Appalachian Food

I Made Three Bean Salad for the First Time!

three bean salad from Appalachia

When I go to a homecoming or dinner on the grounds I always keep an eye out for Three Bean Salad, but I’ve never made it myself until this past weekend. I was taking a look through one of my favorite Appalachian Cookbooks – Mountain Cooking by John Parris when I saw his recipe for Three Bean Salad and decided to make it with a few minor changes.

Three Bean Salad – Adapted from Mountain Cooking by John Parris

  • 1 can garbanzo beans/chickpeas (Parris used greenbeans)
  • 1 can yellow wax beans
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 medium onion thinly diced (Parris sliced his onions)
  • 2 stalks of celery thinly sliced (Parris used 3 stalks)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (Parris used 2/3 cup)

Drain beans and rinse with cold water. Combine onion and celery; mix with beans.

Combine sugar, pepper, vinegar, salt, and oil; mix well. Pour sugar mixture over bean mixture and toss to combine. Place bean salad in refrigerator for several hours or overnight stirring or tossing several times to make sure all the beans marinate equally.

Drain before serving.

The amount of vinegar, oil, and sugar used can be easily changed depending on one’s taste. The original recipe called for diced pimentos. I left them out because I didn’t have any on hand, but I’m sure they would be good in the salad too.

The recipe I adapted from Mountain Cooking turned out very good. I’m betting more than a few of you have your own recipe for Three Bean Salad since it’s such a common recipe. I’d love to hear about your recipe so please leave a comment and tell us about it.


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  • Reply
    Mary Lou MCKillip
    October 31, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    Tipper if you want to please my Texan just make it but him some 3 bean Salad I can eat it but it not my choice of beans make

  • Reply
    August 26, 2018 at 10:49 am

    Tipper, I’ve been making “many-bean” salads to try to keep up with my pole beans – just pick a bunch of fresh, snap them and steam for just a few minutes so they aren’t too soft, then mix in with the canned garbanzo beans, etc. I did a search today to see what you and your readers have come up with for the “sauce” as mine have been a little bland. Fell into the Blind Pig rabbit hole of “You Might Also Like” past posts and now I’ve been here about two hours!! Must get outside and get some work done! Hope you and yours are having a fine Sunday 🙂

  • Reply
    June 22, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Family joke is my Aunt’s three bean salad recipe has four types of beans. She added 1 can green beans. Also 3/4 t celery seed (no peppers).

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    June 13, 2017 at 2:14 am

    Tipper: i love three bean salad, i must get my wifey to make some , soon . thanks k.o.h.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 12, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    By the way, I forgot to mention that I made your Cucumber salad recipe the one with sour cream yesterday….It was still very good today…I sliced some small ripe tomatoes and put the salad over the top of the ripe tomatoes.
    Soooo, good! Soon our cucumbers should be coming in…I also sautéed some yeller crookneck and Vidalia onions in a bit of water, salt and pepper n’ butter… good are those first spring vegetables…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    June 12, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    Man, that looks good, love me some 3 bean salad.

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    June 12, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    Don’t forget you can add your favorite whole kernel corn to jazz up the crunch and use a bottled oil and vinegar dressing . Its a favorite on any buffet table and nutritious.
    (I don’t eat the chickpeas tho)

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    June 12, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    I love Three bean Salad and have made it for years! I use kidney beans, wax beans and green beans. I also use onion and green pepper (different color peppers would be good too).

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 12, 2017 at 11:50 am

    I used to pick three bean salad from time to time but didn’t know what in all was in it. I never was much of a bean eater (except pintos and porkins) until fairly recently so I never bothered to find out what it was I was picking.
    Sounds weird to be picking a salad don’t it? Back in 1977 when I first started in the wholesale grocery business, I was an order picker (now called order selector). I took the customers orders and went through a cold dark dusty warehouse, picked them and brought them to the loading dock to be put on a truck. Three bean salad was one of the odd items I picked now and then (along with things like kippers, capers, rolled anchovies, B in B mushrooms and triple succotash).
    I had almost forgotten about them wonderful days until your post this morning brought it all back. Your’s and John’s recipe, with fresh ingredients, sounds like it might pretty good. I don’t like garbanzos and have never eaten wax beans but I think I will give it a try with green beans or maybe whole kernel corn.
    PS: I wouldn’t want you to think it was always cold dark and dusty in the warehouse. Sometimes it was HOT dark and dusty.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Your 3 bean salad looks so good. I’ll have to break-down and get a bottle of Olive Oil. The reason I’ve never tasted Olive Oil is because Ingles charges so blooming much for it. I’ll check but I may have to get another pack of celery too. I got everything else but garbanzo beans and I like them. That would make a nice treat right from the Frig on these HOT days.
    I saw on TV today where someplace in California had SNOW and in Minnesota it hailed a lot. …Ken

