How to Cook String Beans


Green Beans Two Ways

What Are String Beans?

String beans, green 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 that the noise they make when snapped.  Let’s go with string beans for now, shall we?

”Blue Lake” string beans are the most common type sold, and the ones we grew up on the ones we most commonly find 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.   This is perhaps more info than you need to cook them

What Do String Beans Look Like? 

Mature string beans are usually 4-6” in length and either round or slightlyu flattened in shape, with some curve in the length. Young string beans, ones picked early, are usually around 3” long and not as thick in diameter.  Most varieties are green, but there are also purple, red, yellow, and streaked varieties.

Green Bean Nicoise Salad

Where Can I Find String Beans?

String beans are readily available in supermarkets, as well as farmers markets (when in season).

How Do I Pick the Best String Beans?

String beans should be firm, crisp, and bright green (or another color).  Make sure they are free of wrinkles, brown spots and bruises.

What Do String 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 are 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.

How to Cook String Beans: How to choose, store, prepare, cook string beans (or green beans or snap beans), plus recipes!

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How Do I Prepare String 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, pinch right under the stem and peel 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. 

Trimming the Green Beans / Katie Workman / / Photo by Laura Agra

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 using in salads and other raw preparations.

How Do I Cook String 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 as easily as Italian or Southern U.S., or other seasonings. 

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.

Slice them up raw or cooked and cooled and mix them into any kind of salad. Saute them simply with citrus and garlic for a delicious side dish, or spice it up with wonderful Asian flavors for a nice side for an Eatern-oriented meal. Or let the string beans shine as the star of a lovely sort of Mediterranean, sort of American summer dish!

Blistered Green Beans with Miso Butter

When are String Beans in Season?

String beans are available year-round but their growing season is usually May-October, when they are most tender.  Look for them at  farmers’ markets too.

How Do I Store String Beans?

Unwashed string 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. 

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, then plunge them into an ice bath to cool before freezing.

Are String Beans Nutritious?

String beans are wonderful for you with a very low calorie count and they are low in sodium. They supply Vitamin C which helps your bones, muscles, and skin stay healthy while also boosting your immune system. String beans also have iron, an essential mineral that supports your metabolism and Vitamin K.

Green Bean Nicoise Salad

String Bean Recipes

 Here are some recipes that use string beans:

Honey Mustard Green Beans

Honey Mustard Green Beans

A simple (5-Minute!) honey mustard dressing transforms green beans into a flavorful side dish.

Fresh Green Bean Casserole / Katie Workman / / Photo by Cheyenne Cohen

Fresh Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole From Scratch! An updated version of a favorite holiday side dish.

Green Beans and Mushrooms with Shallots

Green Beans and Mushrooms with Shallots

Sautéed green beans and mushrooms belong on pretty much any holiday table.

Green Bean Nicoise Salad

Green Bean Nicoise Salad

Capers, shallots, Dijon, olives, sherry vinegar, fresh herbs –  it’s really a vinaigrette on steroids.

Blistered Green Beans with Miso Butter

Blistered Green Beans with Miso Butter

A simple miso-infused butter turns a pile of fresh green beans into an umami bomb.

Thai Green Beans

Thai Green Beans

Green beans get super exciting when sauteed up with a bunch of Thai seasonings and topped with crunchy chopped peanuts.

All-Green Crudités Basket / Carrie Crow

All-Green Crudités Basket

This is a fresh way to offer a healthy opener to dinner. Watch the basket come together!

Lemony Rotini with Goat Cheese Sauce and Spring Vegetables

Lemony Rotini with Goat Cheese Sauce and Spring Vegetables

This pasta, which is surrounded by all kinds of lovely spring vegetables, is easy on the eyes and easy to prepare.

Baked Chicken Legs with Herbs and Lemon

Baked Chicken Legs with Herbs and Lemon

Whole chicken legs are cheap, easy to roast up, and just plain delicious.

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