Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are at their most tender when they are in season in the spring. They are mildly flavored legumes that grow in bumpy greenish pods harvested from flowering pea plants. As they mature, they form a tough outer yellow-whitish skin around the beans within the pod that should be removed before eating. Cooking fresh fava beans is a bit of a labor-intensive process, but also kind of therapeutic. Blanching is just one of the necessary steps it takes to enjoy tender fava beans.
Fava beans have been cultivated throughout the world for millennia. They were part of the cuisines of the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. They are very popular throughout Europe, especially in Italy. Fava beans are also a big part of Middle Eastern cooking.
What Do Fava Beans Taste Like?
The younger beans are milder in flavor, as well as more tender. The flavor is buttery and nutty and very vegetal. There is a slight appealing bitterness as well.
How to Cook Fresh Fava Beans
Fresh favas can be boiled, steamed, added to soups, stews, and salads (including this chickpea and fava bean salad), or sauteed, which is the easiest way to make a simple side dish out of them. When very young and tender, they can also be eaten raw, and if very young and tender, the pods can be eaten as well. You can use them in dips and purees. You’ll still want to blanch them first to make removing the white skin from the beans easier.
How to Shell Fava Beans
Shell the beans, discarding the pods. You can snap off the stem end and then pull the string down the side to open the pods. Or you can use a small sharp knife to carefully cut down the seam of the bean, and then open it and remove the beans.
Once shelled, fresh fava beans generally need to be peeled before cooking them. Below are the instructions for doing just that. However, if you are lucky enough to get very young fava beans, the skins are tender enough to be edible. You’ll have the best chance of finding young fava beans in early spring. The skin of the fava bean must be green for it to be tender enough to eat; if it is yellow or yellowing, it will be too tough.
Because fava beans come in such large bulky pods, it can be difficult to know how many shelled fava beans you’ll end up with after all is said and done. The measurements and conversations in the charts below are estimates, as different pods will yield different results. There will usually be 4 or 5 beans inside each pod, and 1 pound of pods typically yields around ¾ cup of shelled beans.
Also, the more mature the pods are, the larger the beans, so the more you will get per pound. However, the skins definitely need to be removed for the larger beans, and the more mature they are, the thicker the skins. So when you remove the thicker skins, there will be a more notable loss of volume. Use the following equivalents as a guideline.
Shelled Fava Beans Per Pound of Pods
|Fava Beans in the Pod||Shelled Fava Beans|
|1 pound||about ¾ cup|
|2 pounds||about 1 ½ cups|
|3 pounds||about 2 ¼ cups|
|4 pounds||about 3 cups|
Weight of Shelled Fava Beans in Pounds
|Shelled Fava Beans (Weight)||Shelled Fava Beans (Volume)|
|½ pound||about 2 cups|
|¾ pound||about 3 cups|
|1 pound||about 3 ¾ cups|
How to Prepare Fresh Fava Beans
Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop the pods into the boiling water. Boil for 30 seconds. Drain the pods.
Submerge the pods in the ice bath. Let them sit for a few minutes until chilled.
Snap one end of the shell and pull the string down the seam of the pod to open the pod. There will be about 4 or 5 beans inside. Remove the beans.
Slip the skins off by pinching them and sliding them off of each bean. Then proceed with your recipe. After this quick blanching, the beans will be just barely crisp-tender, and you can use them as is in salads.
If you want more tender beans, just cook them for longer, up to 5 minutes, for very tender fava. But if you are going to add them to a recipe that requires more cooking time, all you need is the 30 seconds of blanching to make it easier to remove the skins before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
How to Cook Fava Beans: Buttery and nutty, fava beans are one of the most loved vegetables of spring.Tweet This
Allergies and Nutrition
Be aware of any intolerances or allergies to fava beans. Some people of African, Southeast Asian, and Mediterranean descent can have an enzyme deficiency that causes a severe reaction. There are some other conditions that can become complicated by eating fava beans, like Parkinson’s disease. Something to know!
For those of us lucky enough to enjoy them, fava beans are quite nutritious. They are high in protein, folate, and fiber. They are also rich in potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, copper, and calcium.
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How to Cook Fresh Fava Beans
- 1 pound fresh fava beans
- Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
- Drop the pods into the boiling water. Boil for 30 seconds.
- Drain the pods and submerge the pods in the ice bath. Let them sit for a few minutes until chilled.
- Snap one end of the shell and pull the string down the seam of the pod to open the pod. There will be about 4 or 5 beans inside. Remove the beans.
- Slip the skins off by pinching them and sliding them off of each bean. Then proceed with your recipe.
- After this quick blanching, the beans will be just barely crisp-tender, and you can use them as is in salads.If you want more tender beans, just cook them longer, up to 5 minutes, for very tender fava. But if you are going to add them to a recipe that included more cooking time, all you need is the 30 seconds of blanching to make it easier to remove the skins before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.
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