Three Bean Salad

We are using cannellini beans, kidney beans, and garbanzo beans in this salad. You can easily swap out any of them for cooked green beans, wax beans, or black beans.

Prep the onion first and soak the chopped onion in a  small bowl of water to take the edge off the onion while you prep the other ingredients.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 8


  • 1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped fine (about 3/4 cup), soaked in water to take the edge off the onion
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup loosely packed, fresh, finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh finely chopped rosemary
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


1 In a large bowl, mix the 3 different types of beans, the celery, onion (drained of soaking water), parsley, and rosemary.

three-bean-salad-method-1 three-bean-salad-method-2

2 In a separate small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add the dressing to the beans. Toss to coat.

3 Chill beans in the refrigerator for several hours, to allow the beans to soak up the flavor of the dressing.

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  • Diane Snyder

    My favorite 3 bean salad recipe! I add whatever fresh chopped veg I have lying around. Red bell pepper, cucumber, green pepper. If I don’t have one type of bean I will substitute another. Green beans instead of garbanzos, for example. For a main dish I will put down a bed of lettuce, followed by a heaping pile of the three bean salad, topped with canned tuna. Yum!


  • Angela

    Does anybody know how many calories are in a serving

  • maryann

    I made this yesterday and it looked wonderful. i refrigerated it overnight to get what most people say would be the best flavor. This morning it it coagulated and mushy

    • ghostfox

      Many salads, if you let them sit too long with the dressing, will end up “mushy.” Lessen the amount of time with the same dressing, increase the spice/herb content of the dressing, or alter the base ingredients to make the salad palatable for yourself and your friends/family. Finally, you can put the salad together and serve the dressing on the side – It’s just one of those things you need to learn from a recipe – how to “tweak” it, to your specific tastes, and the tastes of your loved ones. It can take time to learn, but believe me, it is worth the trouble :)

    • Doug

      I think part of the issue you experienced is related to using olive oil. It gets thick in the refrigerator. It goes back to liquid as it warms up to room temp.

      Growing up, we got served this salad often because canned beans were available and cheap. My frugal mom always used canned green beans, waxed beans, and red kidney beans. It was made in advance similar to this recipe but she used corn oil or Wesson oil and it got refrigerated a day or two before serving to blend all the flavors. It’s still one of my favorites regardless of the beans you use but I prefer a different oil than olive oil due to the coagulation factor with olive oil.

      • Ruby

        I prefer a vegetable oil too. Olive oil gets coagulared. Isn’the the same if you serve the dressing on the side. It needs to sit so the flavor gets into the beans. So good!

  • Darlene

    I made this 4 months ago & don’t remember if I left a review or not. Made it again today, delish. Only thing I changed this time was I used a little less sugar & used black beans instead of cannellini beans. Love these beans. Thanks for the recipe.


  • Jean

    Nummy! I love all the other posters suggestion about ways to doctor it up as well. I think I could eat the entire bowl. A big surprise to me is that I think I’ll cut back on the sugar next time. Thanks for sharing!


  • Deepu Panicker

    Superb recipe. thank you

  • Casey McKinnon

    Strange question, but can this recipe be frozen and thawed for use in a few weeks and still taste good? I’m thinking of trying it because I need more beans in my life, but can’t possibly eat the full amount in one week. I love this recipe, but it makes a lot of food (which is better for a potluck or party)!

  • Mia

    How long will it stay fresh for ?

  • Mary Cee

    To add a little kick, I dice a jalapeño without the seeds, seeds make is spicier. Depends on who likes it spicey.

  • Sabrina

    Hi , i was just wondering can you switch up the red onions for yellow ones ?

  • Nikki Souza

    Hi! How long can this stay refrigerated before it needs to be thrown away? Thanks!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Nikki, oh I would say about 3 or 4 days. If it smells bad, it’s past its use-by date.

    • Mary Ellen Ferrell

      This is essentially “pickled beans.” You can keep bean salad much longer than 3 or 4 days. Even though you didn’t boil the dressing, or store it in a jar free of bacteria the way pickles are canned, you can still use this dish safely for about a week of you keep it in a closed jar or covered dish. (Remember…When you open a jar of pickles you keep them refrigerated much longer than 1 week!) After we finish the beans, we use the dressing on salads. It’s really good! Try it!

  • Chimene Stewart

    Good recipe. I tweaked by adding: one small can of tuna and chopped kalamata olives to the salad, and 1/2 tsp of dijon to the dressing. Big hit with the entire Family!

