Three Bean Salad – Eating Bird Food

With this three bean salad, green beans, chickpeas and kidney beans are marinated in a naturally sweetened apple cider vinaigrette that quickly pickles the beans and makes them taste so good!

I feel like half of you are going to be familiar with this dish and the other half are going to be wondering why I’m sharing a bean salad! This is a classic Southern salad that I grew up eating! We usually had it at salad bars (like Ruby Tuesday’s) but it would show up at family potlucks occasionally as well and it’s always been one of my faves.

What Types of Beans to Use

Traditional three bean salad is made with all canned beans — kidney beans and white beans (garbanzo and cannellini beans are the most popular) and even canned green beans. For this recipe, I used canned kidney and garbanzo beans, but I skipped the canned green beans and used fresh instead! The green beans are blanched, which adds a nice crunch and freshness to this salad.

Even though I recommend using fresh green beans in this recipe, you can definitely use canned green beans for ease. You can also cook dry beans if you prefer, I just usually go for canned beans out of convenience.

This salad is also completely customizable and delicious with a variety of different beans, so feel free to use your favorite beans or whatever you have on hand!

A Healthier Version of the Classic

In addition to swapping canned green beans for fresh ones in this three bean salad, I also gave the dressing an EBF upgrade by swapping out the white sugar for maple syrup and white vinegar for apple cider vinegar. The end result is absolutely delicious!

  • Maple syrup – one of my favorite natural sweeteners, maple syrup replaces the white sugar and adds a delicious subtle sweetness.
  • Apple cider vinegar – in place of white vinegar, I decided to use apple cider vinegar! The benefits of ACV outweigh the benefits of white vinegar and the flavor profiles are super similar.
Ingredients measured out to make three bean salad: parsley, green beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, olive oil, onion, salt, pepper, vinegar, garlic and maple syrup.

Here’s What You Need

  • trimmed fresh green beans – we’re using fresh green beans instead of canned for some added crunch and freshness. Just grab some fresh green beans and trim the ends off before blanching.
  • chickpeas or white beans – either type works! Navy beans, cannellini beans and great Northern beans all fall under the “white beans” umbrella. I’ve made this salad with both chickpeas and cannellini beans and I like the chickpeas better because they add a different texture to contrast the red kidney beans and don’t get mushy.
  • red kidney beans – I used canned red kidney beans for quick prep. Just drain and rinse before adding to the salad.
  • chopped yellow onion – adds a delicious zesty flavor. If you’re a red onion lover, feel free to use red onion instead.
  • chopped parsley – I love the flavor fresh herbs add to this salad! If you don’t have fresh parsley on hand, dill or basil would be a good alternative.
  • garlic cloves – adds the perfect savory flavor.
  • marinade/dressing – a simple mixture of apple cider vinegar, olive oil and maple syrup.
  • salt and pepper – to season the salad and bring all of the flavors together.
Blanched green beans in a ice water bath.

How to Blanch Green Beans

Since this recipe calls for fresh green beans you’ll need to blanch the beans before tossing them with the rest of the ingredients. To blanch your beans just add them to boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes, until they’re tender but still have a slight crunch. Drain the hot water and add them to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. This also helps them retain their bright green color!

Do You Need to Rinse Canned Beans?

The canned kidney beans and chickpeas in this recipe are packed in a thick liquid that is starchy and usually full of sodium so I always make sure to drain and rinse my beans before adding them to the rest of the ingredients. Simply place your beans in a colander and rinse them under cold running water for best results.

Of course, you can save the chickpea liquid to make aquafaba if you’re feeling up for it!

Side by side photo of a glass mixing bowl with the ingredients to make thee bean salad before and after being mixed.

How to Serve Three Bean Salad

This is a great side salad for just about any meal! It’s perfect for potlucks and BBQs. Here are some recipes to pair it with:

How to Store Leftovers

This recipe actually gets better with time as the flavors are able to blend together. I like making it in advance (at least 2 hours before) but up to 2 days in advance! Store in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 5 days.

More Bean Focused Recipes

If you enjoyed this recipe, please consider leaving a ⭐ star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below.

  • Drain and rinse your chickpeas and kidney beans if you haven’t already. Simply place your beans in a colander and rinse them under cold running water for best results.

  • Blanch the green beans by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add the green beans and cook for 2-3 minutes, until they’re tender, but still have a slight crunch. Drain and add to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Once cool, chop into 1-inch pieces.

  • Place the kidney beans, chickpeas, blanched green beans, onion and parsley in a large bowl.

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, garlic, olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper.

  • Pour the dressing over the beans and toss to coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days, then serve.

  • Store in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 5 days.

  • Green beans: I prefer fresh green beans, but feel free to use canned if you’re short on time. 
  • Parsley: I love adding fresh parsley to this salad, but you can definitely swap it with another fresh herb of choice. Dill or basil would be good options!
  • Yellow onion: Feel free to use red onion instead.

Serving: 1/6 of recipe | Calories: 278kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 527mg | Potassium: 518mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 7g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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