The most deliciously easy recipe and versatile side dish for sautéed green beans. Tossed in a glossy dressing with garlic, breadcrumbs, seeds and fresh herbs, add your own best twist depending on what you're serving with it.
How do you Flavour Green Beans?
In his Guide Culinaire, the chef's culinary bible of French cuisine, Auguste Escoffier explains that fresh green beans or haricots verts, have to be given extra care when cooking to keep their flavour.
Overcooked, they become not just limp but lose their green vibrant chlorophyll colour and even turn grey. So it's important to precise about the vegetable's flavour before even adding to it.
Escoffier goes on to precise that there's no need to refresh the beans in cold water when they're cooked until still firm. Instead, toss them in a frying pan to evaporate any excess water with lots of butter and season with salt and pepper. Any freshly chopped herbs are always added at the end to preserve their flavour and vitamins.
This is basically the same classic French method of cooking green beans. Except this has less butter, a little olive oil and plenty of garlic - toasted in the pan together with breadcrumbs and sesame seeds.
Garlic helps brings out the taste of the beans and, depending on what you're serving with it (fish, meat etc.) fresh herbs such as parsley plus chives or chervil are added just before serving. If serving with vegetarian dishes, then add some chopped walnuts into the sauté mixture too.
Do I Need to Blanch or Boil Green Beans Before Sautéing?
Although it's possible to cook green beans directly in the sauté pan, it's best to briefly pre-cook them, otherwise they're slightly chewy.
After trying both ways, the family votes for pre-boiling them briefly as they are more tender. What's more, they retain their green colour due to the cooking method below.
I guess it's not for nothing that the great French chefs - including Auguste Escoffier - precise pre-cooking green beans! What's important is how to cook them in the pan.
Sautéed Green Beans with Garlic
Full printable recipe below.
First prepare all the ingredients and close as possible to serving. This is delicious with any kinds of fresh French beans (including haricots beurre, the yellow variety). Although normally served with thinner beans ('fin' in French), up the cooking time if yours are a little thicker.
I like to use 6 cloves of garlic. It sounds a lot but with green beans, it's the best combination. Please use real cloves of garlic and not the powdered stuff. The flavour is nowhere near the same. If you prefer something less intense with fresh garlic, then use less or replace with a finely chopped shallot.
Any kind of dried white breadcrumbs are good but if you have panko crumbs, even better. Sesame seeds add a healthy addition - as are linseeds or poppy seeds.
Try to find French butter (82% fat) - either unsalted with a good pinch (¼ tsp) of fleur de sel (Maldon or Celtic sea salt) or use salted (demi-sel).
How to Pre-Cook the Beans
Boil a large pan of unsalted water then reduce to a simmer and add the beans.
Add a little bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to preserve their green colour.
Cook uncovered just until the beans become tender but al dente, still with a bite to taste. As our family are tender souls about their beans' readiness, taste first for the nod of approval.
Note: the paradox is that the French tend to go for slightly more cooked vegetables, compared to the UK, where we prefer them more squeeky on the teeth!
This should take no longer than 8 minutes, depending on the beans' thickness. Really thin beans only need about 3-4 minutes.
For much more, see the Green Beans page
for best cooking tips and serving suggestions.
Cooking Green Beans in the Pan
While the green beans are cooking, heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over low-medium heat. Add the finely chopped garlic (with central vein removed), breadcrumbs, sesame seeds and chopped parsley.
Cook and stir for up to 2 minutes until toasted. Stirring helps to distribute the heat - avoid burning the garlic, as the resulting taste is really bitter.
Drain the green beans in a colander.
Add the butter to the pan and, as soon as melted, toss in the vegetables.
Season with salt (fleur de sel), a few turns of the pepper-mill and toss in the glossy mixture until well coated.
Lemon Juice and Green Veg
A wee word on lemon juice with greens. We love to add a little lemon juice, especially if serving sautéed green beans with fish or poultry. However, adding acidic lemon juice to green vegetables changes their colour.
So if you still want your vegetables to be extra green, hold on squeezing lemon juice directly on the beans in the sauté pan.
Instead, serve directly on the plate and squeeze at the table. Delicious, for example, with breaded turkey done the same way as breaded pork Schnitzel.
Add a little extra freshly chopped parsley to serve and enjoy as a side dish with fish, meat or vegetarian dishes. Also excellent with creamy chorizo risotto and classic monkfish stew (lotte à l'Américaine), to appreciate the garlic flavours.
Sautéed Green Beans
- large non-stick sauté pan 26cm (10 inches)
- 500 g (18oz/ 3 cups) slender green beans top and tailed
- ¼ tsp (good pinch) bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil extra virgin
- 6 cloves garlic finely chopped, minced
- 30 g (2 tbsp) dried breadcrumbs or Panko
- 15 g (1 tbsp) sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoon flat leaf parsley finely chopped
- 20 g (1½ tbsp) butter
- Bring a large pan of unsalted water to the boil then turn down to simmer. Drop in the trimmed beans and cook uncovered with the bicarbonate of soda for about 4-8 minutes, depending on their size, until slightly crisp or al dente (soft but with a bite to one at taste).
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in the pan over low-medium heat. Add the garlic, breadcrumbs, sesame seeds and parsley. Cook and stir for up to 2 minutes until toasted.
- Drain the beans in a colander. Add the butter to the pan and, as soon as melted, toss in the green beans. Season with salt (fleur de sel) and pepper and toss in the glossy mixture until well coated.