How to Cook Green Beans

If you've never quite known how to cook green beans... FRESH green beans, then read on.  In fact, if cooking green beans isn't a regular event at your household or if you're serving your kids green beans out of the can, then stop!  Really!!  I was once like you.  Even though I KNEW how much better they tasted (when I got them at restaurants) and how much better they are for us, I didn't think I had TIME to prepare fresh green beans.

I figured that canned green vegetables were better than no green vegetables so, on a regular basis, I emptied a can of green beans into a pot and heated them up on the stove (Yes, I know that I could have done it in the microwave.)  The really funny thing is that I spent just about as much time as cooking fresh green beans would have taken!

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I thought it was due to lack of TIME but, really, I just didn't how to cook green beans!  I had no idea that it's actually very easy.  Now I know and, boy, is it embarrassing to admit this to all of you.  Hopefully, you'll understand where I'm coming from and I'll help some other Mom (or Dad) out there learn how to cook this simple, wonderfully healthy fresh vegetable.  OK.  Here we go…


The easiest method for cooking green beans:

My all-time favorite quick and easy method for preparing fresh green beans (that my kids will actually EAT) is this (also included, recipe-style, below): 

Buy a bag of already trimmed fresh green beans.  Boil a medium to large pot of water.  Wash the green beans and throw them in the pot (without the bag) and boil for about 4 minutes.  This is really called blanching.  They'll turn a bright green color in the process.  This will make a nice, crunchy bean.  If you prefer yours mushy, boil them a little longer.  Empty the beans into a colander to drain the water.  Pour or spray olive oil all over the beans (you don't need much) and then sprinkle a little garlic salt (or salt if you prefer) and serve.  That's it!

Of course, this method works just as well with regular fresh green beans (meaning NOT in a bag.)  You just have to wash and trim the ends off first.  There's typically time for this while the water's boiling.  You can either cut off the tips (about ¼ - ½ inch) OR snap them off with your thumbnail.  As you snap the end of a bean off, pull it down the side of the bean to remove any possible string. Do the same thing with the other tip, pulling it down the other side of the bean. I'm not sure why, but I prefer "snapping" them to cutting them. There's something therapeutic in the process.  Either way, just remove those ends and wash the beans.

Frozen green beans are the next best thing to fresh.  Same method applies.

Some people pour cold water over them after draining in a colander to stop the cooking.  You'll definitely want to do this if you're not serving them right away.  They'll stay fresh-tasting for several hours, especially if you dry and store them in the refrigerator. 

Prefer a shorter length?  Just cut the beans before cooking (either with a straight or angled cut.)  If you prefer a French-cut, cut the beans into 2-inch lengths and then cut each bean lengthwise.

Cheese makes everything more kid-friendly:

My 2nd easiest method for cooking green beans (which my kids LOVE) is to do exactly as above and then sprinkle the beans with Parmesan cheese.

My husband and I prefer just garlic salt, so we'll garlic salt the whole colander (no, I don't bother moving them back to a pan or a serving dish – I just stick a plate under the colander to catch the olive oil drips) and then sprinkle the "shaky cheese" after putting the green beans on the kids' plates.

  Recipes: How to Cook Green Beans  

Here is the boiling/blanching method recipe-style:

How to Blanch Green Beans (Boil)

Ingredients:

  • Fresh green beans (whole or already trimmed)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Optional: Garlic Salt, Salt, and/or Parmesan Cheese

Steps:

  1. Boil a medium to large pot of water (small if you're only preparing green beans for 1 or 2)
  2. Wash the green beans and trim the ends (if not already trimmed)
  3. Once water is boiling, toss green beans in pot and boil (blanch) for about 4 minutes. 
  4. Once they've turned bright green, drain the beans in a colander. 
  5. Pour or spray a small amount of olive oil on the beans
  6. Sprinkle a little garlic salt (or salt if you prefer) and parmesan cheese (optional) and serve (or serve first and allow everyone to flavor their own bean

How to Steam Green Beans (Fastest)

The fastest method for cooking fresh green beans is to steam them (because it's faster to bring an inch of water to a boil than a whole pot of water.)  Set a steamer basket in a saucepan with an inch of water in it, add the fresh green beans to the basket.  When the water comes to a boil, cover the pan, reduce the heat a little, and steam about 4 minutes.  I think I prefer the boiling method because I'd rather wait a few minutes than have 2 pans to clean.  Kind of silly, I know, but we all have to do what works for us.

Steps:

  1. Set a steamer basket insert into a large saucepan and add water to just below the steamer.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add green beans.
  4. Steam to your desired degree of tenderness, or about 5 minutes.

How to Microwave Green Beans

Steps:

  1. Wash the green beans and trim the ends (if not already trimmed)
  2. Place green beans in a microwave-safe dish.
  3. Add about 1 cup of water.
  4. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 minutes per cup, or until cooked.
  5. Drizzle olive oil or top the green beans with some of the remaining recipes

How to Saute Green Beans

Surprisingly, many sauteed green bean recipes actually call for blanching/boiling the green beans before sauteing.  I'm a minimalist when it comes to numbers of pots and pans dirtied while cooking, so I despise this approach!  But I WILL include it below in case you want to try the optimal deliciousness of blanched and then sauteed green beans.

First though, here's a super-quick one-pan method for how to saute green beans:

Sauteed Green Beans (easy approach)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb green beans, with ends trimmed
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil (or butter)
  • Optional seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic, onion,...)

Steps:

  1. Heat olive oil (or butter) in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add green beans (and optional seasonings) to skillet and cook, stirring often, until tender-crisp, 5-10 minutes.

Sauteed Green Beans (perfectionist approach)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb green beans, with ends trimmed
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil (or butter)
  • Optional seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic, onion,...)

Steps:

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil (large enough to cover green beans when they are added)
  2. Add green beans and boil for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Drain beans and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking.  You can add them to an ice bath as well.
  4. Heat olive oil (or butter) in a large skillet over medium heat.
  5. Add green beans (and optional seasonings) to skillet and cook, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes.

How to Roast Green Beans

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Green Beans (whole or already trimmed)
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Coarse Salt or Garlic Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pepper

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash, dry, and trim green beans.
  3. Place green beans on a baking sheet.
  4. Drizzle olive oil all over beans.
  5. Sprinkle salt and pepper over beans.
  6. Mix beans around to be sure all sides are coated.
  7. Roast for 15 minutes, turn green beans over, and roast another 5-10 minutes. Beans should look shriveled and brown in spots.
  8. Remove from oven and serve.

Best way to get your kids to eat fresh green beans:

The best way to get kids to eat ANYTHING is to start them young.  Start giving your toddlers crisp and crunchy green beans (prepared as I describe above except no need for the salt) and continue serving them frequently enough that they never think twice about eating fresh cooked green beans.

What if they're older?  Is it too late?  Of course not!!  It's really NEVER too late to change your kids' eating habits.  You just have to have patience.  Don't change everything overnight.  Change bad habits to good ones… one habit at a time, over several weeks or months.

Best method for getting older kids to eat green beans?  OK, this is NOT a quick method, but it IS the best…  Get your kids to help you plant green beans.  They'll try ANYTHING that they've actually made (or grown) themselves.  Growing green beans is easy too.

Then, try our easy methods above (or my own kids favorite "Crumby Green Beans" recipe on our fresh green bean recipes page) and keep trying variations until it works! 


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