Mexican Three Bean Salad

Quick and EasyVegetarianBean

Mexican Bean salad - a three bean salad with a Southwestern twist! Pinto beans, black beans, and green beans, with onions, jalapenos, Cotija cheese, cilantro with a sweet lime dressing.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Do you love a good three bean salad, you know, the kind with a sweet vinegary dressing?

I do. It’s sort of that last minute pantry item type of dish that is quick and wonderfully filling when you are hungry.

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You might not have considered a Mexican-inspired three bean salad before, but I am here to say you should!

How to Make a Mexican Bean Salad

This Mexican bean salad is a riff off the standard. It’s not really Mexican per se, but uses typical South-of-the-border ingredients such as crumbly Cotija cheese, black beans and pinto beans, jalapeño peppers, cilantro and a sweet dressing made with sugar and lime juice.

All items that we happened to have in our pantry or fridge this week. So good!

If you want to take it one step further, make your beans from scratch on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker.

Mexican Three Bean Salad in blue serving dish

Mexican Three Bean Salad Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Marinating time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 4-6


  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 pound green beans
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1-2 jalapenos, seeded, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, sliced thin
  • 1 cup Cotija queso seco cheese, crumbled (can sub feta)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar


1 Boil the green beans: Cut the ends off the green beans and slice into pieces about an inch long. Fill a medium sized pot halfway with well salted water. Bring to a boil.

Add the beans to the pot and boil for 5 minutes, or as long as it takes for the beans to get tender. Green beans can be highly variable in how long it takes to cook them to tenderness. More mature beans can take longer, up to 20 minutes.

2 Combine with pinto beans, green onions, jalapeños, garlic, Cotija, olive oil: Drain the green beans and put in the bowl with the pinto and black beans. Drizzle the olive oil over everything and toss to combine. Mix in the green onions, jalapeño, garlic, and Cotija cheese.

3 Make dressing, add to salad to marinate: In a separate bowl, mix the lime juice and sugar until the sugar dissolves, then add it to the salad. Coat the beans well and let marinate for at least 1 hour, preferably several hours.

4 Right before you serve, toss in the cilantro. Add more salt to taste if needed.

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Mexican Three Bean Salad close-up

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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17 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. susan.bussey

    Wonderful idea! Can’t wait to try it!!! Love the cheese in it! I’m using chopped green chili instead of jalapeños.


  2. [email protected]

    I used this recipe as inspiration, using a bit less jalapeño, fresh wax and green beans, plus a can of black beans, (no pintos) added a bit of chopped red bell pepper and mixed lime and lemon juice because I ran out of lime. The salad was delicious. Thanks Elise for a marvelous new take on 3-bean salad.

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  3. Penny

    Just had to add that this is AMAZING. Made it to snack on over the weekend and could not even come close to the 1-hour waiting time before eating the first dish, and it was fabulous. Looking forward to savoring the next day. Thanks Elise!

  4. Kim

    Made this for dinner tonight, exactly as written, including Cotija, it was fabulous!


  5. John Bilchak

    I made this for dinner last night as a side, and it was so awesome. Even better the next day. I used Fat Free Feta to cut down on the fat and it was still great.



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