Which Beans Are Used To Make 3 Bean Salad?

This time of year, picnic salads abound. Summer salads are easy to make, pair perfectly with grilled meats or vegetables, and best of all when facing the wilting summer heat, they're cool and often marinated in a tangy dressing. Everything from traditional potato and pasta salads to punchy new favorites like watermelon, halloumi & za'atar salad or grilled corn and summer squash salad end up on picnic blankets, potluck luncheons, and cookout tables as part of the summer's festivities. 

But if you're looking for an extra easy summer salad packed with protein (7 grams per serving via VeryWellFit) and a vinegary zing, look no further than the bean salad. Often dressed in a sweet-and-sour mixture of oil, vinegar, sugar, and salt and commonly referred to as "three bean salad," this zesty treat is a hearty workhorse of a side dish. According to A Couple Cooks blog, it can last up to 3 to 5 days when refrigerated, only intensifying its flavors as it marinates in its pickled brine. But a word of warning, if you end up with any leftovers after that time, either freeze them or toss it, as beans can lose their luster the longer they sit.

What's in this salad?

You'd think the obvious answer to what is in three bean salad would be — beans, right? Well, yes and no. Because while it's called three bean salad, the truth is, a more accurate moniker might be two beans and a legume salad. The most commonly used combination of "beans" in this straight-from-the-cans salad are kidneys, garbanzos, and green beans. In the case of the last representative of this trio, people usually say 'green bean' to refer to the whole pod with the seeds (the actual beans) inside as explained by bean seller Randall's Beans

Though bean salad recipes vary from region to region and household to household, the principles of this simple salad remain the same: open three cans of beans, drain, rinse, and add them to a bowl, mix with a vinegar-based dressing, add a bit of sugar to taste, season and serve. The rest is really up to you!

Make this simple salad your own

This effortless salad can be tuned up or down, depending on your preferences and your taste. For those who truly want their three bean salad to be filled only with actual beans, try kidney, great northern, and garbanzo beans instead. If you love a sharp taste and vibrant hues, add a red onion strewn amongst the beans. And for folks who like to crank up the flavor to 11 try dousing your beans in Italian dressing or giving it a Mexican twist, exchanging black or pinto beans for green and adding corn, bell peppers, and little cilantro and lime to the mix. If freshness is your thing and you've got a few extra hours on your hands, you can skip the cans and cook the beans yourself, opting for fresh green beans and dried kidney or garbanzos

And if you really have no time at all, you can even buy the whole salad premade and dressed for you in the canned bean aisle — just dump, toss and serve! But whatever beans you choose, this cool summer crowd-pleaser is one you can truly make your own with very little effort.