  • Reply
    Eleanor Loos
    June 12, 2017 at 11:00 am

    It’s good you made the 3-bean salad, Tipper. It may become a family favorite. I know “my” people always enjoy it. You can interchange the beans and use different varieties. They are all good. I usually use wax, green, and kidney. I’ve used others and sometimes added a fourth variety. It’s always fun to read of your cooking experiences.
    Eleanor Loos, Columbia Station OH

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    June 12, 2017 at 10:33 am

    I’ve never tasted this which is kind of amazing at my age. It looks good but my husband is an onion and celery hater so I guess I’ll have to do without.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 12, 2017 at 10:05 am

    Three bean salad is one of my favorites. It doesn’t last long here before I finish it off. I am tempted to grow yellow wax beans just for it. We don’t include celery but do use bell pepper. A mix of green, red and yellow pepper with white onion makes it really colorful. We use fresh oregano from the garden also and garden green beans.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    June 12, 2017 at 9:25 am

    That salad looks very good! I’m going to save the recipe. That will be a good side for grilled chicken.
    I haven’t been to a homecoming in a long time but the thought of it brings back a lot of good memories like mom cooking late into the night the night before homecoming. The smells coming from the kitchen of fried apple pies and fried chicken. The stiffness of the new clothes that were bought for the occasion and the anticipation of the week long revival services to follow. It was both dreaded and welcomed. The bountiful food that was spread out over the covered tables, old men in new overalls and white shirts, afternoon singing and and a week long attempt to win souls to the Lord. My worship style has changed over the years but I am deeply rooted in homecomings, dinner on the grounds and summer revivals.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    June 12, 2017 at 9:17 am

    WOW! That will be delicious – if I can get Jim to just MAKE IT!!! Eva Nell

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 12, 2017 at 9:09 am

    I love three bean salad. I use ‘French Cut Green beans, Yellow Wax beans and Kidney beans. I also use pimento (mainly for color) and green bell pepper. celery and chopped onion. I have used cubed sweet pickles as well…
    We always heated out vinegar to a boil before pouring over the vegetables…2/3 Cup wine or tarragon vinegar, 1/3 Cup oil, 1/3 Cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon course black pepper. When just at a boil pour over vegetables and let chill for 12 hours…this will keep for a week…but never did at our house.
    I have another recipe that I used many times as well. This one just uses French Green Beans and Yellow Wax Beans. No Kidney beans but add Celery, onion, Pimento pepper, Green pepper and a small firm tomato chopped. The liquid difference; Use 1 Cup Apple cider vinegar and 1 1/2 Cups sugar bring to boil before pouring over vegetables…Let sit and chill overnight…This is important as well as heating the liquid so it infuses into the beans, etc. in both recipes. Both sort of pickle and keep in the refrigerator about a week or so….
    I plan on trying your recipe soon too. I love bean salad dipped over a regular salad…but I’m weird that way…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 12, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Tipper–There are almost endless variations focusing on the number and types of beans. I like green beans in mine (and I’ll pick the first mess of Nantahala runner beans tomorrow and gathered five ripe tomatoes, all of them Yellow Boy, this morning. Despite our cool, late spring I believe that’s the earliest ever for me. Other beans you might want to consider include October beans, canelinni (sp.?), navy beans,and even black-eyed peas or crowder peas. With the latter two you have to be careful not to cook them too long before including them in the salad. First thing you know you have a seven-bean salad, and seven is a good luck number.
    Jim Casada
    P. S. A tip of the hat to this site and Ken Roper, which is how I first made an acquaintance with Nantahala runner beans.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    June 12, 2017 at 8:05 am

    It’s so pretty, too!

  • Reply
    Cynthia Morris
    June 12, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Sounds yummy and easy! Will try this, thanks, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 12, 2017 at 7:34 am

    That certainly sounds good and looks very good. I don’t think I’ve ever made Three Bean Salad but, like you, I’ve eaten it at covered dish dinners and enjoyed it.
    I’ll be watching for recipes your readers send in!

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