This old-fashioned three bean salad is the perfect side dish for any cookout or potluck dinner. It’s made with canned green beans and red pinto or kidney beans and tossed in a tangy vinaigrette dressing. It’s a light and refreshing salad packed with flavor and nutrients. This recipe is a classic for a reason — it’s easy to make, it’s always a crowd-pleaser, and it’s the perfect way to use up pantry staples.

A bowl of easy three bean salad with green beans, red beans, chopped onions, and diced vegetables, garnished with parsley and placed on a grey cloth. A wooden spoon is in the bowl, with red onions nearby.

I love this three bean salad recipe because it combines so many flavors into one simple dish that’s great any time of year. It’s a perfect side dish for a potluck picnic in the summer because there’s no mayonnaise, so it keeps well. It’s also great with any grilled or roasted meats.

My grandmother made this old-fashioned three bean salad every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’ve kept her recipe mostly the same, with the exception of adding chopped green pepper. No need to change a classic family favorite!

Why you’ll love this recipe

EASY: Our old-fashioned three-bean salad is so easy to make. You just mix a little vinegar with sugar and oil and pour it over beans, green pepper, and onion. Then let it marinate overnight or even just a few hours, and it’s good to go.

VERSATILE: You can use pretty much any type of bean: garbanzo, cannellini, or even black beans. Use sweet onion for milder flavor or red onion if you want more bite. Change up the vinegar if you like. There are multiple ways to adapt this bean salad to suit your taste or to go with whatever you’re serving.

MAKE-AHEAD: This is a perfect make-ahead recipe because the three bean salad gets better the longer it sits in the dressing. You can make this salad 2-3 days before you want to serve it.

What to serve with three bean salad

You can really serve almost anything with this salad. I don’t know why it’s always been a staple on our holiday tables in my family but we love it with ham and turkey. I think the beans would also be great with burgers or grilled chicken.

I hope you’ll try this three bean salad. I think you’ll love it and you’ll want to add it to a regular menu rotation!


A bowl of three bean salad with green beans, yellow wax beans, kidney beans, chopped red onions, and diced green bell peppers.

What you’ll need

Above view of ingredients on a marble surface, including kidney beans, green beans, yellow beans, diced green bell pepper, chopped red onion, red vinegar, oil, sugar, salt, and pepper.

Beans and vegetables

  • Red pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • Cut green beans or wax beans, rinsed and drained
  • French green beans, rinsed and drained
  • Small green pepper, chopped
  • Sweet or red onion, chopped
  • Garlic, finely minced

for three bean salad

  • Apple cider or red wine vinegar
  • Granulated sugar
  • Water

  • Vegetable oil
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5 from 4 votes

Three Bean Salad

Old-fashioned three bean salad is a great side dish for grilled or roasted meats.
Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
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  • 1 can red pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can cut green beans or wax beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can French green beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small green pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup sweet or red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced


  • ¾ cup red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil



  • Whisk vinegar and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in oil and water until well mixed.


  • Add all ingredients to a large bowl and pour dressing over. Stir gently. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Allow the bean salad to sit several hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and re serving.


Serving: 8servings, Calories: 193kcal, Carbohydrates: 17g, Protein: 1g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Sodium: 296mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 13g
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Calories: 193
Keyword: three bean salad
Love this recipe?Mention @southernfoodandfun or tag #southernfoodandfun!

Update Notes: This post was originally published on November 12, 2013, and was updated on July 11, 2024, with one or more of the following: step-by-step photos, video, updated recipe, or new tips.

How to make three bean salad

Step 1. Make the dressing. Mix vinegar with sugar, vegetable oil, and water to make a dressing for the salad.

Step 2. Prepare vegetables and beans. Start by chopping a green pepper and a small onion, or enough onion for about 1/2 cup. Add the chopped vegetables to drained and rinsed beans: French-style green beans, wax beans, and red pinto or kidney beans.

Ingredients for a bean and pasta salad are arranged on a countertop, including chopped bell pepper, red onion, macaroni, kidney beans, vegetable oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and a wooden spoon.

Pro tip: Use vegetable oil instead of olive oil in this recipe because you don’t want the oil to have a strong flavor.

Step 3. Mix the three bean salad. Pour the dressing over the beans and stir gently. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Let the bean salad set in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Close-up of a glass bowl containing chopped red onions, green bell peppers, and pasta, with a pink liquid being poured over the ingredients. A whisk is visible in the background on a white surface.

Allow the salad to come to room temperature before serving.

A bowl of mixed bean salad with kidney beans, green beans, wax beans, diced onions, and diced green peppers, being stirred with two wooden utensils.

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Lucy standing behind a counter with a cheese board and glass of wine.

About the author

Hi, I’m Lucy! I’m a home cook, writer, food and wine fanatic, and recipe developer. I’ve created and tested hundreds of recipes so that I can bring you the best tried and true favorites.

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5 from 4 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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