fashioned Bean Salad in a white bowl

Pick Your Favorite Beans

  • BEANS: This uses a mixture of canned green and yellow beans along with lima beans and red kidney beans.  Really, any kind of beans would be great in this recipe so feel free to change them up based on what you have on hand (or whatever kind of beans you like).
    • Great bean options include navy beans, chickpeas/garbanzo beans, cannellini among others.
  • ONIONS: When purchasing onion for this recipe, you’ll want to use the white onions with the white papery skin (not the yellow skin) as they’re milder and add great flavor to this recipe!
  • DRESSING: If you don’t have celery seed (I use them in  my favorite coleslaw dressing too), it’s worth getting some, it makes a big difference in this recipe (I also use celery seed in my favorite cole slaw recipe).  You can usually buy it in the bulk spices area so you can just buy a little bit at a time.  Note that celery seed is not the same as celery salt.

More Classic Summer Salads

bean salad in white bowl
5 from 16 votes
Review Recipe

Bean Salad

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 8 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Author Holly Nilsson
This Old Fashioned 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.


  • 14 ounces green beans
  • 14 ounces yellow beans
  • 14 ounces red kidney beans
  • 14 ounces lima beans
  • ½ cup green pepper thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup white onion thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup celery chopped
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds

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  • 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.

Recipe Notes

Mix or stir the beans occasionally as they are setting in the fridge to distribute flavors.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 203, Carbohydrates: 27g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Sodium: 399mg, Potassium: 340mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 510IU, Vitamin C: 14.3mg, Calcium: 49mg, Iron: 1.8mg

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

Keyword bean salad
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American

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Old fashioned bean salad in a white bowl with writing

bean salad in white bowl
Old fashioned bean salad in a white bowl with a wooden spoon and a title
Old fashioned bean salad in a bowl with a title

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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


  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!