Green beans may be most well-known by their inevitable appearance on the Thanksgiving table, shrouded in cream of mushroom soup and topped with French fried onions. But in the summer, when they’re in their peak season, we tend to lean on green beans for lighter, fresher fare.
Crisp and slender beans pair up with fresh herbs, lettuces, and other vibrant summer veg for a whole new look. They’re tender, sweet, and earthy with just the right amount of crunch.
If you’ve never cooked with fresh green beans or need some more inspiration on how to use them, we’ve gathered everything you need to know right here.
When Are Green Beans in Season?
Green beans can generally be found fresh all year long but reach their peak in the warmer months. Between early summer and early fall, bushels of beans will find their way into simple salads, flavorful stir fries, and pickling jars.
Varieties of Green Beans
There are many different varieties of green beans, which can range in pod shape (from super thin beans to flatter, broader beans), color (from green to purple, red to black streaked), and growing style (either a short bush or long, twisting vines).
The term “green bean” refers to all long, tender beans that are green in color, but they can also be called string beans, snap beans, bush beans, or haricots verts. Yellow “green” beans and purple "green" beans are called wax beans and are also quite popular during the summer months when they’re in season.
Where to Buy Green Beans
Green beans can be bought fresh, frozen, or canned from most grocery stores and online. During their peak season, you’ll be able to find small baskets of green beans, wax beans, and many different-colored varieties of snap beans at your local farmers markets. When buying fresh beans, look for firm, smooth, vibrant pods that snap easily when bent.
If you have a garden at home, you can grow both bush and pole beans relatively easily. Plant your seeds directly in your garden (about 1 inch deep) after any danger of frost has passed; green beans are fragile and need the warm weather to survive and thrive. Water the seeds and plants regularly so the soil stays moist.
For more detailed information on growing your own green beans, see this guide.
How to Store Green Beans
Green beans should be stored unwashed in the crisper drawer of your fridge. If they came in a bag, keep them in the bag when storing. If they came in a small berry box from the market, transfer them to a reusable storage or plastic bag before storing them in the fridge.
Stored properly, the beans should keep for up to one week. If the beans turn very brown or feel slimy, they’ve gone bad.
How to Prep and Cook Green Beans
While green beans (pods and all) can technically be eaten raw, they are most often served cooked and take kindly to just about any cooking method, from steaming to blanching, baking to sautéing, even pickling!
As with other vegetables, give them a thorough rinse before you are ready to cook with them. Trim the stem end (the end where the bean connected to the plant) which looks brown and is too tough to eat. The other end can be trimmed, but is perfectly edible, so the choice is yours. There used to be a fibrous string running along the seam of these beans, but thanks to selection and breeding, this has all but been eliminated.
Once you’ve trimmed the beans, quickly check them for any brown, damaged sections of pods (which you can slice off). If you see any of the beans inside of the pods have turned brown, discard or compost that pod. Leave them whole, chop them into segments, or even slice them thinly on the bias for a more elegant, bite-size addition to a salad or stir fry.
Green beans work well in a variety of different preparations. Blanch or steam them before tossing them with some butter and herbs for a simple summer side dish or use the crisp tender beans as the base for a salad. Toss them directly into stir fries, casseroles, or soups.
If you’re making pasta, add chopped green beans into the pot a few minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, then dress with your favorite pesto for a really quick weeknight meal. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even batter and deep fry (or air fry) green beans!
The key to keeping the vibrant green color of the beans, no matter how you prepare them, is to keep their cooking time relatively short. They need no more than seven minutes to crisp-tender perfection. Purple varieties will turn green when you cook them, so don’t be alarmed at the magic of their color-changing pods.
How to Freeze Green Beans
While you can buy frozen green beans from just about any supermarket, if you happen to have an excess of beans at home, freezing them is straightforward and simple to do.
Green Bean Recipes
Green beans are incredibly versatile, tasty vegetables. Serve them in salads, stir fry them, roast them, or throw them into a casserole—the choice is yours!
- Salad Niçoise
- Gochujang Green Beans
- Green Bean Salad with Lemon and Dill
- Summer Minestrone Soup
- Roasted Green Beans with Onions and Walnuts
- Green Beans with Bacon
- Green Bean Salad with Basil, Balsamic, and Parmesan
- Wax Beans with Mint
- Sichuan-Style Stir-Fried Chinese Long Beans