Once you try this easy bean salad recipe, you will be hooked! Prepared Mediterranean style, this three bean salad recipe is bright and packs a ton of flavor from crunchy vegetables, like bell peppers and onions, fresh herbs, capers, and a zesty garlic Dijon dressing. Great for make ahead meals, picnics, and potluck!
I love my beans!
I am a big fan of beans. A staple in my Mediterranean pantry, beans are a nutritious, versatile, and a super affordable ingredient. They are rich in vitamins and minerals and are a great hearty alternative to high-fat proteins.
Over here, beans are often on the menu, like garlic parmesan white beans or a quick Turkish white bean salad (piyaz). But if you don't use legumes often, and you're looking to incorporate them more in your diet, this easy three bean salad is a great place to start!
Bean salad, the Mediterranean way
Three bean salad is like the quintessential American picnic or potluck dish. But for me, turning it into a huge, "sexy" bowl of goodness--the Mediterranean way, of course-- means adding loads of crunch and bold flavors.
In this 3 bean salad recipe, I toss three kinds of canned beans--kidney beans, cannellini, and chickpeas-- with chopped fresh veggies, like cucumber, bell peppers, and onions, along with loads of fresh herbs, and briny capers. A simple and bright homemade garlic Dijon dressing brings it all together.
You will fall in love with the bold flavors in this salad, and it’s the perfect make ahead dish to go with anything from grilled lemon chicken, to lamb kabobs, or salmon burgers. You can also add it to a rice bowl with tuna (or your protein of choice) for a fun and simple dinner.
What kind of beans go into a three bean salad?
If we're talking about a traditional American 3 bean salad, you'll typically see these three types of beans: Canned green beans, kidney beans or black beans, and garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas.
I'm not a fan of canned green beans: They just feel too mushy for my taste. If you want to stick with green beans, use steamed green beans that have been shocked in an ice bath once cooked. Steamed green beans will lend far better texture than canned green beans.
You can also do as I do and replace the green beans with another bean. I used canned cannellini beans in this recipe, I like their creamy texture and subtly nutty flavory. Other options, while not traditional for a 3 bean salad (but that will taste lovely nevertheless), are black eyed peas, pinto beans, or steamed wax beans (which are similar to green beans).
Ingredients: What you need to make this salad
This Mediterranean bean salad recipe takes a few simple ingredients, including some canned beans, fresh veggies, and herbs. Here is what you need to make it:
- Canned beans: I used kidney beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), and cannellini beans. Steamed green beans or other canned beans like black beans will work as well.
- Chopped green bell pepper
- Chopped red bell pepper
- Diced English cucumber – If you use regular garden cucumbers, be sure to peel the thick waxy skin off. You may also like to seed the cucumbers, especially if you’re making this salad ahead of time.
- Chopped red onions
- Capers (optional, but I think their briny flavor takes this bean salad recipe to the next level)
- Fresh herbs: parsley, mint, and basil
The best bean salad dressing
I don't love the syrupy dressings that are typical of three bean salads, so I whipped up a quick, bright garlic Dijon vinaigrette with just a hint of sweetness. Here’s what you’ll need to make the dressing:
- Minced garlic
- Dijon mustard
- Fresh lemon juice
- Sugar – You can substitute with a little good quality honey, if you prefer. (Note: The recipe will no longer be vegan if honey is used.)
- Extra virgin olive oil - Our Early Harvest Greek extra virgin olive oil or Spanish Hojiblanca olive oil is a good option in salad dressings because of their bold, peppery flavor.
How to make bean salad
This Mediterranean bean salad couldn't be any easier to make. It's as simple as 1, 2, 3:
- Combine 3 cans of beans with fresh vegetables and herbs in a large bowl. I used a 15-ounce can each of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), red kidney beans, and cannellini beans (drained and rinsed). For crunch, I added 2 chopped bell peppers, ½ diced English cucumber, and 1 cup chopped red onions. A cup chopped parsley and a few torn mint and basil leaves add fresh, herby flavor. Briny capers are optional, but I think they add a little something special.
- Make the vinaigrette. Simply whisk together ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, a clove or 2 minced garlic, and a dash of sugar, salt, and pepper.
- Dress the salad. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently. Make sure all the beans and veggies are well-coated in the vinaigrette. Chill for at least 30 minutes and serve.
Tips for the best bean salad
Here are my top tips for no-fail bean salad:
- Rinse and drain beans before using. Canned beans release starch into the canning liquid, making it murky. The canning liquid is not necessarily bad for you, but just doesn't look that great. Rinsing well also helps to eliminate that “canned” taste that canned beans can have. I typically drain the beans, rinse them well (once or twice), and drain again before using.
- Make this salad ahead and refrigerate. Beans need a little time to soak up flavor, so it's a good idea to make this salad ahead and refrigerate for 30 minutes to several hours before serving. If you want to make this a day ahead, you can hold the fresh herbs and add them in 30 minutes or so before serving. (This will just keep them from wilting too much.)
What to serve with three bean salad
This is the perfect make-ahead salad and is very satisfying on its own. You can toss it with some grains of your choice or serve it with a cup soup for a light meal. Or, you can serve it next to nearly any main dish or you choice like baked chicken drumsticks, shish kebabs, lamb rack, baked cod, and grilled swordfish.
How long will 3 bean salad last?
Properly refrigerated in a tight-lid glass container, three bean salad will keep anywhere from 3 to 5 days.
