Old Fashioned Three Bean Salad


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.

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!

Bean Salad

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.


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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 turning or stirring occasionally.

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).

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





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