Southwestern Three Bean Salad

A three bean salad with a Southwestern twist! Pinto beans, black beans, and green beans, with onions, jalapenos, Cotija cheese, cilantro with a sweet lime dressing.

Mexican Three Bean Salad
Elise Bauer

Do you love a good three bean salad, you know, the kind with a sweet vinegary dressing?

I do. It's sort of that last minute pantry item type of dish that is quick and wonderfully filling when you are hungry.

You might not have considered a Mexican-inspired three bean salad before, but I am here to say you should!

How to Make a Mexican Bean Salad

This Mexican bean salad is a riff off the standard. It's not really Mexican per se, but uses typical South-of-the-border ingredients such as crumbly Cotija cheese, black beans and pinto beans, jalapeño peppers, cilantro and a sweet dressing made with sugar and lime juice.

All items that we happened to have in our pantry or fridge this week. So good!

If you want to take it one step further, make your beans from scratch on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker.

Mexican Three Bean Salad
Elise Bauer

Southwestern Three Bean Salad

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Marinating 60 mins
Total Time 90 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings


  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 pound green beans
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1-2 jalapenos, seeded, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, sliced thin
  • 1 cup Cotija queso seco cheese, crumbled (can sub feta)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar


  1. Boil the green beans:

    Cut the ends off the green beans and slice into pieces about an inch long. Fill a medium sized pot halfway with well salted water. Bring to a boil.

    Add the beans to the pot and boil for 5 minutes, or as long as it takes for the beans to get tender. Green beans can be highly variable in how long it takes to cook them to tenderness. More mature beans can take longer, up to 20 minutes.

  2. Combine with pinto beans, green onions, jalapeños, garlic, Cotija, olive oil:

    Drain the green beans and put in the bowl with the pinto and black beans. Drizzle the olive oil over everything and toss to combine. Mix in the green onions, jalapeño, garlic, and Cotija cheese.

  3. Make dressing, add to salad to marinate:

    In a separate bowl, mix the lime juice and sugar until the sugar dissolves, then add it to the salad. Coat the beans well and let marinate for at least 1 hour, preferably several hours.

  4. Right before you serve, toss in the cilantro:

    Add more salt to taste if needed.

Mexican Three Bean Salad
Elise Bauer