More bean salad recipes to try
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Easy Mediterranean Bean Salad
- 1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 15- oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 15- oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
- 1 green bell pepper, cored and chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped
- ½ English cucumber, diced
- 1 cup chopped red onions
- 1 ½ tablespoon capers, drained
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 10-15 fresh mint leaves, torn or gently chopped
- 10-15 fresh basil leaves, torn or gently chopped
Garlic Dijon Vinaigrette
- 1-2 garlic cloves minced
- ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup Early Harvest extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the beans, chopped peppers, onions, capers and fresh herbs. Mix using a wooden spoon.
- In a small bowl, add the vinaigrette ingredients. Whisk vigorously to combine.
- Add the vinaigrette to the salad bowl. Toss to coat.
- For best results, cover and refrigerate for a bit before serving so that beans soak up the vinaigrette flavors. Give the salad another quick toss before serving.
- Rinse and drain beans before using. Canned beans release starch into the canning liquid, making it murky. The canning liquid is not necessarily bad for you, but just doesn't look that great. What i like to do is drain the beans, then rinse well, and drain again before using.
- Make this 3 bean salad a little bit ahead and refrigerate. Beans need a little time to soak up flavor, so it's a good idea to make this salad ahead and refrigerate for 30 minutes to several hours. If you want to make this a day ahead, you can hold the fresh herbs and add them in 30 minutes or so before serving, this will just keep them from wilting too much into the salad (more for looks.)
- Meal-Prep: If you want to make this salad to have for lunch over the next few days, you can hold the dressing and add it as needed a few minutes before enjoying your lunch.
- How long will leftovers keep? Properly refrigerated in a tight-lid glass container, three bean salad will keep anywhere from 3 to 5 days.
- Visit Our Shop for quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils and spices.
*This article first appeared on this site in 2017 and has recently been updated with new information and new media for readers' benefit
Looks real healthy, and worth the detail prep. I would use sea salt, and a sugar that is not white. Lovely picture of you. In my 80,s. You would look good on a bowl of pasta. Wonder if you could share some mideastern, Egyptian and North African recipes that are simple and healthy. Love tabouli. Famialiar with zatar and sumac.
Never really had a bean salad before but was looking for a healthy and (obviously) delicious protein packed meal. I’ve heard so many great things about the Mediterranean style of eating and thought I’d give this recipe a whirl. I’m making this recipe for the second time and am absolutely in love with it. Needless to say, it’s officially going into the recipe box. Thanks for this fantastic recipe!
Yay! Thanks, Gina!
Made this. The dressing, to me, is inadequate. I couldn't taste it, maybe I should double it.
I am, however, losing taste, so that could be a factor.
I think I'll try this with a good Italian dressing (homemade or otherwise). Maybe Olive Garden dressing.
What if I use dry beans, soak it in water overnight, drain the water in the morning, boil it for 15 minutes, drain the water, and use it in the salad?
We don't have canned beans in Egypt
Sure, Mohamed. I think that would work just fine.
Delicious!!! I did follow the recipe but added field peas. Took it to a neighborhood gathering and it was a hit! Thank you!!
Awesome! Thanks, Alison!
I made this tonight, and it was fantastic! So fresh and bright! It’s going into our dinner rotation for sure. Thanks Suzy! 🥰
(I tried to put a picture here, but wasn’t able to.)
Awesome! Sorry about the picture... would have loved to see it! If you are on Facebook, you can share with us there!
I'm obsessed with this recipe and have been making it regularly for months. I only use 2 cans of beans and less veggies but it still makes more than I can eat before it starts to get mushy. Last week, I found a fritter recipe that had almost the same ingredients so I experimented. I drained the dressing from my leftover salad, pureed in a food processor along with some leftover spinach leaves, than put the mixture in clean towel to squeeze all the liquid out. In a bowl I put the pureed mixture, 2 eggs, enough oat flour to enable me to form patties. I fried these up in oil and made the most delicious veggie fritters. No more wasted bean salad!!!
What a great idea!!
I make this once a week and mix and match with my lunches and dinners. Great recipe. Thanks Suzy.
You are very welcome, Mary! So glad you're enjoying this recipe!
I make this once a week and mix and match with my lunches and dinners. Great recipe. Thanks Suzy.
I made it very close to the recipe....used green onions because we had a lot of them. Used a local made Greek Dressing, My husband raved over this salad and although there are only 2 of us, there was very little left. He jumped on it even before the dressing went on,,...I liked it with the dressing.....almost put some feta on the salad but with the capers, it might have made it too sour.....thanks for a great recipe.
Can I boil beans and use instead of canned ones?
Sure! That would work!
Just finished it all and I'm not too keen on the dressing. I'm thinking too much lemon juice or mustard. I use an emulsifier instead of whisking and I added simple syrup to cut the taste. Hopefully after it sits in the fridge overnight it will blend all the flavors to be more palatable.
Thanks for sharing, Kevin! Hope this worked out for you in the end!
For Garlic Dijon Vinaigrette, how much Salt and black pepper ? It doesn't say how much to add for either of the two.
Hi, Sonny! There's no specific amounts here. It's just to suit your personal taste.
I grew up with my Mom making a three-bean salad similar to this except there was a lot of sugar in it and for health reasons I don't make it - this is the perfect solution to a luscious healthy three-bean salad!
I stumbled on your blog today and love your detailed explanations and reasons for why you cook things a certain way. I will be back again and again for healthy recipes.
Awwww! Thank you Sandy and welcome to The Mediterranean Dish!!
I have recently been diagnosed with liver problem and decided to start eating healthier by means of the mediterranean style diet. I came a across your site and was pleased to find so many nice and easy recipies. Just one thing I would like to mention is that, living alone myself, it would be nice if you provided options for smaller servings. Not a big deal...just saying.
I found that if you choose 'print' option the pop up screen will have a drop down at the top to choose the number of servings that will cut down/customize the recipe quantities.
What is the serving size?
1 salad bowl.