My easy three bean salad recipe has just the right amount of tangy zing, with a mix of colorful beans, roasted peppers, fresh cilantro and more, a great party 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 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.
About Three Bean Salad
To make your own three bean salad, you need three components: Beans, Dressing, 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 of the components.
Best Beans for Three Bean Salad
My favorite beans for three bean salad include Light Red Kidney Beans, Black Beans, and Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas). You can use other beans to your preference.
Other popular beans include cannellini beans, green beans, wax beans, pinto beans, black eyed peas, navy beans, great northern beans, and so many more. It is best to mix and match to satisfy your own palate, but definitely try my selection of beans first.
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.
Three Bean Salad Dressing
The dressing is key to the zesty zing we all love. Your ingredients include the following:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
- Red Wine Vinegar.
- Lemon Juice.
- Chili Flakes.
- Hot Sauce.
You can use different oils and different vinegars. 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? Onion and parsley? Roasted or fresh corn?
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.
Why My Three Bean Salad Recipe is Different (and the Best!)
My three bean recipe is different from most because I incorporate roasted peppers as well as 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.
Also, my choice of beans makes this recipe awesome. 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 to make three bean salad, shall we?
How to Make Three Bean Salad - the Recipe Steps
Drain and Rinse the Beans. First, drain and rinse the beans into a large bowl.
Roast the Peppers. 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. I encourage a combination of both roasted and fresh peppers.
Roasting Peppers. 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.
Peel the Roasted Peppers. 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.
Onion, Garlic and Cilantro. Mix in some chopped red onion, minced garlic, and chopped cilantro. I also like to add in extra chopped fresh jalapeno for additional heat and flavor.
Whisk the Dressing/Vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, 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 to Develop Flavor. Chill at least 1 hour before serving. You'll get good flavor within 15 minutes, but longer is better for develop more flavor, such as overnight.
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!
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Make Ahead. Make this three bean salad up to 2 days before serving.
- Why Drain Canned Beans? You can often use the liquid from canned beans in dishes like soups and stews, but for this recipe, you'll get a much cleaner and more flavorful bean salad by rinsing the beans.
- Bean Color. 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.
Serve it With...
Try this three bean salad with the following dishes:
Three bean salad will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator in a sealed container. Simply serve when desired.
I do not suggest freezing it, as the beans can become mushy.
That's it, my friends. I hope you enjoy this Chow Mein recipe. Let me know if you make it. I'd love to hear what proteins you've decided to use, if any, and how you spiced it up!
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
- Black Bean Salad
- Asian Cucumber Salad
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)
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 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, minced garlic, and cilantro.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, 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.
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 5/20/22 to include new information and video. It was originally published on 7/1/19.