Green Beans with Bacon

There is nothing better than garden fresh green beans. Even when my parents abandoned their garden beds for ten years, they still had their green bean “tee-pees” every summer. My father is rather picky about his beans. They must snap and break when you bend them, not wiggle around like a rubber band. That’s how you know they’re fresh. I have a couple rows of green beans this year, planted from seed right after I pulled out the fava beans and spring peas. (BTW, if you grow green beans from seed, it helps to soak the beans over night in water before planting them, or place them between two layers of wet paper towels for a couple of days, so they germinate first.) They like heat, and at least in our part of the world, come into their own in August and September. When I left for vacation the plants were only a foot high, two weeks later they are climbing over the fence.

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So far I’ve pulled off a total of one mighty green bean, but my parents got started on their bean teepee a few weeks before I did, so their beans are now ripe for picking. Zucchini can sometimes wear me out, if I have to eat it every. single. day. But green beans? I can eat a pound all on my own (as Hank can attest, as I ate almost the whole batch of these) and never get tired of them.

Here’s the trick with green beans. Usually we boil them. If you boil them for longer than 7 minutes, they’ll turn a brownish olive color. It’s just a chemical reality. Tough old beans will take longer than 7 minutes to cook to tenderness, so no matter what you do, they’ll be off color by the time you eat them. Fresh, young beans though? They should cook quickly enough so they’ll still have that vibrant green color when cooked. This recipe is a simple preparation in which the beans are first boiled, then sautéed very quickly in bacon fat, then tossed with chopped bacon and sprinkled with black pepper. Easy and absolutely delicious. At the very end you sprinkle on some vinegar or lemon juice. Acid is another thing that will turn green beans from green to brown, so add the vinegar just before serving.

Green Beans with Bacon Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 as a side dish.

Not all green beans are alike. The longer the bean was on the vine, the tougher it can be. Fresh, young beans should be able to cook up perfectly well in less than 6 minutes. Tough old beans, you'll have to cook a lot longer to get them tender. Look for beans that easily snap in half when you bend them.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, ends snipped off and discarded, extra long beans, cut in half if you want
  • Salt
  • 2-3 slices of bacon
  • Black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice or cider or red wine vinegar

Method

1 Heat a pot of salted water to a rolling boil (1 Tbsp salt for 2 quarts of water). Add the green beans and boil them for 4-5 minutes, until just tender enough to eat (you may have to cook longer depending on the particular green beans you have). Drain and set aside.

2 While the water is heating up to boil the beans, slowly cook the bacon until crispy in a large sauté pan set over medium-low heat. Use a slotted spoon or a fork to remove the bacon from the pan. Set the bacon on paper towels to sop up the excess fat. You should have about one tablespoon of fat left in the pan. Pour off any fat beyond 1 tablespoon. (Do not pour the fat down the drain or you'll stop up your drain.) If you have much less fat than a tablespoon left in the pan, add a little olive oil or butter to the pan.

3 Once the green beans are cooked, sauté them over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes in the bacon fat. Dice the bacon and add to the pan and sauté another minute. Put the beans and bacon into a large serving bowl and sprinkle generously with freshly ground black pepper. Toss with lemon juice or vinegar and serve at once.

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Links:

Green Bean Salad with Fried Almonds - from Smitten Kitchen
Green Beans with Leeks and Dill - from 101 Cookbooks
Spicy Roasted Green Beans with Shrimp - from Kalyn's Kitchen


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24 Comments

  1. Charlene

    Elise, my beans have just now started coming in too. I made your Mexican Green Bean Salad last night and it was divine, as usual. I’ve made it many many times now. Hubby keeps telling people how good it is.

    Here is another recent find, a very refreshing way to prepare fresh green beans and zucchini: http://www.food52.com/recipes/4764_french_bean_salad_with_tarragon_and_green_peppercorn

  2. Cynthia L. Kowalski

    I have a grandmother that has been doing her snap beans this way for years. The only suggestion I can make is if you like this and you want to improve it a bit, do as she sometimes did ,and as you cook the bacon (when it’s almost done) add a small minced onion (any kind you like). The result is Heaven for fresh beans!!Cook just till the onion starts to get opaque and you still have a little texture. YUMMMMMMMMMMY.

  3. Kalyn

    I’m loving the fresh green beans here too! The last few years I’ve been growing the bush-type beans but this year they aren’t producing as well and I’m thinking next year I might switch back to the vine type. I could just eat a big plate of these for lunch and be very happy!

  4. Bella

    Ah-ha! I didn’t know the trick about boiling the fresh beans first. I’d always saute ‘em in butter and wait, and wait, and wait…

  5. Cecilia Gunther

    Oh look at your lovely garden. I am with your dad on only considering the freshest of beans. A very old lady taught me about the green beans and bacon just the other day. Quite an old local recipe around here. So I am thrilled to get the actual recipe from you.(being a NZer i am still playing catch-up with the old american dishes!) lovely c

  6. tommy2rs

    Since I prefer my younger green beans crisper I skip the boiling part and just saute the green beans in bacon grease with onions and a bit of garlic. Top with crumbled bacon, salt and pepper and I’m good to go.

