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Easy Cold Bean Salad Recipe – Side Dish & Appetizer

Easy Cold Bean Salad Recipe – Side Dish & Appetizer


This easy cold bean salad recipe is a quick and delicious (not to mention healthy) potluck or picnic dish. Paired alongside grilled meats, these cold beans with fresh veggies are ideal on a warm day. Or serve with tortilla chips as a game day appetizer. Keep reading for the recipe!

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 favorites is chili with sour cream, cheese and a side of my homemade cornbread.

And when the weather is warm? This easy cold bean salad recipe! It’s the perfect chilled lunch. We double this three bean salad and take it as a potluck offering. My husband meal preps into glass containers and packs it for his work lunch. Sprinkle these lemony beans on salad greens with dressing. I like to serve this easy cold bean salad alongside grilled chicken for dinner.

But my favorite way to eat this easy cold bean salad is with tortilla chips! Drizzle it with this avocado tomatillo salsa and it’s a slightly spicy kick alongside the chilled beans – delicious. It’s a really great gameday appetizer.

Why Canned Beans?

We love to make our own beans at home from dried beans. Try these Instant Pot pinto beans, made into tacos with warm corn tortillas or served with pork carnitas.

There’s no reason you can’t make this easy cold bean salad recipe using fresh cooked beans from scratch. This dish uses three different types of beans. For time purposes, I used canned beans for this recipe. Empty cans of beans into a large mesh colander and let the liquid drain off. No need to rinse but you can if you want. Just let the liquid drain off well.

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!

Make Ahead

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 one day ahead. Just give it a good stir before serving to combine liquids that might settle at the bottom of the bowl.

Make This 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. If you prefer a different type of bean in this 3-bean salad, swap them in and out to create your own unique flavors. Here are a few good substitutions and add-ins to try when making this summertime side dish.

  • Red onions – sub white onion or green onion. If using green onion, 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 pepper – try this recipe using yellow or red bell pepper instead.
  • Chopped tomatoes – sub 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!
Close up of cold bean salad recipe on a spoon

Easy Cold Bean Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

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 Tbps olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Cracked black pepper, to taste


  1. Drain beans into a colander and add to large bowl.
  2. Chop vegetables and add to bowl.
  3. Combine lemon juice, oil and salt in a small bowl and stir to combine.
  4. Pour liquids over beans and veggies. Stir gently to combine.
  5. Place in fridge to chill. Eat within 2 days.


Easy to double this recipe and serve at the next potluck or picnic gathering!

Looking for more summer recipes? Try this Summer Pasta Salad Recipe, another fresh crowd-pleaser!

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