Low-Fat Spicy Mexican Style 3-Bean Salad

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Servings : Prep Time : Cook Time : Ready In : This low-fat, spicy, Mexican style 3-bean salad uses a combination of heart-healthy beans, chilies, and spice, tossed with a simple lime juice dressing.

A bowl with a colorful 3-bean salad

This recipe for low-fat spicy Mexican style 3-bean salad is so easy to put together Рjust dump it all into a bowl, mix, let sit, and serve. Perfect for a tailgate party or BBQ. 


Low-Fat Spicy Mexican Style 3-Bean Salad


  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can red kidney beans
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can black beans
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can garbanzo beans
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, halved and sliced
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (4 ounce) can roasted chopped green chilies (such as Ortega)
  • 1/2 cup salsa (hot, medium, or mild, your choice)
  • 1 large lime, juiced or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Step 1

Drain and rinse the beans. Combine along with the other ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate a few hours at least to allow the flavors to blend. Best served at room temperature.



All about this tasty Low-Fat Spicy Mexican Style 3-Bean Salad


An overhead shot of Low-Fat Spicy Mexican Style 3-Bean Salad i


Summertime is here and that means more cool cooking, more outdoor dining, picnics, get-togethers, and BBQ potlucks.

For the 4th of July this year, our first in our new Napa neighborhood, we were informed our neighbors do a “block party”. They have been having this 4th of July party for years and years. As is normal, time and people move on so while were fewer of the old-time neighbors around to participate, on the 4th the shade tents were set up, the tables set and everyone brought something to share at the community table. I decided to make a 3-bean salad that my mother “invented”. Easy to make, delicious to eat, and best served at room temperature – so no refrigeration required. Perfect.


4th of July block party featuring Low-Fat Spicy Mexican Style 3-Bean Salad


My mother taught me a lot about cooking and in her kitchen, there was a lot of “just making it up with what I have on hand’ kind of meals. This salad is the result of one of her better experiments. Uniquely different from the normal 3-bean salad.

With, of course, a few LindySez variations.


A white bowl containing a colorful Low-Fat Spicy Mexican Style 3-Bean Salad


My 3-beans are not your 3 beans

We have all had the regular 3-bean salad generally consisting green beans, wax beans, and kidney beans, usually with some diced red onion, maybe sliced celery, tossed with a vinegarette. And there is nothing wrong with that 3-bean salad. No, nothing wrong at all.

Well, except everyone makes it, and it’s uniformly boring.

My 3-beans salad is made with hearty starchy beans, black, kidney, and garbanzo. Each bean has a unique size, texture, and flavor which adds a lot of interest to the salad. Of course, you can substitute other beans if you wish. Small reds for the kidney. Pinto for the black. Canelli for the garbanzo. It’s your pantry, it’s your salad.


Low-Fat Spicy Mexican Style 3-Bean Salad plated and in a white bowl


The Spicy Part

Using a can of Ortega diced chilies definitely gives this salad a zing of heat. Adding 1/2 cup of prepared salsa kicks it up another notch. You can use any heat factor in your salsa that you want, hot, medium, or mild. I used hot.

I like it hot.

If you don’t then use mild. Or omit it entirely. The other flavors will more than carry this salad.


Low-Fat Spicy Mexican Style 3-Bean Salad in a bowl showing all the ingredients


Flavor Flavor Flavor

We’ve got the powerhouse beans, the hot and spicy chilies, and salsa, and now we round out the flavor with some mild tomatoes, I like Roma tomatoes as they are not too wet and juicy, but add good flavor, along with some crunchy thinly sliced red onion, and a nice handful of fresh cilantro.

Don’t like cilantro? Omit it or replace it with parsley. Then add a bit of salt, cumin powder, lime juice, and just a dash or two (about a teaspoon) of sweet balsamic vinegar. The addition of the balsamic just rounds out the edges. The recipe calls for only one lime, but mine was a juicy lime and they aren’t always that juicy so again, use the lime juice to taste.


Final serving of Low-Fat Spicy Mexican Style 3-Bean Salad


This salad is really so easy to make. It’s really more or less a dump salad. Dump it all into your bowl, mix it up, let it sit for a couple of hours in the refrigerator to absorb and mingle all the flavors, bring to room temp, and serve. As it has no added oil, we keep this on our low-fat list of foods.

It’s actually better made the day or two before you need it.


Low-Fat Spicy Mexican Style 3-Bean Salad white bowl gray background


Variations Galore!

I’ve already mentioned many of these above, but there’s more!

  1. The beans – use which beans you want. Just keep in mind size and texture I personally like the 3-beans I chose, but feel free to change them up.
  2. Add corn – sure, you could add some fresh corn kernels, or even canned, if you want.
  3. Omit the cilantro – don’t like it, don’t use it. Try parsley to keep the pop of fresh color, or omit it altogether if you don’t care about pops of fresh color.
  4. Add fresh celery – fresh celery slices would add additional crunch.
  5. Salsa choice – Again hot, medium, mild, not at all.

So make it your way. Or my way.


A table set with Low-Fat Spicy Mexican Style 3-Bean Salad and silver.

Low-Fat Spicy Mexican Style 3-Bean Salad


Perfect with: 

  1. The Bestest Most Tenderest Ribs Ever

  2. Beer Can Chicken 

  3. Coffee Rubbed Cheeseburgers with Texas BBQ Sauce

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Recipe Comments

  1. posted by bb059 on July 11, 2019

    Had this for Fourth of July at a potluck…it was by far the most popular item and there were two other bean salads!
    Super with ribs or burgers…or even a chili dog


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Nutritional Info

This information is per serving.
  • Calories
  • Fat
    1g (trace Sat, trace Mono, trace Poly)
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrate
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium

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