How to cook green beans

How to cook green beans

How to cook green beans

Green beans, also known as fine beans, string beans or bobby beans, are a wonderful addition to the summer dinner table. They are packed with vitamins and minerals, and an excellent source of fibre too. The beans change slightly across different varieties – yellow or wax beans have an ever so slightly milder flavour and are a beautiful pastel yellow colour, French beans or haricot vert are a finer, less stringy version, and the yard-long bean (aka snake bean or Chinese long bean) are, you guessed it, a longer variety. Grown in Asia, this variety is popular in Keralan cooking and Chinese stir-fries.

The British season is from June to September, but you’ll find Kenyan imports all year round. The perfect green bean should be a nice bright green (unless it’s the yellow or purple variety), with no blemishes. They should be firm and snap when bent in half.

How to cook green beans

A 3–5 minute boil or steam will cook the beans whilst retaining their crunch. Once you've cooked your beans, plunge them into iced water to stop them cooking – this stops them overcooking in their residual heat, and also helps to retain a bright, verdant green colour (if you don't plunge them into ice water after cooking, the colour will likely fade). To get the most benefit from the beans’ vitamins and minerals, serve them raw as crudités. At the other end of the scale, roasting green beans really brings out the umami flavour and are great served with other umami rich ingredients such as black olives, bacon or parmesan. Our roasted green beans with sticky garlic and Parmesan crumb is the perfect example of this.

In Chinese cooking, green beans are often fried or dry-fried in a smoking hot wok – this blisters the outside of the bean giving it a slightly charred flavour, as in our Sichuan green bean recipe.

Anything acidic like a vinegary dressing should be tossed through right before serving if you’d like to retain the bright green colour. However, they are lovely braised in a garlicky, tomato stew, like in our Greek green bean recipe. This is a particularly good way to use up any larger, older beans which tend to be a bit stringier; chop them into smaller pieces, braise them gently and they’ll become soft and tender. Green beans are a classic allotment veg, so if you end up with a big glut, why not try pickling them? Pickled green beans are a great cheese board addition or even garnish for a Bloody Mary.

To keep it nice and simple, follow the recipe below.


  • 200g of green beans
  • 1 knob of butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 handful of soft herbs, roughly chopped
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil
Carefully add the green beans to the pan and boil for 3–5 minutes depending on the thickness of the bean. You want them to be soft but retain a little crunch
Drain the beans in a colander then return to the pan with a knob of butter. Toss to melt, then sprinkle in some chopped herbs and season with salt and pepper

What do green beans go with

Popular in salads, green beans are probably best known in the classic French salad Nicoise. Try Eric Chavot's fiery take on it here or a similar Italian version called Condiglione. Though as with all greens, melted butter, salt, pepper and soft herbs is a winning combination; particularly when served alongside a Sunday roast.

Green beans are popular in Indian cuisine as they taste great with a bit of spice. Try Alfred Prasad's fine bean and potato curry for a delicious vegetarian side. Or serve with punchy pickled mustard seeds in Peter Joseph’s wonderful sea bass dish.