How to Cook Green Beans
Plus, get our favorite recipes using fresh green beans.
By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen
Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.
Green beans are a fixture on Thanksgiving tables in the U.S., but the vibrant veggie is also incredibly versatile. Learning how to cook green beans beyond casseroles will pay dividends year-round. Whether they’re steamed, boiled, sauteed or fried, green beans take a starring turn in salads, pasta dishes and stir-fries. Plus, they’re a satisfying side dish, making a fine match for weeknight dinners or special occasions alike. Here’s how to cook them and some of our favorite recipes using fresh green beans.
How to Trim Green Beans
Some green beans come with their stem ends already sliced off – they’ll look like they have a flat, cut end. But if the stem ends are still on, snap them off before cooking. For a neater look, line up the ends of the green beans and slice them off on a bias. There’s no need to trim the tender shoot on the other end.
Should I Soak Green Beans Before Cooking?
Fresh green beans do not need to be soaked. To help tenderize the beans, blanch them in a large pot of salted water.
How to Cook Green Beans in a Pan
Sautéing green beans is a quick and easy way to pull together a side dish or lay the foundation for a stir-fry. Follow our Basic Green Beans recipe (pictured above) for a dish that showcases the beans at their best, with a little help from garlic and butter:
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add 4 to 6 thinly sliced garlic cloves; cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.
Add 2 1/2 pounds trimmed green beans and a few pinches each of salt and sugar; cook 2 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup water, cover and cook until tender, about 6 minutes, then uncover and boil until the water evaporates, 1 more minute. Season with salt and pepper.
You can also opt to cook them in a pan with oil to impart a more blistered-like texture, as with these Blistered Green Beans with Tahini.
Is It Better to Steam or Boil Green Beans?
Steaming is better than boiling green beans because it helps prevent overcooking (which yields pallid and soggy green beans) and preserves their vibrant green color. If you do want to go the boiling route, it’s best blanch the green beans in a large pot of salted water and keep a close eye on them. You want to boil the green beans just until crisp-tender (this is known as blanching). To help preserve their hue and stop them from cooking, immediately transfer the blanched green beans to an ice water bath (this is known as shocking the beans). You can reheat the beans just prior to serving.
How to Cook Green Beans In the Microwave
For a shortcut to a delicious side of green beans, place 1 pound of trimmed green beans and 1/2 cup of broth (or water) in a microwave-safe dish and cover with a lid (or place ingredients in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap ). Microwave on high and cook till green beans are crisp-tender, about 6 to 8 minutes (depending on your microwave’s power).
You can toss the cooked green beans with a pat of butter or drizzle them with sauces, like a soy-and-sesame glaze, mustard vinaigrette or Green Goddess Dressing. Try folding the cooked beans into pasta salads, using them to bring appealing crunch to grain bowls or snacking on them with homemade dip.
How to Cook Fresh Green Beans, Southern-Style
Southern-style green beans are beans that are cooked low and slow with the addition of either bacon or smoked ham. Typically, the bacon or ham is cooked first, removed from the pan, and then the green beans are tossed in the rendered fat for an extra hit of smoky bacon flavor. They’re combined with broth, onions and garlic and simmered until the beans are soft but still hold their shape, around 30 minutes. The beans are then served with the reserved crispy ham or bacon.
For another take on Southern style green beans, try our Green Beans with Smoked Ham, in which green beans are boiled till tender, then tossed in a pot with cooked ham and onions and stirred with vinegar.
Recipes Using Fresh Green Beans
Green beans are simple to cook, and once you master a few basic recipes, you can get creative with dressings and garnishes, or use them to bolster dishes like stir fries, pasta salads and soups. They’re a versatile side that pairs with all manner of proteins, including tilapia, Greek Grilled Chicken and Coffee Rubbed Pork Tenderloin. Green beans play well with other vegetables, so you can use them to amp up your favorite veggie sides, as with recipes such as Honey Glazed Carrot and Green Beans or Roasted Cauliflower with Green Beans and Mushrooms.
Here are some of our favorite recipes using fresh green beans.
Using the blanch-and-shock method, green beans are cooked until crisp-tender in a pot of boiling salted water, then shocked in ice water to stop the cooking and preserve their color. You could do almost anything to the green beans, but sometimes simple is best, and these beans, tossed with a glossy sauce of shallots cooked in melted butter, are proof.
This classic French dish of green beans and almonds is the kind of deceptively simple recipe that packs a wow-factor punch. Blanched, halved green beans are tossed with sliced almonds, sauteed in butter and a pinch of nutmeg, then simmered for a few minutes to warm through. Tres elegant, no?
For a hands-off approach to cooking green beans, given ‘em the oven treatment. Here, green beans are tossed with olive oil, a little water and smashed garlic, then roasted for 20 minutes until they’re tender and charred. Toss them with chopped tarragon and whole-grain mustard for an easy weeknight side dish that’s impressive enough for company, too.
Having a go-to green bean casserole recipe in your repertoire is a must for Thanksgiving. Proof that green beans play well with others, this casserole gets an extra hit of umami thanks to the addition of earthy shiitake mushrooms. Hosting plant-based diners? Try our Vegan Green Bean Casserole.
TGI Fridays converted legions of fried food fans to green bean lovers with their Crispy Green Bean Fries. This recipe requires a little pre-planning but is easy enough to recreate at home on a typical Tuesday. First, green beans are tossed in flour, dipped in eggs and breadcrumbs, then frozen to set the coating. Then they’re deep-fried until crispy and golden, perfect for dunking into the accompanying creamy dip.