easy three bean salad

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summer bbq season is right around the corner, and this easy three bean salad is summer picnic food at its best

a summer bbq and picnic classic | easy three bean salad

I have not had or even thought about this salad is probably 25 years. This was also the first time I had ever made three bean salad, but this summer I expect to be eating a lot of it.

easy three bean salad

I spent most of my summers from age 16-24 waiting tables and scooping ice cream at Friendly’s, a small family friendly restaurant and ice cream shop.  It was as much fun as a job could possibly be, and even though I worked every weekend and holiday, and some days would have rather been at the beach than working, it was such a wonderful experience.

Evenings, especially in the summer, were all about the ice cream, but on the rare occasion that I worked an afternoon or early evening we served everything from burgers and hot dogs to liver and onions, a senior citizen favorite. Another of the senior favorites was the three bean salad.  Kids went for the side of fries, the seniors always had the three bean salad. It came form a BIG can, but I’ll admit, it was pretty tasty.

I have not seen it since, but scrolling through the pages of an old cookbook, I found a recipe for a version of three bean salad and with picnic and bbq season coming in fast, I figured I should give it a try.

The recipe in the book called for fresh green and wax beans along with canned kidney beans. Other than a can, wax beans were not to be found, so I went with the classic Friendly’s version – green, garbanzo, and kidney beans in a slightly sweet vinaigrette.

The weight watcher that I am I cut the sugar and oil used, and honestly I did not miss it one bit. The dressing was as delicious as I remember it to be. I actually think I could have cut the sugar even more, just don’t cut it completely; the dressing would be far too acidic.

easy three bean salad

easy three bean salad


  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 - 1  tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 12 ounces fresh green beans
  • 1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • chopped fresh parsley (garnish)


  • begin by cooking your green beans -
  • place beans in a large skillet, cover with water and bring to a boil, cook until they are crisp tender - no more than 5 minutes
  • quickly drop beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop cooking, drain and add green beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and shallot in  a large non-reactive bowl
  • in a small saucepan, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, oil, warm over med-low heat just until the sugar dissolves, allow to cool and then season with salt and pepper
  • pour vinegar over the beans, toss to coat, cover and allow to marinate overnight in the refrigerator
  • serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley
recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated 

For the best flavor, this salad is one that should be made the night ahead, it was even better on day 2,but overnight marinating is a must. I prefer shallot to red onion, so that is what I used in my bean salad, but 1/2 of a red  onion, chopped would be a fine substitute, and was actually called for in my cookbook.

Summer isn’t summer without a bbq  or two, and this easy three salad is a bbq classic.


easy three bean salad