Three bean salad is only for true bean lovers! Luckily, that perfectly describes us, and we are overjoyed to share this recipe for the perfect 3 bean salad. It's a great lunch or side dish, and is worlds better than the stuff in the can--trust us!
Three Bean Salad
If you've ever attended a picnic in the summer, there is no doubt that you've seen a bowl of three bean salad. Depending on who makes it, it can be limp, muted and from a can, or it can be a bright, vibrant side dish with plenty of pizazz. If you assumed that our three bean salad recipe would be fresh and zippy, you assumed correctly.
We are positively obsessed with this salad. It has crisp-tender green beans, creamy kidney beans, and toothsome chickpeas, all tossed in a tangy vinaigrette bolstered with fresh herbs. Quite simply, it is the best version of this dish imaginable.
You may absolutely use a few canned ingredients for part of this recipe. Canned chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) and canned kidney beans are very welcome here. However, we really recommend cooking fresh green beans to compliment this salad. You can find fresh green beans in a bag that is microwaveable, and that makes this recipe come together so quickly. The bagged green beans are already trimmed and ready to go, too.
We know you're going to ask: how far in advance can I make this salad? One of the loveliest thing about this salad is that it tastes better after it sits for a while. The vinegar in the dressing permeates the beans and flavors them from the inside out. I prefer this salad to be made at least one day and advance, and I will serve it up to three days after making it.
The vinaigrette is a basic salad dressing recipe: oil, sugar, vinegar and seasonings like salt, pepper and parsley. We really recommend fresh parsley instead of dried--the bright green fresh flavor it brings perks up the whole dish. However, if you only have dried, it works here, too.
- green beans: Fresh green beans are the only way to go for this salad. Try to find a bag of microwavable ones so you can cook them quickly and let them cool while you make the rest of the salad.
- apple cider vinegar
- extra virgin olive oil
- granulated sugar
- parsley: Fresh parsley is very welcome here, with its bright green flavor and color, but dried parsley works here, too.
- salt and pepper
- kidney beans: Just one 15-oz. can of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained in a colander.
- garbanzo beans: Just one small can (15-ounces) of garbanzo beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained in a colander.
- red onion: Some people call it 'purple onion,' they're the same thing.
How to make three bean salad:
- Gather your ingredients: fresh green beans, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, sugar, parsley and salt and pepper, of course. Drain your kidney beans and chickpeas in a colander, and give them a rinse to get rid of any can juices. This salad comes together quickly, so have everything ready before you begin.
- Poke a hole in the microwaveable bag of green beans, and microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Follow the instructions on the bag. If you can't find the microwaveable bags, rinse and trim 10 ounces of fresh green beans. Place them in a steamer basket, and steam for about 5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process. This method also works for frozen green beans.
- Chop the green beans into 2-inch pieces when they're cool enough to handle.
- Next, make the vinaigrette in a serving bowl: whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, granulated sugar, salt, pepper and dried parsley. Thinly slice the red onion, and add it to the vinaigrette. Let the onions rest in the vinaigrette for 5 minutes to soften them and take away some of the bite.
- After the 5 minutes is up, add the drained and rinsed kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and green beans to the bowl. Toss everything together to combine.
- Once everything is tossed and coated in the vinaigrette, let it rest in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving. You can make this up to 3 days ahead of time, too.
How to serve three bean salad:
We like to serve it as a side dish at a summer potluck--it's always a hit! It's also great alongside buttermilk chicken tenders.
Can three bean salad be frozen?
I'm afraid the answer is no. The vinaigrette will separate once frozen and defrosted, and the texture of the green beans will become mushy as it thaws.
How long will 3 bean salad keep?
This salad lasts for up to 3 days in the fridge, tightly covered. Be mindful about covering it tightly, because the raw onion aroma might seep into other ingredients in your fridge. Always keep baking soda in your fridge for this reason.
Can you use canned green beans?
I really feel like the best version of this dish is made with fresh green beans. Frozen beans are the best substitute. Canned green beans are just kinda sad--they're soggy and greyish green. I don't love them for a vibrant bean side dish recipe like this.
Other side dish recipes you might love:
- 10 ounce of microwaveable bag of fresh green beans
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 15-ounce can of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 15-ounce can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
- Poke a hole in the microwavable green bean bag, and microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. (Follow the directions on the bag).
- When the green beans are done, remove them from the microwave, and remove the beans from the bag and let them cool. When they’re cool, chop them into 2 or 3” pieces.
- In a large serving bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper, and parsley. Whisk very well until dissolved.
- Add the thinly sliced red onion to the vinaigrette in the bowl, and toss to combine. Let the onion sit in the dressing for 5 minutes to soften the onions slightly.
- After 5 minutes, add the rinsed and drained beans to the bowl, followed by the cooled and chopped green beans.
- Toss to coat everything, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 1 day before serving. Will keep for 3 days, refrigerated.
green beans: Fresh green beans are the only way to go for this salad. Try to find a bag of microwavable ones so you can cook them quickly and let them cool while you make the rest of the salad. If you can't find the microwaveable bags, rinse and trim 10 ounces of fresh green beans. Place them in a steamer basket, and steam for about 5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process. You can do this with frozen green beans, too.
parsley: Fresh parsley is very welcome here, with its bright green flavor and color, but dried parsley works here, too.
red onion: Some people call it 'purple onion,' they're the same thing.