There are lots of ways to cook green beans (or string beans); pretty much any way you can cook a vegetable, you can cook green beans! But sautéing fresh green beans in a pan on the stove is probably my favorite green bean cooking method. It’s so simple, but that little bit of butter (or oil if you prefer, which keeps the dish vegan) and the liquid used to steam the beans in the pan creates the perfect light glaze. Your green beans end up just as tender as you like them (also see How to Cook Haricot Verts).
Green beans are also a very welcome and traditional holiday side dish (Green Bean Casserole!). Serve them at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or anytime you need a healthy green side to round out a big meal. They are perfect with Cornish Hens, Roast Lemon Garlic Turkey Breast, or Beef Filet Tenderloin.
For weeknight dinners, try them with Creamy Garlic Chicken with Potatoes or Pan-Fried Pork Chops. And pick some new favorites from this array of recipes for more green bean inspiration!
Table of Contents
- What Are Green Beans?
- What Do Green Beans Look Like?
- What Do Green Beans Taste Like?
- Buying and Choosing Green Beans
- How to Prepare Green Beans
- How to Blanch Green Beans
- How To Cook Green Beans
- How to Store Green Beans
- How to Freeze Green Beans
- What to Serve With Green Beans
- Green Bean Recipes
- How to Cook Fresh Green Beans Recipe
How to Cook Fresh String Beans: How to choose, store, prepare, and cook fresh green beans, plus recipes!Tweet This
What Are Green Beans?
Green beans, string beans, snap beans…whatever the name, this fine vegetable is immensely popular, an evergreen favorite. “Green beans” is the general name, “string beans” was more common years ago when they were bred with a fibrous string that ran along the seam, and the name “snap beans” is used because of the noise they make when snapped. Let’s go with green beans for now, with an occasional string bean thrown in, shall we?
Green beans are long slender beans that grow above ground. They are eaten fresh, not dried like other types of legume beans. They are also readily available canned and frozen, but when you can start with fresh green beans, especially when they are local and in season, they have a wonderful fresh flavor and appealing texture.
”Blue Lake” green beans are the most common type sold. They’re the ones we grew up on and the ones we most often found at the grocery store. They can be categorized into two different groups: bush or pole beans. If the bean plant needs support to grow, they are classified as pole beans; if the beans can grow on their own without added support, they are classified as bush beans.
What Do Green Beans Look Like?
Mature string beans are usually 4-6 inches in length and either round or slightly flattened in shape, with some curve in the length. Young string beans, ones picked early, are usually around 3 inches long and not as thick in diameter. Most varieties are green, but there are also purple, red, yellow, and streaked varieties.
What Do Green Beans Taste Like?
Raw string beans taste fresh and…kind of green. Yes, green doesn’t exactly describe a flavor, but that’s how I think of it. Actually, string beans don’t have tons of taste on their own; it’s sort of muted and a little starchy, especially when raw.
But cook them and mix them with any of a hundred different ingredients, and they become a delicious and flavorful vegetable. Their texture alone, whether raw or cooked just right, is very pleasurable.
Buying and Choosing Green Beans
String beans are available year-round, but their growing season is usually May through October when they are most tender. Green beans are readily available in supermarkets. Look for them at farmers markets (when in season), too.
String beans should be firm, crisp, and bright green (or another color). Make sure they are free of wrinkles, brown spots, and bruises.
How to Prepare Green Beans
String beans are easy to prepare. The ends that have a stem are where they grew from the bush/pole. Remove those by either cutting the end or, my preferred method, pinching right under the stem and peeling downward. That way, if there is any fibrous string attached, it will come off with the motion. If fresh from a farmers market and there is dirt on them, give them a good rinse before using them in a recipe.
Once clean and trimmed, they are ready to be cut in any way desired (or not at all) and cooked with (or eaten)! Young string beans are best for use in salads and other raw preparations.
How to Blanch Green Beans
Blanching green beans locks in their bright green color and gives them a crisp-tender texture. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set it to the side. Have a colander (or strainer or slotted spoon) at the ready.
- For mature green beans, you just need to snap off the ends and de-string them (see How to Prepare Green Beans above). Younger, thinner green beans don’t need any trimming.
- Add the green beans to the pot of boiling water. If you are blanching a large amount of beans, do them in batches so that they don’t lower the temperature of the water too much. If you are doing the green beans in batches, you may want to use a slotted spoon (or a spider, which is a large, round, long, handled strainer or skimmer often used in restaurants) if you have one. This will allow you to move the vegetables to the ice bath and then quickly return the water to a boil so you can cook the next batch.
- Once the vegetables have been plunged into the water, let them cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then drain the green beans and plunge them into the water bath. Let them sit until they are completely cool. The timing will depend on the thickness and age of your green beans and how tender you want them. You can remove one green bean and drop it into the ice bath, then bite it to test doneness. After blanching, you can enjoy them as is as part of a crudite platter or a salad, use them in a cooked recipe, or freeze them.
