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Three Bean Salad

Frances Largeman-Roth
Cook Time:
5 mins
Prep Time:
20 mins

Chef notes

Three-bean salad has been a summer staple in the United States since around the 1950s, when grilling first became an American pastime. All those grilled meats required something fresh and tangy to balance them out. Enter: this crunchy, protein-packed salad. You’ve likely made a version of it before, but I highly recommend giving this modernized version a try. 

Most traditional recipes call for a variety of canned beans, along with chopped onion and bell pepper. The beans are marinated in a vinaigrette that includes plenty of sugar, which helps to balance out the punch from the vinegar. To enhance this salad with fresh ingredients, I’ve introduced blanched green beans and chopped celery for some welcome crunch. If you haven’t used blanching as a technique before, it’s a quick cooking method that preserves the texture and bright color of vegetables while taking them out of their raw state. Traditional three-bean salad recipes call for a quarter to half cup granulated sugar to be part of the vinaigrette. In my opinion, that amount of sugar takes away from the freshness of the vegetables. The touch of sweetness in this version comes from just one tablespoon of honey. If you prefer your salad on the sweeter side, you can add a drizzle more.

The beauty of this dish is that it’s quick to make and travels well for all your upcoming potlucks, graduation parties and barbecues. It’s tasty chilled but is also great at room temperature. High in protein and fiber, this Three Bean Salad makes an excellent vegetarian side or main dish when served with a whole grain such as quinoa, sorghum, whole wheat pasta or farro. It’s an excellent make-ahead option, as it tastes better the longer the beans marinate in the dressing. And if you want to make it for your weekly meal prep, it’s wonderful as a Mason jar salad when combined with one of the whole grain options above. 

Technique Tip: To blanch the green beans, you’ll need a medium saucepan to cook them in and a colander to drain them. You can stop the cooking process with either a bowl of ice water or you can simply run very cold water over the beans until the steam disappears.

Swap Option: To make this recipe vegan, swap out the honey and use agave nectar instead.



  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
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In a medium bowl, combine vinegar, honey, salt, pepper and red onion. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.


Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the green beans and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the color brightens. Strain the beans through a colander and run cold water over beans until they’re cool to the touch. Transfer the beans to a cutting board, slice in thirds and set aside.


In a large bowl, combine the celery, kidney beans, garbanzo beans and reserved green beans. Pour the vinaigrette over the beans and toss to combine. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight before serving. The salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.