Three Bean Salad

A very adaptable version of the classic 3-bean salad, this really should be called 3(ish) bean salad.

We made this trek almost every weekend from April through October for most of my childhood.

A few weeks back, I called my mom and asked her if it would be ok if I posted her recipe for this bean salad. (She said yes, obviously…) and we started talking about where the recipe came from and how much it’s been adapted over the years. She thinks it originally came from a Better Homes and Gardens or Better Housekeeping cookbook but she couldn’t really remember because she actually got it from a friend of hers from way back that she used to be in this babysitting coop with. Not to digress too much from bean salad but a babysitting coop is a fancy way of a group of moms getting together to take turns watching each others kids. It was all free and done on trade- a pretty great idea if you ask me! This particular friend of hers used to watch my brothers and I often and her nickname for me was Little Miss Twit. I can’t possibly think why she would have named me this when I’m sure I was nothing but an angel whenever I stayed with her. *cough, cough*

Easiest 3-Bean Salad,

So this salad, you see, is over 30 years old. My mom uses wax beans but I can’t always find them so often I use two cans of green beans. I’ve used garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans or my current favorite, a can of mixed salad beans. I use whatever vinegar I have on hand (I’m adaptable like that) and over the years my mom likes either white vinegar or apple cider. We’ve both had decreased the amount of sugar we use- down from 1/2 a cup to a scant 1/3 cup. We never use a green pepper that is in the original recipe but use a sweeter yellow or orange one instead. My mom started adding red onion 10 or so years ago and now it’s a must. The onions pickle and are possibly the best part of this salad.

Quick 3-Bean Salad,

So to make a long story short, this salad could be anything you want it to be. Sometimes it’s a 3 bean salad but often it’s 4. Go crazy and use whatever oil or vinegar you want. Add garlic or fresh herbs. Switch it up as often as you like but know it’s going become an old favorite quickly. This salad has graced so many tables at family gatherings over the years. Each time a little different but always a crowd pleaser. However you decide to make it, you can’t go wrong. Make it for your next summer potluck. And then everyone after that. It’s an order. Happy Monday everyone!!

Summer Favorite Three Bean Salad,

Other bean salad recipes you might enjoy:
Honey Balsamic Bean Salad by 101 Cookbooks
Pinto Bean Salad with Avocado, Tomatoes, Cilantro & Onion by Kalyn’s Kitchen
Green Bean Salad with Fried Almonds by Smitten Kitchen
Mexican Three Bean Salad by Simply Recipes

We made this trek almost every weekend from April through October for most of my childhood.

Three Bean Salad


  • 2 cans mixed salad beans (or 1 can kidney beans and 1 can black or garbanzo beans)
  • 2 cans green beans (or 1 can green beans and 1 can waxed beans)
  • 1 small red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Drain beans and rinse them under cold water.
  2. Add beans to large bowl. Add red onion and bell pepper.
  3. In a mason jar with a tight fitting lid, combine sugar, white vinegar, oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Shake jar to combine ingredients; pour dressing over beans. Add another pinch of salt and pepper (to taste) to beans.
  4. Place bean salad in fridge and let it marinate over night before serving.