Three-Bean Salad (vegan and gluten-free; oil-free option)

I never tire of beans.  I eat them every day, and continue to find ways to love them!  Nature has given us different colors, sizes, shapes, and textures to enjoy -from a tender scarlet kidney bean to harder, creamy-colored chickpeas to delicate, tiny pink lentils.  To top that, they are packed with nutrition, and offer much cooking versatility – from dressings to spreads to sauces to burgers to casseroles – and more!

I really enjoy taking a humble bean and transforming it into an unexpectedly delicious plant-powered burger, dip, or stew, adding layers of flavors from spices and herbs, and sometimes combining nuts or grains.  Yet sometimes, we want simplicity.  Either we don’t have much time, or we are pooped on our feet and want a quick fix!  That was me this weekend, by the way.  And, so I made this salad – just for me.  Not that I wouldn’t share it, but I made it with my own food desires in mind (rather than for the kids or hubby).

Three-Bean Salad from Let Them Eat Vegan

I was craving the tangy marinade and crunch of vegetables, and wanted that fast – and lots of it!  And, this recipe does make a generous batch.  Which is good!  Because here’s the only catch with this salad:  It’s best after it has at least a few hours to marinate.  The flavors will soak into the beans (particularly the kidney beans).  So, make it a few hours ahead of time, or even a day ahead.  If you are serving to guests and are concerned about the apple losing its crunch and color, then make the salad without and then add the apple just before serving.

Anyone can make this salad.  Even its name itself is uncluttered and approachable – “Three-Bean Salad”.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting in flavors or dynamic in textures!  Sometimes, recipes can sound unapproachable, and I wanted this one to sound very approachable and doable.  It doesn’t have any obscure ingredients, and requires no tools other than a cutting board, chef’s knife, bowl and spoon.  Yep, you can eat straight out of your mixing bowl if you like!

Just be sure to add the apple.  Don’t skip it.  Or the cloves.  Trust me.  :)

 Three Bean Salad (from Let Them Eat Vegan) gluten-free, soy-free  RECIpage link to print/share

Does this recipe sound familiar? I remember a version of it that my mom served for potlucks and “cold-plate” dinners. Variations of this salad are also sometimes found at deli counters for take-out. What is fairly constant among the adaptations is the combination of chickpeas and kidney beans in a vinegar-prominent dressing. My version uses green onions in place of raw red or white onions, a touch of natural sweetener instead of white sugar, very little (or no) oil, and the addition of raw apple to lighten up the flavors.  Serves 6 as a side dish.

4 cups combination of chickpeas, kidney beans, and black beans (rinse and drain first if using canned)

½ – ¾ cup green or red bell pepper, chopped (or combination of both)

¼ cup celery, finely chopped

½ cup green onions (mostly green portion, not as much white), sliced

3 ½ tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 – 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (keeps salad moist but optional – omit for oil-free version)

½ -1 tbsp pure maple syrup

½ – 1 tsp Dijon mustard (use 1 tsp for extra ‘kick’)

½ tsp + 1/8 tsp sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

½ cup apple, chopped (cored first, peeling optional), and tossed in ½ tsp lemon juice

couple pinches ground cloves

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients (no need to mix the vinaigrette separately), tossing well to fully mix. Season to taste with extra salt and pepper if desired.

If This Apron Could Talk: This salad tastes best after it’s had about a day to sit and the beans have absorbed some of the marinade. Be sure to toss again to redistribute any dressing lingering at the bottom of your container.

What are your favorite beans or favorite bean dishes?

p.s. Don’t forget to subscribe to my posts so you don’t miss any recipes, updates, and giveaways!


  1. Laurie says

    I needed a last minute recipe for our church picnic tomorrow. Very easy and I had all the ingredients on hand. I used red, green and yellow peppers… Love all the colors!

  2. Julie says

    Could you suggest a substitute bean for the black beans? As much as I love black beans, I can’t eat them. I suffer with severe pains for a couple of days after eating them.

    • Dreena says

      For sure, Julie. You can sub any other bean you like! More kidney beans, or white beans (cannellini or navy), or pinto, adzuki – any of these would work just fine, it’s a flexible recipe. :)

  3. april says

    This recipe looks great! Though I think I would omit the apples and cloves (cringe) and add in some couscous or quinoa.

  4. Mary Ann Gray says

    Could you tell me what kind of wooden bowl you used here? I would like to find a set like it. I love your recipes!

    • Dreena says

      Thanks Mary Ann! :) Well, the bowl was a gift from a friend… but I have a hunch that she picked it up at “Winners” – a Canadian store. Are you familiar with it?

      • Mary Ann Gray says

        No, I live in Florida. I have seen a bowl like yours before and admired it, but did not know how to get one.

  5. Karen says

    Think I’m going to make this today for our trip to NH this weekend. I’ve made a similar version in the past and my daughter LOVES it!

    Received LTEV last week and have several pages marked for new dinners over the next few weeks!

  6. says

    It’s such an unassuming little salad, but I was surprised by how much I loved it! I never add fruits or particularly sweet ingredients to savory dishes, but this made me understand how well it can work when utilized properly.

  7. Tiffany says

    Hi Dreena,

    I made your Mushroom Pecan burgers today. They were delicious!!! I also made your cinnamon sweet tortilla strips, a perfect sweet treat!! Thank you for the recipes :)

    • Tiffany says

      By the way, I was able to make 9 medium sized mushroom pecan burgers. Do you know if they freeze well? Thank you :)

      • Dreena says

        Lovely that you made both recipes Tiffany! Yes, the pecan burgers can be frozen. I shape them first, then add parchment paper between the layers. They might be a little more moist when pan-frying after thawing, but just try not to disturb them too much – flip once or twice rather than over and over and over! Hope that helps!!

  8. says

    I adore all manner of legumes! Big, small, any color or variety. And I adore this easy, inspired salad. As always, thank you!

  9. Melissa George says

    I just made this – it’s yummy! It’s so light, cool and refreshing. It’s perfect for summer picnics and cook outs. Thanks for such a great recipe!

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