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
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, cucumber, 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