  • Kathryn Ruhl

    Yum…l add chopped red peppers and buttered pickes and raw honey instead of sugar. Great healthy dish.

  • Erica

    This dish is always a hit at our parties. It think has become expected we bring it now. We make a couple changes though. We use cucumber instead of celery and we add red vinegar. Delicious!!!

  • Becky

    I’m confused about the parsley. Is it 1 cup loosely packed leaves that are then chopped finely OR is it 1 cup of finely chopped parsley.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Becky, finely chop the parsley, then measure them into a cup measure, loosely packed.

  • Chuck

    I tried several recipes and for a real quick 3 bean salad I just put in some Italian dressing that I liked and let it set , starting with a small amount so I didn’t over do it and using the rosemary along with a small amount of red pepper for coloring .

    • Dennis

      Chuck, I have done the same thing. Every one has liked it.

  • janet sweeney

    if i do boil the beans do i have to rinse n drain

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Janet, if you cook dry beans from scratch, all you need to do is drain them.

  • Barbara

    This is a great recipe! I never really cared for bean salad before trying this recipe…but I like this one so much, I’ve now made it several times. The parsley and rosemary are just right, and I love that it isn’t heavy on the oil. The first time I made it, I followed the recipe exactly, and everyone loved it. Since then, when I make it for just myself, I add an extra 1/4 cup of white vinegar in addition to the cider vinegar, and for my tastebuds, the little extra sharpness is just right. Thank you!

  • Geraldine

    This is the first time I have attempted bean salad, not having liked them in the past. I substituted honey for the sugar in the dressing and also added some chopped greek basil. It was delicious and I shall always use the recipe in future. Thank you so much.

  • BamaFru

    I. Love. This. I just made it for the 5th time, variations in between and came back to original . Don’t mess with perfection. (I do have two diabetics in my life, in small portions this is fine if your diabetic has strict control. Otherwise Splenda works ok, but it all drains to a “soup” so just warn them. It’s a lot of beans/carbs anyway!)

  • Kiki Gee

    I have made this several times but always omit the parsley as we don’t care for it. I accidently used applewood smoked sea salt today thinking it was pepper, it was in a little pottery pig, and looks like pepper. It ended up being a happy mistake!


    This three bean salad was my first time eating, this was my co-worker who made it for “Pot-Luck” day, and I really enjoyed it, and will try it for myself. She gave us the web-site for the recipe. “Yummy”

  • Julie

    Hi Élise, I don’t usually write back to bloguers but this was my first recipe on your blog and I just had to congratulate you. C’était délicieux! Julie

  • Karena

    I have made this recipe more times than I can count, so I figured I ought to say thanks! I make this with kidney beans, chick peas, and green beans – it’s the only way my husband will touch green beans! It’s supposed to be 90 degrees here tomorrow – this is already in the fridge, ready for a no-fuss, no-cook supper, complemented my fresh tomatoes and a crusty baguette. Summer perfection!

  • Eric

    Really great recipe! I add a rounded tsp of smoked paprika, which i thought balanced the sweetness (but i’m addicted to smoked paprika these days).


  • Sasha

    Elise- thank you so much for all your hard work on this website. This is my #1 website for comforting, delicious recipes that everybody just loves. Your photos are always enticing and I enjoying knowing that you and your family are always up to something new in the kitchen, which you so generously share with your readers.

    Tomorrow we’re having a fellowship meal at our church and I’m bringing this three-bean salad. I’ve relied on your recipes before for special events in our own home, and I look forward to incorporating your family’s favorites into our family’s favorites!

  • SpinDiva

    This is beautiful and so delicious. I made if for my dad who is a diabetic so I had to replace the sugar with splenda. It was still delicious. Thanks.

  • Nicole

    This recipe is wonderful! My son has been praising it since he ate it, and his father, who is a self-proclaimed bean-hater, liked it as well! Thank you so much for posting this!

  • Sandra

    We made this for a Super Bowl Party, it was way too sweet! 1 teaspoon of sugar would have been perfect.The rosemary was a nice touch.

  • Leann cox

    I love this salad! It’s quick and easy! I did use less sugar (2 tablespoons) and salt but I do agree with Elise, sugar is key in the three bean salad. Thanks for posting such great recipes!

