Here’s a fresh spin on that classic Bean Salad! You know, the kind at picnics and potlucks long into the cicada-buzzing summer? This American classic has been gracing tables for generations, and everyone has their own take on it. Here’s our spin on that bean salad of our youth, with a little more complexity and freshness. But don’t worry: it’s still an easy three bean salad that’s as easy as dump and stir. Is it actually better than Grandma’s? We think so.
- 15-ounce can kidney beans
- 15-ounce can white beans or pinto beans
- 15-ounce can green beans
- 15-ounce can wax beans (or another 15-ounce can green beans)
- 1/2 medium white onion
- 1/4 medium red onion (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped curly parsley (or Italian parsley)
- ½ cup white vinegar*
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon each dried dill and garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Drain and rinse the beans.
- Thinly slice the onions into slivers (go to minute 1:40 of this How to Cut an Onion video to see how!). Finely chop the parsley.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the white vinegar, olive oil, sugar, dill, garlic, powder, and kosher salt. Add the beans, onions and parsley and stir until coated. You can eat immediately, but for best results refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the salad to marinate. Store leftovers refrigerated for up to 5 days.
The anatomy of a bean salad
Bean salad is a classic American salad of canned beans marinated in a vinaigrette. It’s a staple at picnics and potlucks because it doesn’t require refrigeration and can sit out in the heat for hours. This type of bean salad originated in the 1950’s, when recipes using canned beans started appearing in cookbooks (per this source). Either way: Alex and I have been enjoying it for our entire lives.
Bean salad recipes vary and most cooks have their own regional spin. The most common ingredients are kidney beans, green beans, and garbanzo beans (it’s often called three bean salad). Other ingredients you’ll often see are pinto beans, wax beans, and onions. It’s almost always marinated in a dressing of vinegar, oil, sugar and salt.
How to make this three bean salad recipe
Our spin on Grandma’s three bean salad is just as easy to make as the 1950’s style classic. That means the main steps are “dump and stir:” open the bean cans and stir everything together! At the same time, we wanted to freshen up the classic by cutting back on the sugar and adding a little freshness. Here are the elements we added to this three bean salad to make a modern spin:
- Kidney beans and pinto beans: We prefer pinto beans in a bean salad, since chickpeas can have a tough texture and don’t soak up the marinade as quickly.
- Green and yellow beans: You can use just green beans for a classic three bean salad. However, we like the color contrast of adding yellow wax beans to the mix if you can find them! They can often be harder to find at the grocery, in which case you can substitute more green beans.
- White onion and red onion: White onion is standard and has the most classic flavor. Red onion adds brightness with the lovely purple color.
- Curly parsley: The green confetti adds a fresh flavor and visual flair. Use curly parsley if you have it, but Italian also works.
- White vinegar and olive oil: Bean salad works well with straight white vinegar (not white wine vinegar), just like a classic cucumber salad. It adds just the right astringent punch, balanced by the salt and sugar.
- Dill and garlic powder: These spices are our addition: they heighten the savory and fresh flavors!