This easy cold bean salad recipe is a quick and delicious (not to mention healthy) potluck or picnic dish. Paired alongside grilled meats, the classic bean salad with fresh veggies is ideal on a warm day. Serve with tortilla chips as a game day appetizer that everyone will love.
This article originally published on May 24, 2021 and has been updated and republished with a new date.
Easy Cold Bean Salad Recipe
I told my son this week that I didn’t like beans until I was in my 20s. To be honest, outside of trying refried beans, I’d never attempted to eat beans until then!
Fortunately my kids all love beans, both hot and cold, so we eat them a lot. One of our family favorites is chili with sour cream, cheese and a side of my homemade cornbread.
Simple ingredients make this traditional bean salad recipe easy and delicious. In just a few minutes, you have a hearty, protein-packed dish.
When to Serve this Easy Bean Salad Recipe
When the weather is warm, this easy cold bean salad recipe is light and refreshing! It’s wonderful served chilled for lunch. I double this three bean salad to serve a lot of people. It’s easy to make a big batch and take this healthy salad as a potluck offering.
My husband meal preps into glass containers and packs this homemade bean salad for his work lunch. Sprinkle these lemony beans on salad greens with dressing. I like to serve this easy cold bean salad as the perfect side dish grilled chicken for dinner.
But my favorite way to eat cold bean salads? Served up with tortilla chips! Drizzle this hearty side side with avocado tomatillo salsa and it’s a slightly spicy kick alongside the chilled beans – delicious. It’s a really great gameday appetizer.
Why Use Canned Beans to Make a Cold Salad?
There’s no reason you can’t make this easy cold bean salad recipe using fresh cooked beans from scratch. We love to make our own fresh beans at home from dried beans. Try these Instant Pot pinto beans, made into tacos with warm corn tortillas or served with pork carnitas.
This dish uses three different kinds of beans. For time purposes, I used canned beans for this recipe. Canned beans are quick and easy to use. When combined with fresh ingredients, the result is a great side dish that’s appealing to many.
This cold bean salad recipe is already a fiber and protein packed healthy side dish. Choose low-sodium versions to lower the salt intake if desired. When you can get beans on sale, this easy cold bean salad recipe is also a budget friendly side dish!
Easy Cold Bean Salad Ingredients
This recipe uses several different kinds of beans in addition to fresh produce. You’ll need a large mixing bowl, colander, juice squeezer, can opener, cutting board, knife, and measuring spoons.
Empty cans of beans into a large mesh colander and let the liquid drain off. Rinse off the beans in cold water to remove any metallic taste from the can. Make sure to let the liquid drain off well before adding chopped vegetables to the mixing bowl with the beans.
The dressing ingredients are easy to measure and mix. Lemon juice and olive oil with salt and black pepper are whisked in a separate bowl before adding to the beans.
What Types of Beans to Use in a Cold Bean Salad Recipe?
For this easy salad recipe, I used red kidney beans, black beans, and Great Northern beans. Consider mixing up the flavors to your own tastes, by substituting a different combination of beans.
If you prefer a different type of bean in this 3-bean salad, swap in and out to create your own unique flavors. Try switching out the type of beans in your version of this cold bean salad recipe:
- Garbanzo beans, also referred to as chickpeas.
- Cannellini beans, Navy beans, or other white beans.
- Green beans. Can use canned green beans or fresh green beans.
Make This Easy Recipe Your Own!
What I love about this easy cold bean salad recipe is how simple it is to change up the vegetables, depending upon your needs. It’s easily adaptable to your tastes.
Here are a few good substitutions and add-ins to try when making this summertime side dish.
- Chopped Red Onion – Sub white onion or green onion. If using green onions, don’t mix in with the beans or it will get limp. Sprinkle chopped green onion on top of the prepared salad just before serving.
- Green Peppers – Try this recipe using yellow or red bell pepper (or a combination of all three peppers!)
- Chopped Tomatoes – Dice up Roma tomatoes, or use small cherry tomatoes or cherry tomato halves.
- Avocado – For a Mexican flair, gently mix in cubes of avocado right before serving the bean salad.
- Lemon Zest – Boost the bright and refreshing lemon flavor by stirring in 1 Tbsp grated lemon zest.
- Chicken – Stir in leftover cold chicken chunks for a protein-packed meal!
- Corn – Slice fresh corn off the cob or drain a can of corn to add in.
Make Ahead Healthy Bean Salad
Easy cold bean salad is a quick make ahead dish. I’d recommend making this dish at least a few hours ahead of serving to allow it to properly chill in the refrigerator.
You can make the bean salad up to one day ahead. Just give it a good stir before serving to combine liquids that might settle at the bottom of the bowl.
More Great Recipes for Summer
Try this Summer Pasta Salad Recipe. A combination of bowtie pasta, olives, and feta cheese make this recipe another fresh crowd-pleaser!
If you’re out and about this summer at picnics and parties, this is the round-up of recipes you need. Quick recipes for busy families are easy to make and take when on the go.
Looking for a sweet treat? Find out how to make these no-churn ice cream recipes for delicous cones and sundaes at home.
Easy Cold Bean Salad
Easy cold bean salad is a chilled blend of canned beans with fresh vegetables, perfect for warm weather picnics and potlucks.
- 1 can red kidney beans, drained
- 1 can black beans, drained
- 1 can white Great Northern beans, drained
- 1/2 green pepper, diced
- 1/2 red (purple) onion, diced
- 1/2 bundle of cilantro, stem removed & chopped
- 1/2 tomato, diced
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (or more to taste)
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Cracked black pepper, to taste
- Drain beans into a colander and rinse with cold water. Drain off liquid, then add to large bowl.
- Chop vegetables and add to bowl with the beans.
- Combine lemon juice, oil and salt in a small bowl and stir to combine.
- Pour liquids over beans and veggies. Stir gently to combine.
- Place in fridge to chill. Eat within 2 days.
Easy to double this recipe and serve at the next potluck or picnic gathering!