Fresh Three-Bean Salad ♥ Recipe

Fresh Three-Bean Salad 'lightened up' ♥
graphic button small size size 10 The traditional three-bean salad – or hey! a wonderful two-bean salad when yellow beans are nowhere to be found as in my recent photo update! The recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated, they did a "recipe makeover" with fresh green beans instead of canned green beans. Me? I took Cook's Illustrated's recipe and did an even bigger makeover, making it lighter with way-way less oil and way-way less sugar. The results? Fabulous. Low Carb. Weight Watchers Friendly. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Naturally Gluten Free. graphic button small size size 10

~recipe updated, first published way back in 2007~
~more recently updated recipes~

How is it that so many great potluck dishes rely on canned vegetables? Maybe it's because they're dashed together before church or an afternoon gathering? No matter.

Making a three-bean salad with fresh beans – when you can, with a mix of yellow and green beans, is especially pretty! – does take longer but the outcome is, well, praise-worthy. In fact, it wouldn't take much longer to double the recipe, which is what I'll do next time, this is so good! And don't hesitate to just make the salad with just green beans, that third bean is really for color, not taste.

The recipe inspiration came from a Cook's Illustrated e-mail. I've lightened it considerably, dropping the oil from 8 tablespoons to 2 tablespoons, the sugar from 12 tablespoons first to 4 tablespoons and then to 2 tablespoons. These changes really make the salad all about the beans – and isn't that the point? After all, the recipe name isn't "Oil and Sugar Salad." I questioned the introduction of parsley but in the end, was glad I kept it in. Parsley adds important new dimensions of flavor and freshness.


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Hands-on time: 30 minutes (over the course of about 50 minutes)
Time to table: 50 minutes or 24 hours
Makes 5 cups

For time efficiency, it helps to start the bean water first, then get the liquid onto the stove, then prep the beans.

3 quarts water
1 tablespoon table salt
8 ounces green beans, ends snapped, snapped or cut into one-inch pieces
8 ounces yellow beans (or more green beans), ditto

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated on a microplane
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar (reduced from 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons olive oil (reduced from 1/2 cup canola oil)
1 teaspoon table salt
Several turns freshly ground black pepper

1 16-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Cooked & Drained Beans
1/2 a red onion, diced or slivered small
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

COOK, SHOCK & DRAIN BEANS Bring the water to a boil. Add the salt and the beans, cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender-crisp. While the beans cook, fill a large bowl with ice water, using more ice than water. When the beans are done, drain them in a colander, then plunge the colander into the ice water, fully covering the beans by swishing them around if needed. When the beans are cool, remove the colander from the ice water. Give the colander a good shake to remove lots of the water. Let drain for at least 10 minutes and more if needed.

BOIL THE LIQUID In a medium saucepan that's large enough to hold the whole salad, bring the ingredients to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool a bit.

MIX THE SALAD Stir the cooked green beans, onion and parsley into the liquid in the saucepan and stir well to coat. Let rest for awhile, some of the liquid will be absorbed by the beans and the, um, beans. Otherwise transfer the salad to a storage dish and refrigerate for 24 hours for the beans and beans to absorb even more flavor, becoming just slightly "pickled".

IT'S SHOCKING Did you know? The process of dropping a hot food into ice water is called "shocking". It stops the cooking and usually helps retain the pretty bright color of the foods.
KIDNEY BEANS INTO THE LIQUID? Next time, I'll try to drop the rinsed and drained kidney beans into the liquid as it heats up, I think this will help them absorb more flavor.
RATIO OFF? To my taste, there's too many kidney beans:green & yellow beans. Next time, I'll either use half a can of kidney beans or double the green & yellow beans. There's plenty of liquid, you'll just need to stir a little more often to distribute the liquid.
BEST TIME TO SERVE? The inspiring recipe specifies serving the salad the next day – and it's definitely more like a traditional (canned bean) three-bean salad that way, sort of pickly. I preferred it served right away though didn't object to it, in the least, the next day.
WISH I'D THOUGHT OF THIS This recipe would be great with Splenda, which might satisfy those who like three-bean salad slightly sweeter.

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Still Hungry?


~ Fresh Green Bean Salad with Asian Dressing ~
~ Garlicky Romano Beans ~
~ Green Beans with Browned Butter & Pine Nuts ~
~ more green bean recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ Eggplant & Bean Thai Curry ~
~ Green Bean Garden Salad ~
~ Tourlou Tourlou (Greek Baked Vegetables) ~
~ more green bean recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column

How to eat more vegetables? A Veggie Venture is the home of Veggie Evangelist Alanna Kellogg and the award-winning source of free vegetable recipes with 1200 quick and easy favorite vegetable recipes, the Alphabet of Vegetables, Weight Watchers low-point recipes and microwave vegetable recipes.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2007, 2015, 2017 & 2018 (repub)
Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Sounds good. I think I'd like this when it's freshly made too. Another option would be to use agave nectar in place of the sugar which would make it low-glycemic but still use natural ingredients.