    The older green beans I boil with new potatoes and smoked pork neck bones (can substitute smoked turkey wings, etc.). With cornbread on the side it’s an easy meal.

    Great suggestion, thanks! ~Elise

  7. Annette

    If you steam the green beans for the same amount of time rather than boiling them, the tougher ones become more tender and you don’t have to separate them. Have an ice bath ready and keep in the fridge for when you’re ready for sauteing them. Also, they will keep their green color and snap.

  8. Jane

    Mmmmm, beans! I planted bean seeds (bean beans?) THREE times because our resident groundhog would mow them down as soon as they were 3″ high. I finally gave up. But surprise! ONE plant came back to life after being totally defoliated, and is now about a foot high! I won’t get many beans from one plant, but I feel I’ve won a small battle in a big, rodenty war.

    I’ve been steaming my (storebought…sigh) beans lately instead of boiling, and with a wee bit of butter and some sea salt there is really not much better. But hey…bacon…did someone say bacon?

    I hear you on the zucchini…mine is finally slowing down so I don’t have to send a bagful to work with my husband every week! I just saw a recipe by Adam Ried in a recent Boston Globe magazine that sounds awesome, though…for a zucchini, corn, and poblano gratin. Here’s the link:
    http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/articles/2011/08/07/try_zucchini_gratin_for_summery_sides_and_suppers/

    I am absolutely trying this!

  9. Barbara | Creative Culinary

    I just did a big batch of green beans recently. I didn’t boil them so much as I sort of steamed them in chicken stock but they also had bacon, onions and mushrooms. I forget how amazing they are when so fresh after a winter of frozen beans. We were happy to go without any other food and just had big bowls of green beans for dinner.

  10. Michele

    So many great memories of my mom’s garden and beans. My son still says hers are the best. We love to saute them with onions and fresh tomatoes and a little balsamic vinegar, but I have never made them with bacon. So happy there is always a tomorrow, aren’t you? ;)

    Michele

  11. Denise

    I agree with commenter Cynthia Kowalski—add some onion! If you add some fresh diced tomato this becomes an old German dish called “Schnitzel Beans”.

  12. terri

    If you use soy sauce instead of vinegar and serve it over rice, it’s a complete meal :)

  13. Frank Lynch

    Perhaps my least favorite vegetable; but I will eat them in a similar recipe once pulled through a julienne and served with prosciutto and pine nuts.

    For me the julienning opens up their tender insides.

  14. russ

    I have a suggestion rather than boiling your beans ( or any vegetable ) steam them…Boiling will leach out some of the goodness vitimans.. steaming is so much better for any vegatable & it does not take near as much water…& by the way bacon makes anything better !!!!

  15. Mitch

    I think you meant cook 4-5 hours. These need to be labeled Yankee Green Beans with Bacon. You would make a bad southerner.

  16. B

    Try using balsamic vinegar. Even canned green beans taste good with balsamic vinegar. We steam, then saute in olive oil, add parmesan and black pepper. The parmesan gets a little melty, and some of it sticks to the pan and turns crispy. mmm.

  17. Mike

    I pile beans on aluminum foil, add butter, pepper, and crumbled crisp bacon. Seal the foil, then put the package on the grill for ~ 20 minutes. And…the clean-up is negligible.

  18. Kathi

    I love to add some fresh garlic and ginger when cooking the bacon. These give the beans great flavor.

  19. jonathan

    I smelled bacon. And it led me here. Shouldn’t this be reworked and renamed, however? Let’s call it…”Bacon with Green Beans Recipe”. (As always, thanks, E!)

  20. JB

    Can anyone tell me when I add potatoes to green beans, how can I get the potatoes to turn brown?

    If you add potatoes to the green beans, they will boil, and not ever get hot enough to brown. Potatoes also take longer to cook than green beans. What I would do is to cube them, boil them in salted water until just done, but still firm, then sauté them in a little oil or bacon fat on high heat, without stirring, until browned. Then add them to the green beans and bacon. ~Elise

  21. chef G

    nothing loves green beans more than bacon but to really make um pop you need acid. whether it be lemon, vinegar, lime or wine. something has to cut the fat of the bacon and freshen the green bean. The marriage is perfect. I love you chef G.

  22. KariVery

    This reminds me of one of my Mom’s recipes – she’d cook the bacon, then saute slices of sweet white onion in the bacon fat until they were nice and brown. Then, she’d mix in fresh, lightly steamed green beans and lots and lots of black pepper with a dash of lemon juice. That flavor combination is so delicious!

  23. Dawn Nelson

    I also sometimes add onion by itself, and sometimes just a pinch or two of brown sugar or some fresh minced garlic with the bacon and the onions. Love my green beans, and am constantly looking for new ways to dress them up.

  24. Breanna Klein

    Thanks for the trick about boiling the the fresh beans first and the tip of adding vinegar on them just before serving! This recipe sounds absolutely delicious. Your pictures are really nice too!

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