How To Cook Green Beans
Part of the allure of string beans is that they are so versatile. They are perfect accompaniments but can also hold the spotlight. And they can be prepared with an Asian flair (think of Thai Greens Beans) as easily as Italian (try Green Beans with Gremolata). Green beans are very popular throughout the U.S., especially in the South.
String beans can be boiled, sautéed, stir-fried, fried, steamed, roasted, or even microwaved. My grandfather loved them loaded with butter and floppy and overcooked, while my sister prefers them loaded with butter but tender yet crisp (but you can see the genetics at work!).
Slice them up raw or cooked and cooled and mix them into any kind of salad. Sauté them simply with citrus and garlic for a delicious side dish, as directed below. Or let them shine in a Green Bean Nicoise Salad. Also, see Air Fryer Green Beans.
Below is the simplest recipe for sauteed green beans, prepared very simply with garlic, salt, pepper, and some olive oil. You can use broth or water to steam them.
How to Cook Green Beans on the Stove
- Sauté the green beans: In a large skillet, melt the butter or heat the oil over medium heat. (Use oil for a vegan green bean dish.) Add the green beans and the garlic and toss in the pan for 2 minutes, until you can smell the garlic.
- Steam the green beans: Add the broth or water, raise the heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot tightly, adjust the heat a bit lower, and simmer until the beans are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.
- Finish cooking the green beans: Remove the lid and cook, tossing occasionally, until the broth is nearly evaporated and the beans are tender, about 4 minutes longer.
- Season and serve: Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Turn the beans into a serving bowl and serve hot, warm, or room temperature.
How to Store Green Beans
Unwashed green beans can be stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container or bag for up to 7 days. If you wash them, they will last for less time, as moisture will make them go bad faster.
How to Freeze Green Beans
Raw string beans also freeze nicely but do wash and trim them before freezing, even cutting them into smaller pieces if desired. If you really want to retain their texture and bright color for when you cook them, give them a quick blanch in boiling water.
Before freezing, blanch green beans for 30 to 60 seconds (see above). Once the beans are cool, pat them very dry with a clean dishtowel. Place them in a freezer-proof sealable bag. press out any excess air, and seal the bag. Label with the name and date, and freeze for up to 6 months.
Depending on how crisp-tender or tender you like them, green beans should be cooked on the stove for a total of 6 to 10 minutes. I like to sauté them first with a bit of garlic and oil or butter to coat them, then add some liquid and steam then the rest of the way through. Once the green beans have become crisp-tender, you’ll want to remove the lid from the pan and cook them until the liquid evaporated. This allows the butter or oil to form a lovely glaze on the green beans.
Test one every few minutes to see when they are done to your liking. Know that they will continue to soften a bit once you remove them from the heat, so don’t let them get too soft.
Green beans are very healthy! They have a very low calorie count, and they are low in sodium. String beans also have iron, an essential mineral that supports your metabolism, along with antioxidants and Vitamin K (via Medical News Today).
You can cook frozen green beans in the same way that you cook fresh, and you don’t even need to defrost them. If the green beans are packaged, just sauté and then steam them just as directed in this recipe.
The same is true if you froze your own green beans. If the green beans were blanched before freezing, they will take about the same time as fresh green beans. If not, you may need to add a few more minutes of steaming to allow them to become tender.
The easiest way to cook perfect green beans is on the stove!Tweet This
What to Serve With Green Beans
Green Bean Recipes
- Honey Mustard Green Beans
- Green Bean Salad with Clementine Oranges and Feta
- Sautéed Haricot Verts with Red Onions and Shallots
- Blistered Green Beans with Miso Butter
- Bacon-Wrapped Green Beans
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How to Cook Fresh Green Beans
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
- 1 pound green beans, (trimmed)
- 1 small garlic clove (minced)
- ½ cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
- In a large skillet, melt the butter or heat the oil over medium heat. Add the green beans and the garlic and toss in the pan for 2 minutes, until you can smell the garlic. Add the broth or water, raise the heat to high, and bring to a simmer.
- Cover the pot tightly, adjust the heat a bit lower, and simmer until the beans are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Remove the lid and cook, tossing occasionally, until the broth is nearly evaporated and the beans are tender, about 4 minutes longer. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Turn the beans into a serving bowl and serve hot, warm, or room temperature.
- To trim green beans, remove the ends by either cutting them off or pinching right under the stem and peeling downward. That way, if there is any fibrous string attached, it will come off.
- If they are very young and tender, you might not need to string them.
- If fresh from a farmers market and there is dirt on them, give them a good rinse before using them in a recipe.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.