  2. Your photograph of the Fresh Three-Bean Salad is gorgeous! And I agree with Kalyn - agave nectar would be fab in this recipe.

  3. It is a very pretty dish. Agave nectar is from here and I've yet to have any. Maybe this weekend.

  4. I am not a food snob but fresh is the only way that I can eat this salad. Yours looks fantasic Alanna.

  5. This my husband eats every meal that he finds it in the fridge! I need to try it with the fresh beans! I know it would be wonderful, fresh just always is.

  6. I found out that my much beloved Grandmother's 3 bean salad (which was made with canned veggies) came in at 440 calories a cup thanks to all the sugar and oil! I also discovered that I could cut both drastically and still have something that tasted exactly like what I remembered...pickly and delicious! However, I have a bunch of beans that I need to eat sitting in my kitchen so maybe Ill try something new and attempt your recipe as well:)

  7. Yes, it is pretty. It must also taste so much better than the jarred kind. Just perfect for summer bbq.

  8. Just browsing the internet, your blog is very, very interesting.

  9. I saw some yellow beans in Wholefoods last week - they are not generally on sale in the UK. But this will be how I try them out. Thanks Alanna.
    Charlotte and Freddie

  10. Alanna... it's Patty in Maine. I still love your blog! I am so getting the ingredients for this at the farmers' market tomorrow morning and eating it for lunch. YUM. Thanks.

  11. Hi Alana,
    It's Meg...funny that Patty just posted her comment. We are both on the same wavelength. I also liked your photo and recipe. I will use rice syrup in place of the sugar and probably a combination of lemon juice and rice vinegar in lace of regular vinegar, to "macrotize" this recipe. I'm glad that you kept the parsley in. And...I'll be with Patty at the farmers' market. I think I need to inquire about getting your tomato(farmers' market)icon too...Patty and I have lived there this summer! Thanks for a the great recipe ideas. Meg

  12. Kalyn ~ Agave is another great option, know you love that stuff!

    Karina ~ Thanks m'dear!

    Kelly ~ (What's with all the K visitors today?!) Thanks. So many ideas, so few weekends, yes?!

    Cynthia ~ 'Fresh' three-bean salad was new to me but I'll not be going 'back', for sure.

    Tanna ~ Fresh beans make all the difference, in lots of ways.

    Lyra ~ Thanks for visiting! Well, who says grammas (and mothers ...) knew everything?!

    Susan ~ I love the yellow/green combination but it's not required except to 'paint' the plate.

    Freddie ~ Thanks for visiting.

    Charlotte & Freddie ~ Hello my fellow vegetable lovers! Yellow beans are pretty rare here, too, except from farms. I'm watching your 'mushroom' escapades very happily!

  13. Patty & Meg ~ Hello you two, aren't you quite the pair! Have fun tomorrow, can't wait to see what you come up with. Meg, you are MOST welcome to use the farmers market logo, just follow the instructions.

  14. I thought it interesting that we can find only yellow wax beans only at the farmers' market...hadn't thought about this, but it's true.

    I'm reading a great book called, The Omnivores' Dilemnna, by Michael Pollen. Makes me think more about this.

    On another note. I was at the farmers' market and was looking for the yellow beans. I remembered that the yellow beans I bought last year turned green after I cooked them!

    I remembered to ask the farmer if this would happen to the beans I bought today (she said no). Should be a nice looking salad!

  15. Hi Alanna! Thanks so much for submitting to our very first Root Source Challenge! Good luck, and I hope you'll keep submitting (pineapple and orzo coming up...)

  16. This salad sounds really good. But I wanted to comment on why so many of these church recipes used canned ingredients. As a child of the '50s, I remember my mother using anything that seemed more convenient. She had 11 children, and while my father helped more than most men of his era, she still did all the cooking until she could put us kids to work. There was also a lot of advertising in those days selling canned veg, boxed cake mixes, pre-packaged dinners, frozen meals, etc. as the modern, hygeinic way to cook. Thanks for updating these favorites!

  17. EK ~ What a useful insight, yes, thank you! I know my mother, who was a home ec grad in the 1950s, was enamored with the “modern” conveniences you mention. I guess my own 1980s bell bottoms will soon be back in fashion ... :-) Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna