This classic Three Bean Salad recipe is even more delicious with fresh string beans, but you can keep it exactly as it was meant to be and use canned.  Whatever you do, just make it. The longer it sits, the better it gets.

Three bean salad on a white platter.

I like to imagine my Midwest ancestors making Three Bean Salad in the middle of a frigid Wisconsin winter. They had no fresh produce available, but they had wisely canned different some of their beans after their summer harvest.

With the abundance of fresh produce now available year-round, you can definitely seek out fresh beans for this recipe. But don’t let any food snobs tell you that’s required! Canned beans were good enough then, and they are good enough now.

Recipe ingredients:

Labeled ingredients for three bean salad in various bowls.

Ingredient notes:

  • Sugar: The recipe is traditionally very sweet. But, you can adjust it to use less sugar or a different sweetener. If you’re worried about the sweetness, start with 1 tablespoon and go from there.
  • Green and yellow wax beans: To substitute fresh beans, you’ll need 1 pound fresh beans total. Blanch them first (and separately, if using more than one kind). Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, then add the beans and boil until bright green and tender crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and immediately plunge them into the ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain well.
  • Kidney beans: Substitute your favorite beans (chickpeas, Cannelini, pinto) or even use more than 3 kinds.  To substitute dried beans, you’ll need ½ cup to ¾ cup dried beans for every 15-ounce can listed.
  • Red onion: Or substitute yellow, white, or sweet onion.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. To make the dressing, combine the sugar, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar in a saucepan large enough to hold it all. Cook the dressing gently over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves. Then pour the dressing in the salad bowl.
    Vinegar and three bean salad ingredients in a silver frying pan.
  2. To the bowl, add the beans, chopped parsley, and the red onion. Give the ingredients a gentle stir until everything is coated in the dressing. Store overnight in the refrigerator and bring it out when you need it! Then watch it disappear, spoonful by spoonful.

Recipe tips and variations:

  • Make ahead: For the best results, the salad flavors have to blend at least 8 hours or overnight, so make this dish a day before you intend to eat it.
  • More ingredients: Switch up your salad with some julienned carrots, fresh corn off the cob, diced celery, or olives. Or, layer the ingredients in a clean mason jar and the dressing over. Store in the refrigerator for a delicious packable side dish for lunch.
  • Leftovers: The salad lasts 4 days in the refrigerator. The salad tastes even better the longer it sits.
  • Canning: I am not a canning expert, although I’ve done a bit of canning in my life. I got this information from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link).
    1. Bring salad ingredients to a boil, then simmer at 180 degrees for 15 minutes.
    2. Pack the hot vegetables in a hot jar, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace. Ladle hot pickling liquid over vegetables, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
    3. Remove air bubbles, clean jar rim, center lid on jar, and adjust the band to finger-tight. Place jar on rack elevated over simmering water (180 degrees) in boiling-water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.
    4. Lower the rack into simmering water. Water MUST cover jars by 1 inch. Adjust heat to medium-high, cover canner and brining water to rolling boil. Process pint jars 15 minutes.
    5. Turn off heat and remove cover. Let jars cool 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner. Do not retighten bands if loose.
    6. Cool 12 hours. Check seals. Label and store jars.

Three bean salad on a white serving platter with a silver serving spoon.

More fun Midwestern recipes:

Three bean salad on a white platter.

Three Bean Salad

This classic Three Bean Salad recipe is even more delicious with fresh string beans, but you can keep it exactly as it was meant to be and use canned.  Whatever you do, just make it. The longer it sits, the better it gets.
4.88 from 8 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Chilling time 4 hrs
Total Time 10 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Calories 204

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar (see note 1)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (15 ounce) can cut green beans drained, (see note 2)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can cut yellow wax beans drained (see note 2)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans drained and rinsed (see note 3)
  • ½ cup red onion chopped (see note 4)
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley minced

