Old-fashioned bean salads are made with a mix of green beans, butter beans, and kidney beans in a tangy dressing. Three and four bean salad recipes are timeless potluck favorites and I’m pretty sure that everyone’s grandmother has a similar recipe.
Three Bean Salad
Feel free to use any combination of beans you like. The traditional 3 bean salad recipe calls for green beans, butter beans (a.k.a lima beans), and kidney beans, providing a variety of textures and flavors that work well together.
Green beans are slightly crunchy, butter beans are tender, and kidney beans are meaty and hearty. That said, much like Alexander, I associate lima beans with terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.
I may be exaggerating a bit there, but I really am not a fan of lima beans. So, I make this recipe with white beans, a.k.a cannellini or Great Northern beans.
White beans have a similar tender and creamy texture with a much milder flavor. We like them quite a bit in this salad.
Four Bean Salad
You can turn this into a 4 bean salad by adding a can of black beans. While I don’t do this every time, I like the additional flavor it adds to the salad.
If you like chickpeas, try adding a can of drained garbanzo beans. I’ve seen plenty of bean salad recipes that include them, they simply aren’t a favorite with my family.
Grandma’s Three Bean Salad
Your Grandma’s recipe may differ slightly from the more traditional recipes. She may have used a different combination of beans or maybe she preferred more beans in her salad.
Maybe she adds some diced tomatoes or pimentos for extra color and flavor. The beauty of bean salads is that you can make them your own however you like.
I adore bell peppers, so I add an extra bell pepper or mix the salad colors up with a few different colors of chopped bell peppers. Colorful foods are always more fun to eat and assorted colors of bell peppers are one thing I am guaranteed to always have on hand.
Want to add a little heat? Try some finely minced jalapenos or a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce. However you choose to make your bean salad, give it plenty of time to rest in the refrigerator and marinate before serving.
Old Fashioned Three Bean Salad
You’ll need the following ingredients to make this easy recipe:
- kidney beans
- green beans
- lima or butter beans
- black beans – optional
- bell pepper
- apple cider vinegar
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Four Bean Salad Recipe
To make the bean salad, combine the kidney beans, green beans, white beans or butter beans, optional black beans, bell pepper, onion, celery, and parsley in a large bowl.
Stir together the vinegar, oil, sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the ingredients in the bowl and stir to coat everything well.
Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving. This will keep nicely for 3-4 days.
Potluck Side Dishes
One of the best things about bean salads is that they are served cold. This means that you can make it ahead of time – and you should definitely do that for the best results! The salad will be ready to serve whenever you need it.
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to traditional picnic sides like potato salad, macaroni salad, 7 layer salad, or coleslaw, bean salad is a great option. It’s high in fiber and protein, two things that help keep you feeling full and satisfied.
Four Bean Salad
- 15 ounces canned kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 15 ounces canned green beans drained
- 15 ounces canned white beans OR butter beans, aka lima beans, drained and rinsed
- 15 ounces canned black beans rinsed and drained, OPTIONAL
- 2 green, red, or yellow bell peppers diced into ¼-½-inch pieces, about 2 cups
- ½ cup very finely diced red or white onion
- 2 large celery ribs very thinly sliced and chopped, about ½ cup
- 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley finely chopped
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ⅓ cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt adjust to taste
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper adjust to taste
- Combine the kidney beans, green beans, butter beans, black beans (if desired) bell pepper, onion, celery, and parsley in a large bowl.
- Stir together the vinegar, oil, sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the ingredients in the bowl and stir to coat everything well.
- Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving. This will keep nicely for 3-4 days.