Mike’s Zesty Three Bean Salad
My three bean salad recipe has just the right amount of tangy zing, with a mix of colorful beans, roasted peppers, fresh cilantro and more. Great side dish!
If you’re looking for an excellent side dish for a cook out, or the perfect dish to bring to your next party, it’s hard to go wrong with a good three bean salad. It’s just the vegetarian dish you need for that BBQ and frequently brought to potlucks everywhere.
I’ve had many, many three bean salads, and they’re always popular. One definitive thing I can say about these salads is that no two three bean salads are alike. Why? Because there are so many different ways to make them. So many potential ingredients to include. So many fun and flavorful combinations.
The point of this post/article is to give you my preferred three bean salad recipe, but also to show you how to customize it and make it your own by breaking it down into a method.
Wouldn’t it be nice to make your own signature three bean salad recipe? I think so! Let’s discuss.
How to Make Three Bean Salad
To make your own three bean salad, you need three components: Beans, Vinaigrette, and Supporting Ingredients. Once you’ve made your choices, simply whisk together your vinaigrette, then pour it into a bowl over your collection of beans and supporting ingredients. Mix well and refrigerate at least one hour to let the flavors mingle.
This is a simple breakdown of the classic recipe, and as you can see, it is very easy to find ways to customize it. Let’s discuss the breakdown.
About the Beans
As the name implies, you need three beans to make a “three bean” salad. However, no rules apply here. Nowhere is it written that you must use three beans. Want to use only two beans? Go for it. How about four or five beans? Sure! The more beans the better.
And what type of beans should I use in my three bean salad? There are so many options. I often mix it up, but love to incorporate black beans, kidney beans and garbanzo beans. Other choices include green beans, wax beans, pinto beans, black eyed peas, navy beans, great northern beans, and so many more. I’m sure you get the idea.
TIP: Select your beans not only flavor, but on color. Choosing a selection of different types of beans will result in a dish with an enticing mix of colors.
About the Vinaigrette
A simple vinaigrette is a mixture of oil and vinegar. You can use different oils and different vinegars. And, you can also include other flavors, such as lemon or lime juice, shallots, garlic and more.
You may opt to keep it simple by using only your favorite oil and vinegar, but feel free to introduce other seasonings to bring in the zing. I prefer red wine vinegar, though apple cider vinegar or a good champagne vinegar are great, too.
Once you’ve decided on your beans and vinaigrette, what other ingredients would make the dish even better? Consider not only flavor, but texture. How about crunchy red onion? Would fresh peppers work here, or perhaps roasted? What about creamy avocado? Crunchy and cool cucumber?
By mixing and matching your beans, vinaigrette and supporting ingredients, you can make endless combinations, like Mexican versions, southwest versions, or as many regional variations as you can imagine.
About My Recipe
My three bean recipe is different from most because I incorporate roasted peppers instead of fresh chopped peppers. I also use a couple of secret ingredients to really up that zing factor: spicy chili flakes and hot sauce.
Roasting the peppers adds a depth of flavor that continues to develop as the dish sits and flavors mingle. Chili flakes add a touch of spicy heat that I personally crave, and the hot sauce supports some of that heat as well as enhances the tangy vinegar.
I am using light red kidney beans (aka frijoles colorados), black beans and garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) for the recipe.
It’s my favorite three bean salad ever! I’m happy to share the recipe with you. Let’s talk about how we make it, shall we?
Mike’s Zesty Three Bean Salad Recipe
First, drain and rinse one can each of the following beans into a large bowl – light red kidney beans, black beans, and garbanzo beans.
If you want to use roasted peppers, slice the peppers into quarters and core them out. Set them onto a lightly oiled baking sheet. The recipe calls for a green and red bell pepper, but I found some wonderful sweet red peppers from the store and used them instead of the red bell.
Both are great options.
Next, set your oven to broil and broil the peppers in the center of the oven, not too close to the heat source, for 20 minutes, or until the skins char and bubble up. Like so. Learn how to roast peppers here if you have any questions.
Remove from heat, let them cool and peel them.
Discard the skins and chop the peppers. Add them to the mixing bowl.
NOTE: If you want to use fresh peppers, simply stem, core and chop them. Into the mixing bowl they go.
Mix in some chopped red onion and chopped cilantro.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, lemon juice, minced garlic, chili flakes, hot sauce and a bit of salt and pepper. Pour it into the mixing bowl and mix everything until it is nicely coated.
Chill at least 1 hour before serving. Longer is better for develop more flavor.
Boom! Done! It’s quite easy to make, and just look at it. Doesn’t it look gorgeous? All those wonderful colors. Everyone loves this stuff.
That’s it, my friends. Give it a go and let me know how you like it. If you wind up making any changes, please let me know. I’d love to hear how you make this recipe your own. Give it a name! What are you going to call it? Let’s hear!
Try Some of My Other Popular Side Dish Recipes
- Cowboy Beans
- Cajun Red Beans and Rice
- Cowboy Caviar
- Cajun Corn Maque Choux
- Spicy Creamy Coleslaw
- Sweet and Tangy Vinegar Coleslaw
- Cuban Black Beans
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Mike's Zesty Three Bean Salad Recipe
- 1 15 ounce can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 small red onion chopped (about 1 cup)
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon spicy chili flakes optional
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce or to taste – I like to use a couple tablespoons
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pour the drained and rinsed beans into a large bowl.
- If you want to use roasted peppers, slice the peppers into quarters and core them out. Set them onto a lightly oiled baking sheet. Set oven to broil and broil the peppers in the center of the oven, not too close to the heat source, for 20 minutes, or until the skins char and bubble up. Remove from heat, let them cool and peel them. Discard the skins and chop the peppers. Add them to the mixing bowl.
- If you want to use fresh peppers, simply stem, core and chop them. Into the mixing bowl they go.
- Mix in the onion and cilantro.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, minced garlic, chili flakes, hot sauce and a bit of salt and pepper. Pour it into the mixing bowl and mix everything until it is nicely coated.
- Chill at least 1 hour before serving. Longer is better for develop more flavor.