Traditional Three-Bean Salad

Here’s a new way to prepare the traditional Bean Salad. The kind that continues to be eaten at picnics and potlucks well into the cicadas’ chirping autumn. This American staple has been served for decades, and every family has their own special way of making it. Here’s a new take on the classic bean salad from your childhood, with fewer sweeteners and more crisp vegetables. Still, it’s a simple three-bean salad that requires little more effort than a quick dump and toss. We can’t wait for you to sample it and tell us whether it’s as good as Grandma’s. (I apologize if I insulted Grandma.)

Look inside a bean salad and see how it all fits together!

Traditional American bean salad is made with canned beans and a vinaigrette dressing. Because it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, it’s perfect for outdoor gatherings. It’s a side dish that won’t spoil after being exposed to the sun for a while. It’s unclear exactly when this timeless dish first appeared, but judging by the prevalence of recipes in cookbooks published in the 1950s, it was probably created around that time. In any case, Alex and I have appreciated it for the entirety of our lives.

Every home cook has their own secret bean salad recipe, and it often has a regional twist. The name “three bean salad” comes from the fact that kidney beans, green beans, and garbanzo beans make up the bulk of the dish. Onions, garlic, and wax beans also make regular appearances. Vinegar, oil, sugar, and salt are the standard marinade ingredients.

Instructions for preparing a three-bean salad

Just as simple as the original three bean salad from the 1950s is our updated version. In other words, all you have to do is open the cans of beans and mix everything together (also known as the “dump and stir” method). We also wanted to update the traditional by reducing the amount of sugar and including some new, exciting elements. We updated the traditional three bean salad by adding the following ingredients:

  • Instead of chickpeas, you serve kidney beans and pinto beans. They don’t always soften in the mouth and have a tendency to be rough. Pinto beans are our go-to for bean salads.
  • Beans, both green and yellow: Only green beans are needed for the traditional three bean salad. However, the addition of the bright yellow wax beans provides a welcome splash of color.
  • Between white and red onions, white is more common and has a more traditional taste. The purple onion brings out the red in the dish. It’s not necessary, but it does add a pleasant aesthetic touch.
  • Green confetti in the form of curly parsley gives a burst of taste and a dash of color. You can use Italian flat parsley if you don’t have the curly kind.
  • Blend of olive oil and white vinegar: Which salad calls for white vinegar rather than white wine vinegar? The salad is made of beans. (And, of course, cucumber salad.) Its astringency complements the sweetness and saltiness perfectly.
  • Powdered garlic and dill: These spices aren’t typically used, but they add a nice kick to the dish.

Serve right away, or marinate for at least an hour.

The bean salad you made is ready to eat straight away and is delicious. Or, if you have time, marinate it in the fridge for at least an hour to bring out its full flavor. The flavors are enhanced by being stored in the fridge for a while.

What’s the result? This version of the recipe calls for only half the usual amount of sugar without sacrificing flavor. You’ll feel like you’re eating at Grandma’s because it has all the traditional fixings. This is a staple that will feed us for decades.

How to cut onions, for your own good

One common mistake made by amateur chefs is improper onion slicing. The traditional half-moon shape isn’t ideal for this bean salad dish. French cutting is a technique for slicing onions such that they are neat and tidy rather than lengthy and limp, hence the name.

  • What’s the gist of it? Instead of cutting through the center, slice from the top to the bottom.

Storage Process

If you make bean salad at home, how long does it last? You can keep it in the fridge for up to five days. The longer it sits, the more taste develops, just like a pickle! It works wonderfully as a weekday lunch. You shouldn’t keep canned beans in the fridge for any longer than the manufacturer suggests.

Bean salad can be eaten whenever you like.

Finally, the proper way to present bean salad. This simple salad is a year-round favorite of ours, and it’s perfect for any occasion. This satisfying vegan side dish is the perfect complement to any vegetarian or vegan main course.

It’s also fantastic for summertime barbecues.

Quick Glances


  • Kidney beans, in a 15-ounce can
  • White or pinto beans, canned in a 15-ounce can
  • Green beans, canned, 15 ounce
  • Wax beans, in a 15-ounce can (or another green bean variety in a 15-ounce can).
  • Half of a white onion, medium
  • Optional: 14 of a medium red onion
  • 1 bunch chopped flat-leaf parsley or 2 tablespoons chopped curly parsley
  • 14 cup olive oil 12 cup white vinegar*
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar 14 tsp dried dill powder 14 tsp garlic powder
  • 1.5 grams of table salt
  • Cracked black peppercorns


  1. Get rid of the water from the beans.
  2. Cut the onions very thinly (see the first 40 seconds of this video on how to cut an onion for a visual). Chopping the parsley very finely.
  3. Combine the sugar, dill, garlic powder, kosher salt, white vinegar, and olive oil in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Toss the beans, onions, and parsley to combine the ingredients. You can eat the salad right away, but marinating it in the fridge for an hour will bring out the greatest flavors. Refrigerated, leftovers can keep for up to five days.

Nutrition Facts