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Three Bean Salad

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three bean salad

There's a reason that classic Three Bean Salad is an all-star American picnic recipe. It comes together in just minutes thanks to canned pantry staples. It's ideal alongside a spread of picnic favorites like Classic Macaroni Salad and Classic Potato Salad, though it's also great for busy weeknights with roasted chicken or baked salmon.

Ours sticks close to the standard in most ways—featuring cannellini, kidney, and green beans—though it's much lighter in sugar, for a healthier and fresher-tasting modern version. Traditionally, Three Bean Salad has a very sweet dressing, but this one is dressed instead with a fresh vinaigrette. You'll start by quick-pickling red onion in vinegar with just enough sugar to soften them and add tangy flavor to each bite.

For convenience's sake, this recipe calls for canned beans, but if you want to use homemade beans, that will work, too. Simply use 1½ cups each kidney and cannellini beans (here's the method, if you like) and 1½ cups chopped blanched green beans.

Though you can serve the salad right away, it benefits from time to marinate. Use this time to get ahead on other dishes or simply to relax! Three Bean Salad will keep for up to five days, refrigerated in an airtight container. If you are planning to make it in advance, leave the parsley out until just before serving.

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Yields: 6 - 8
Prep Time: 0 hours 10 mins
Total Time: 0 hours 20 mins
1/3 c.

red wine vinegar

2 tsp.

granulated sugar

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/3 c.

extra-virgin olive oil


small red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 c.)


(15-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed


(15-oz.) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed


(14.5-oz.) can cut green beans, drained and rinsed, or 1½ c. chopped blanched green beans

1 c.

loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper until sugar is dissolved, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the oil, whisking until combined. Stir in the onion and set aside for 5 minutes.
  2. Fold in the cannellini, kidney, and green beans, and the parsley. Gently toss to coat.
  3. Serve immediately or let marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for 1 hour or up to overnight. Stir gently before serving.

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