Three Bean Salad is a classic summer potluck recipe made with green beans, wax beans, and kidney beans tossed in a sweet and sour dressing.

Three Bean salad made with green beans, wax beans, and kidney beans in a black bowl.

Easy Three Bean Salad

Three Bean Salad is one of those classic summer side dishes that you’ll find at every picnic or potluck. It’s an easy cold salad made with three types of beans, thinly sliced onions, all tossed in a dressing made with sugar and vinegar.  The sweet and sour flavor keeps you coming back for this simple side bite after bite.

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A fork full of three bean salad

What is in Three Bean Salad?

Beans – There are lots of different ways to make this salad but the most traditional version includes canned green beans, canned wax beans, and kidney beans.  Variations include fresh green beans, black beans, cannellini beans and garbanzo beans.

I went the fresh route with this recipe because I like my green beans and wax beans to have a little snap to them (I still used canned kidney beans!) but my mom makes hers the traditional way with canned beans and it’s just as good!

Onion –  I like sweet yellow onion because it is milder than red onion but again, it’s all up to you.

Dressing – as is the case with most salads the dressing is really what makes this dish amazing. It’s a sweet and sour mix of vinegar and sugar that is totally delicious. I used white vinegar but you can also use red or white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.

Do You Need to Cook Canned Beans?

Since canned beans are already cooked you don’t need to cook them. If you decide to use fresh green beans and wax beans you will want to cook them to your desired tenderness before adding them to the salad.

To cook green beans and wax beans place them in a pot of salted boiling water and cover. Cook for 4-5 minutes until crisp but tender (kind of like al dente pasta). Then drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Should I Rinse Canned Beans?

I always recommend rinsing canned beans before using them. The liquid they are canned in contains starch and salt and that can effect the flavor of your dish. After you open your beans drain them using a strainer and then rinse them with cool water until the water runs clear. Let them sit in the strainer to remove the excess water before using.

Potluck three bean salad ready for a summer party!

How to Make Three Bean Salad:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (add enough salt that the water taste like salt water).
  2. Place the trimmed and cut wax beans and green beans in the pot and cover with a lid. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until they reach the desired level of tenderness.
    NOTE: If you want to use canned green beans and wax beans you can skip these two steps and treat them the same as the canned kidney beans in step 3. 
  3. Drain water and rise beans with cool water. I like to use a paper towel to pat the beans dry and remove some of the excess water before setting them aside. 
  4. Drain and rinse the kidney beans, placing them in a strainer and running them under cool water until the water runs clear. Let them sit in a strainer in the sink for a few minutes to get out the excess water before adding them to your salad. 
  5. In a small bowl combine vinegar, sugar, olive oil and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt. Whisk together.
  6. In a large bowl combine the wax beans, green beans, kidney beans, and onion. Pour the dressing over them and lightly toss to coat.
  7. Store in the refrigerator covered until you are ready to serve.

Note: This is one of those recipes that can be served right away but tastes better if you give all of those flavors a chance to meld together. I like to make mine the night before a party so the flavors have a chance to develop.

How Long Will Three Bean Salad Keep?

This salad will keep for 3-4 days if kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator…but honestly I’ve never had it last that long!

Want More Summer Potluck Recipes?

EASY THREE BEAN SALAD
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Servings: 8
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 20 mins

Easy Three Bean Salad

Three Bean Salad is a classic summer potluck recipe made with green beans, wax beans, and kidney beans tossed in a sweet and sour dressing.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Fresh wax beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 pound Fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 15 ounces Kidney beans, canned
  • ½ cup Yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup White vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt + more for salting the boiling water

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (add enough salt that the water taste like salt water).
  • Place the trimmed and cut wax beans and green beans in the pot and cover with a lid. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until they reach the desired level of tenderness.
  • Drain and rise beans with cool water. Pat dry to remove some of the excess water and set aside.
  • Drain and rinse the kidney beans.
  • In a small bowl combine vinegar, sugar, olive oil and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt. Whisk together.
  • In a large bowl combine the wax beans, green beans, kidney beans, and onion. Pour the dressing over them and lightly toss together.
  • Store in the refrigerator covered until you are ready to serve.

Notes

Note: If you want to use canned green beans and wax beans you can! Just skip the first three steps and treat the canned green beans and wax beans the same as you do the kidney beans. 
Nutrition Disclaimer: We are not certified nutritionists. Nutrition facts are an estimate and are provided as a courtesy. They are generated by an online API which recognizes ingredient names and amounts and makes calculations based on the serving size. Results may vary.
Author: Kat Jeter & Melinda Caldwell
Course: Side
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cold side dish recipe, potluck recipe, three bean salad