Instructions 

  • In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, oil, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl with a cover that is large enough to hold the salad.
  • Stir in green beans, wax beans, kidney beans, red onion, and parsley and toss until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight to blend flavors.
  • Remove from refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving and bring to room temperature.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Sugar: The recipe is traditionally very sweet. But, you can adjust it to use less sugar or a different sweetener. If you're worried about the sweetness, start with 1 tablespoon and go from there.
  2. Green and yellow wax beans: To substitute fresh beans, you'll need 1 pound fresh beans total. Blanch them first (and separately, if using more than one kind). Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, then add the beans and boil until bright green and tender crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and immediately plunge them into the ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain well.
  3. Kidney beans: Substitute your favorite beans (chickpeas, Cannelini, pinto) or even use more than 3 kinds.  To substitute dried beans, you'll need ½ cup to ¾ cup dried beans for every 15-ounce can listed.
  4. Red onion: Or substitute yellow, white, or sweet onion.
  5. Make ahead: For the best results, the salad flavors have to blend at least 8 hours or overnight, so make this dish a day before you intend to eat it.
  6. More ingredients: Switch up your salad with some julienned carrots, fresh corn off the cob, diced celery, or olives. Or, layer the ingredients in a clean mason jar and the dressing over. Store in the refrigerator for a delicious packable side dish for lunch.
  7. Leftovers: The salad lasts 4 days in the refrigerator. The salad tastes even better the longer it sits.
  8. Canning: I am not a canning expert, although I've done a bit of canning in my life. I got this information from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link).Bring salad ingredients to a boil, then simmer at 180 degrees for 15 minutes.
    • Pack the hot vegetables in a hot jar, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace. Ladle hot pickling liquid over vegetables, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
    • Remove air bubbles, clean jar rim, center lid on jar, and adjust the band to finger-tight. Place jar on rack elevated over simmering water (180 degrees) in boiling-water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.
    • Lower the rack into simmering water. Water MUST cover jars by 1 inch. Adjust heat to medium-high, cover canner and brining water to rolling boil. Process pint jars 15 minutes.
    • Turn off heat and remove cover. Let jars cool 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner. Do not retighten bands if loose.
    • Cool 12 hours. Check seals. Label and store jars.

Nutrition

Calories: 204kcalCarbohydrates: 20gProtein: 1gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 5mgPotassium: 37mgFiber: 1gSugar: 19gVitamin A: 158IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 8mgIron: 1mg
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Comments

  1. I make a version of this but replace the yellow beans with Chick Peas and add baby corn and a bell pepper.
    You can pretty much add anything you want on the vegetable side.5 stars

  2. can this recipe be canned? definitely would like to be able to can – have loads of fresh beans both green and yellow and have canned several pints, the beans are still producing though and would like to put some of this up also if possible. thanks.

    1. Hi Laura, I think so! I’m not a canning expert but I see a very similar recipe in my Ball Guide to Preserving.

      Here is how they do it:
      1. Bring salad ingredients to a boil, then simmer at 180 degrees for 15 minutes.
      2. Pack the hot vegetables in a hot jar, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace.
      3. Ladle hot pickling liquid over vegetables, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
      4. Remove air bubbles, clean jar rim, center lid on jar, and adjust the band to finger-tight.
      5. Place jar on rack elevated over simmering water (180 degrees) in boiling-water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.
      6. Lower the rack into simmering water. Water MUST cover jars by 1 inch.
      7. Adjust heat to medium-high, cover canner and brining water to rolling boil. Process pint jars 15 minutes.
      8. Turn off heat and remove cover. Let jars cool 5 minutes.
      9. Remove jars from canner. Do not retighten bands if loose.
      10. Cool 12 hours. Check seals. Label and store jars.

    1. I really appreciate the feedback! It tastes the way I remember it, but not everyone grew up in my family. :D I’m going to make notes on the recipe about the sugar so people can start with half and add more to taste. Thanks Elizabeth!

  3. did you mean: 8 ounces EACH fresh green beans and fresh yellow wax beans may be substituted for the fresh beans. ?canned beans?