  • Trish Morgan

    I’ve never been a fan of bean salad, until now.Thank you for this brillant recipe. This has become my standards when there’s nothing in the house to take for lunch, and I always love it. So quick, so simply, so tasty. I play with the dressing so its a bit different each time (depending what I have at home). This recipe has been a brillant find, thanks for sharing

  • Nice salad

    My advice would be GO EASY on the rosemary. If you put too much in, it really dominates the salad.

  • Thomas

    I’ve been making this for several years now. Great recipe! And everyone I know loves it. I only use half the amount of sugar and found that to be the perfect amount. If not, it is a little too sweet. Thanks!

  • lynn

    instead of sugar, use 4 tablespoons of honey- much healthier and extremely tasty. one can leave out the cider, grape vinegar is equally good. i added chives and salad celery for crunch and parsley and lentils… was fantastic!!!

  • Patti

    Shame on me for not following my gut. I used the called for amount of sugar and this salad now tastes like a desert. It’s far too sweet and I’ve even tried rinsing the beans. It is about personal taste but I was hooked when I read that the sugar was key. It’s not. I did however substitute the rosemary with cilantro. I wouldn’t tell you to do this unless you like cilantro. If you want some sweetness perhaps you’ll want to add a pinch here and there (of sugar) until it tastes right to you. I’ve never used sugar before and loved three bean salad so it’s my own fault.

  • speter

    excellent dish! i cut down the sugar by a few tablespoons and was not in the mood for rosemary so i skipped it. it was really good and the kids gobbled it up too. good way for vehetarians like us to get protein and fiber. next time i think i will decrease the sugar even more. this recipe is a keeper!!

  • Susie

    I just made this to take to a work party. It was really good! Everyone commented on how good it was. I do think I might cut the Rosemary down a bit, since it is pretty strong, but the longer it marinates, the more the flavors even out. I’ll definitely make it again. It’s super easy too. Very fresh tasting.

  • Vikki

    I don’t think the sugar is absolutely necessary – I made an Italian dressing of sort with chopped garlic, onion powder, and some grated parmesan and asiago – and red wine vinegar instead of apple cider. I make this usually for lunch on long hikes. Let it sit overnight and it’s delicious!

  • Diane Politi

    I’ve made this recipe twice now! I used different bean combos each time…this latest batch had 4 beans….garbanzo, green beans, kidney beans and black beans! Very colorful and delicious!

  • Rita

    For Rhonda – When you get down to the “soupy stuff,” you can just add another can or so of beans, some more celery, peppers, onion, etc. (eyeball it), let it marinate a day, and dig right back in. Double duty. I have a bowl of bean salad in my fridge almost all the time – Great side for my lunchtime sammy (takes my mind off chips!)

  • Christy

    Just made this for a BBQ later today. Delicious! :)

  • Rhonda

    This tastes amazing. My only problem with it is the soupy liquid on the bottom of the bowl. It never got sucked into the beans. Next time will use half the liquid asked for.

    • Elaine

      Use that liquid to marinate some pork or chicken. Or even some veggie kabobs. Just a thought. ;-)

  • Paul

    I use the “I hate to cook book” recipe, but I add one more ingredient. Chop a couple of tablespoons of Japanese sweet pickled ginger and add to the mix. (That pink stuff from the Sushi Bar.) Let it soak.

  • Mark S

    I had two big bags of green and yellow beans from the garden so I used those, garbonzo, red kidneys.
    Iv’e been making this for years but your dressing is absolutely wonderful, think it’s the touch of rosemary.
    Thanks for another great recipe.

  • Tracey

    This is great so quick and easy. I didn’t have the red onion so used a regular onion, I left out the celery and used dried crushed rosemary, it tasted great!! I would certainly recommend this recipe..great for a pot luck.

  • Shannon

    I grew up with a three bean salad that was not sweet, so not adding sugar worked out just fine for me. I don’t think it is really necessary for it to be tasty. I love it without! It reminds me of summer days at the beach.

  • Julie

    Elise~I make this recipe often and have substituted various vegetables. I have used green and yellow beans, onion, gr. pepper, diced tomato, celery and cucumber.
    I’ve even partially cooked asparagus and carrots until tender/crisp, cooled and added them to the salad. Great taste!

  • Liane

    I just made this recipe and let it sit overnight. It is tasty and very pretty. I added corn for a little sweetness, added green onion because I had it, and cut back on the sugar (used 1/2 cup for a double recipe) and salt (used 1 tsp). If I make it again I may add a little more salt and some cayenne pepper for some kick.

  • Gina

    Use Stevia to replace the sugar.

