Who doesn’t love an easy three bean salad, perfect for summer picnics and potlucks?! This classic American picnic salad has cannellini beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, celery, red onion, parsley, and a sweet and sour dressing.
Photography Credit: Elise Bauer
Three bean salad is one of those quintessential American summer picnic foods. It’s comforting, protein-rich, and easy to put together quickly with pantry ingredients.
What kind of beans go into a three bean salad?
Three bean salad is usually made with canned green beans instead of the cannellini white beans I’m using here. But I’ve yet to meet a canned green bean I like, so cannellini it is.
In addition to canned cannellini beans, we are using kidney beans and garbanzo beans. You can easily used home-cooked versions of the same if you have those on hand. You can also swap out any of them for cooked green beans, wax beans, or black beans. (Also, try this Mexican Three Bean Salad if you’d like something a little different!)
How do you dress this salad?
This 3-bean salad is traditionally dressed with a sweet and sour dressing made with vinegar, oil, and sugar. You can cut back the sugar if you want, but I wouldn’t cut it out completely, or the dressing will be too acidic.
Once you make the salad, chill it in the refrigerator for several hours to allow the dressing to soak into the beans, and the flavors to meld. Olive oil is key to the dressing and will coagulate when chilled. So to serve, remove the bean salad from the refrigerator and let it come close to room temperature.
Generally I say cooked beans will last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, but since this salad is basically “pickled” by the vinegar in the dressing, it may last longer.
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Three Bean Salad Recipe
Prep the onion first. Soak the chopped onion in a small bowl of water to take the edge off the onion while you prep the other ingredients.
1 Make the salad: In a large bowl, mix the 3 different types of beans, the celery, onion (drained of soaking water), parsley, and rosemary.
2 Make the dressing: In a separate small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add the dressing to the beans. Toss to coat.
3 Chill and Serve: Transfer the salad to the refrigerator for several hours, to allow the beans to soak up the flavor of the dressing. Let come to close to room temperature to serve.