Crunchy, fresh green beans are delightfully simple and easy to prepare. But knowing how to cook fresh green beans is essential, as they are a deliciously perfect addition to most any meal.
Green beans, also commonly called snap or string beans, are in the same family as pinto beans and kidney beans. They differ though in that they are picked early in harvest in order to maintain the edible shell. Unlike their related legumes, they aren't dried and thus can be enjoyed raw.
You can also find string beans in other shades including purple and yellow which are referred to as wax beans. These uniquely hued versions can add a vibrant touch to a variety of dishes.
The health benefits of green beans are noteworthy as they are rich in vitamins B1, B2, C, and K, manganese, fiber, folate, copper, magnesium, and iron. All of these nutrients combine to help keep your immune system strong, digestion running smoothly, and bones strong.
We highly recommend buying organic green beans given they are number 20 on EWG’s Dirty Dozen List which ranks the pesticide and herbicide content of produce.
Check out your local farmers market between June and September, the peak season of string beans, to find an abundance of green beans. You might even spot a few of colored varieties pictured above.
When selecting green beans, opt for picking them loose so you can ensure you get the freshest beans. Look for firm, vibrant beans and avoid those that are limp and discolored. Store them unwashed in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.
How To Cook Fresh Green Beans
First and foremost, wash your green beans in a colander under cold water. Next “tail” the beans by snapping off each end. Now you’re ready to move on to the cooking methods below. Note that the variety and size of the green beans will impact cooking time. For smaller, thinner beans, check that they don't overcook by piercing with a fork halfway through cook time. For larger beans, extend cook time until they reach desired tenderness.
Green beans can be enjoyed in their raw state, especially wax beans which make a great addition to a fresh salad. Enjoy them in a salad or squeeze lemon juice over them and enjoy them all on their own.
Enhance green beans’ vibrant color and preserve the crunchy texture by blanching them. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and fill a large bowl with ice cubes and water. Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, strain and transfer beans to the ice water. After 1 minute, drain into a colander and serve.
If you would like to store your green beans for later use, you can prepare them for freezing. Just cut them into smaller pieces before blanching. Once cooking and cooling process has finished, dry them thoroughly. Store them in an airtight container such as a freezer safe container or airtight freezer bag.
Steam green beans for maximum nutrient retention. Fill a pot with enough water to reach the bottom of a steamer basket and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the prepared green beans and cover. Cook for 5-10 minutes depending on how firm or fork tender you like your green beans.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the green beans and cook for about 6 minutes, until lightly firm yet fork tender. Drain into a large colander and serve.
Sautéing green beans will really enhance the flavor and allow you to get creative with seasonings and sauce drizzles. First, blanch the green beans (directions noted in method 2 above). Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the blanched green beans as well as any desired spices. Cook for 3-4 minutes and serve.
Roasting green beans is a bit more uncommon than some of the other cooking methods, but it's not to be overlooked. It is a delicious way to bring back memories of eating salty, tender canned green beans as a kid while preserving the nutrients of fresh green beans. Simply preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat. Spread out green beans and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, until fork tender and lightly golden.
Green Bean Recipes
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Image of green beans via Karissa Bowers