  • mike

    I don’t use the sugar or the olive oil. Instead I use a jar of apple jelly and cook that with the apple cidar vinegar and thicken the liquid with a couple teaspoons of corn starch. Fresh basil is good in this salad too.

  • kathy eller

    I sooo want to make this. My son is allergic to apples, so no apple cider vinegar for us. Will it work with white distilled, or rice vinegar?

    Yes, either of those vinegars would work fine. ~Elise

  • Kristi

    Wondering if I can substitute dried rosemary for the fresh…living in the midwest, our fresh herbs are outrageously priced! I LOVE your site, Elise. It’s the first place I go when I am looking for a new recipe. And all that I’ve made my family enjoys immensely. Thank you for sharing.

    Yes, but use less. Add to taste. (And thank you for your kind words regarding the site!) ~Elise

  • Carrie

    Delicious! I made this bean salad a couple of months ago for a potluck at work and it was a hit! The rosemary gave it a great flavor. I am making it again tonight for another party at work tomorrow.

  • Staci

    This salad is awesome! I made it for a BBQ and got so many compliments. Thanks!
    I decided to make it after I bought a three bean salad from a gourmet deli in NY and loved it. This recipe was just as great as the pricey salad.

  • danny

    I heartily recommend subbing about 1/4 cup Stevia for the sugar to provide low-glycemic and nutritional sweetening. Awesome thanks!

  • Alissia

    This recipe was sooo amazing! I never had bean salad before this because the canned version was so scary looking, but this recipe is so good I can now see why they make it. The cannellini beans are an excellent substitution too. We love them and they end up in all kinds of stuff at our house.


  • melissa

    Wonderful! I would use less oil though. I added corn to add color and it went great with the beans! Would definitely recommended making this. It’s quick, healthy and delicious.

  • Elise

    Hi Carol – the dressing for this particular salad is a sweet/sour dressing, given the sugar and the vinegar. If you remove the sugar, then what you have is just a very acidic dressing, which is fine, if that’s what you want. Traditionally though, bean salads are both sweet and sour.

  • Carol

    The dressing is way too sweet, you can definitely cut down or omit the sugar entirely.

  • Tina

    This recipe turned out great. I substituted Splenda for the sugar and cut back on the amount (to 1/4 cup). It still tasted wonderful. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    This salad rocks its one of the best I’ve tried so far.

    Not too vinegar like. It’s just right esp when it has marinated 24 hours.

    We all love it and will use it again and again. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Cheri Flight

    I was asked to bring a three bean salad to cookout this week. Not being a fan of this kind of salad, I had no recipe. Found this online and made it for the pary. Wow!!! I absolutely LOVED it and so did the guests. The sugar is definitely a key ingredient.

  • Kim

    I make this salad but use Great Northern beans instead of green beans and chopped green onions instead of red onion, no sugar but Good Seasonings Italian dressing prepared. I also add extra basil, parsely and Italian seasoning. Always get compliments and requests for the recipe when take to a pot luck.

  • Lucy Wiley

    Three-bean salad is wonderful, in that you can adapt it to your own personal taste in beans. I use the recipe in Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book, which is similar to yours, but uses green beans, wax beans & kidney beans. Not liking kidney beans, I substituted bean sprouts. To add color, I put in a small jar of pimentos. To add crunch, I put in a few water chestnuts, julienned.
    This is a great dish to take to covered-dish events, because it doesn’t need to be kept especially cold, nor does it have to be heated.
    And after all the beans are eaten up, we use the liquid to marinate and season chicken or pork.

  • Matt

    The sugar may be key, but I honestly thought there was too much called for in this recipe. Its just about personal taste though, as I like my salads more on the vinegar side as opposed to the sweet side

  • lawchick

    I have made a similar salad for years, but also add black beans and red bell pepper for color. I don’t use a sweet dressing, though – not our family’s taste. Instead, I make a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, cayenne and black pepper, and usually a pinch of dried oregano. My elementary-school age kids go nuts for this stuff, which is wonderful given the nutritional value.

  • Michelle

    Can’t wait to try that – yum!

    I’m not a fan of canned green beans, either, but I have a tip (from an elderly Italian friend) to make an very nice cold ‘salad’ of them: Simply pour some Ken’s or Wishbone Italian salad dressing over those green beans, and sit them in the ‘fridge for an hour or two – voila: edible canned beans. Serve as a side dish alone, or over some lettuce. (PS: the brand of bean makes a HUGE differance, too. DelMonte seems to be the favorite in my family).