Garlic Green Beans

Improve less-than-fresh supermarket green beans – and dress up lovely truly fresh ones! – with this simple recipe for Garlic Green Beans.

Improve less-than-fresh green beans - and dress up lovely truly fresh ones! - with this simple recipe for Garlic Green Beans.

A glance at Inhabited Kitchen will tell you that we like vegetables, and the fresher, the better. That’s why we participated in Community Supported Agriculture for years, and also shopped at Greenmarket (a wonderful farmer’s market) in New York City.

But long time readers, who have been around in February and March before, have also seen me discuss the problem of “fresh” produce in winter in the Northeast. Which is that it isn’t really fresh…  The vegetables in the produce section of supermarkets, especially when it is not growing season in your area, were often harvested weeks before, then shipped across the continent (if necessary.) They’ve spent time in trucks and warehouses and distribution centers, they’ve been handled countless times, and, well – they’re not very fresh. (Here in North Carolina I will be able to get really fresh local vegetables much sooner than I could in New York – and I look forward to that!)

And that is the reason that in winter, I have cooked cabbage and root vegetables (which may be local storage or may have also been shipped cross country – but stand up to the treatment well) but also used frozen vegetables – which are flash frozen a day or two after harvest. Which means they are often much better quality.

A plate with Garlic Green Beans.

The parents, though, strongly prefer their “fresh” vegetables, and I need to give them what they like.  And, well – the quality varies…  Take this week. I got a big bag of Brussels Sprouts, which are in fine condition (although they were harvested in Chile three weeks before I bought them – Brussels Sprouts, like most cruciferous vegetables, keep well.) I bought green beans at the same time, though, and, well – they look nice, but they need a little help. I just steamed them, the first night, and while not bad, neither taste nor texture were quite what one would hope for. (That’s another issue, here, at least – they all seem to come in prepacked bags, so I get more than even our family eat in one night, so they sit around even longer!)

Anyhow – I have found, over the years, that lightly sauteing vegetables often helps with texture issues. It somehow seems to crisp limp vegetables and tenderize tough ones. These were a bit more chewy than crisp, so I thought it would help. I could also use it to add flavor (which was also lacking.) Garlic is both easy and a classic combination, so I went for it.

Most directions I’ve seen for garlic green beans tell you to boil the beans first, then saute them in butter and garlic. And you can certainly do that…  (And if you chose to follow this recipe with frozen beans, just for the flavor, you essentially have done that!)  But that wasn’t going to sove my texture issues, so I did it the other way around.


Trim fresh green beans.

First, of course, wash and trim the green beans. When I was a kid, Mom taught me to trim both ends, but there’s no real need for that – just snap off the stem. And if an end is already snapped or cut, break it off as well – you don’t want the cut part that has browned…  I’ll be honest, I usually continue to snap into bite sized pieces, but I left them long this time because it is pretty…

And the garlic – I used minced garlic from a jar (It’s easy, the parents keep it in the house) but if you use fresh garlic, mince it now, before you start cooking.

Saute fresh green beans in a pan.

Heat oil in a fry pan. Once it is hot, add the beans. (Not the garlic! If you add it this soon, it will burn and get bitter.) Stir the beans around every minute or so. You can see, looking at the picture, that parts are a brighter green – that’s where they have started to cook. And if you get a few spots that start to brown and sear, that’s all to the good – more flavor – but I don’t want a lot of searing with this the way I do with some vegetables.

Add garlic to sauteed green beans while still in pan over heat

Once they are mostly that brighter color, add the garlic and stir well. Give it just a minute to start cooking in the oil in the pan and on the beans – and then add a splash of water, and cover. Lower the heat, and steam the beans until they are done to your taste.  (And if you start with frozen beans? Just saute them with the garlic until heated through. They’re already fully cooked.)

Now – green beans are one of the vegetables where “Your taste” really varies… I knew a cook in a residential retirement community who complained that some residents had told him that green beans should be cooked five minutes until crisp, and others half an hour (preferably with bacon) until soft… and he could not very well do both to the same innocent bean! I was reminded of this a while ago looking at a recipe on another blog where half the comments said they’d cooked it five to ten minutes longer, and half five minutes less. So I have to tell you –  I’d check it in three to four minutes (remember, the beans are already partially cooked) but if you like them cooked more, give them longer. I gave them about five minutes, removed the lid, let the tiny amount of water remaining cook off, and served.

And they were a hit. Tender crisp, and plenty of flavor.  Much nicer than the plain steamed ones!

A plate with Garlic Green Beans.

Garlic Green Beans

Anne Murphy
Improve less-than-fresh green beans - and dress up lovely truly fresh ones! - with this simple recipe for Garlic Green Beans.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Vegetable
Cuisine American, Gluten Free, Vegan
Servings 4 servings


  • oil for pan
  • 1/2 lb fresh green beans
  • 1 t chopped garlic


  • Wash and trim green beans. Either leave whole or snap in pieces, as desired.
  • Heat oil in pan. Add beans, stir. Saute for a few minutes, until beans are brighter green.
  • Add garlic and stir a minute. Immediately add 2-3 T water, and cover to steam.
  • Steam until done to your taste. (Check every 3-4 minutes, add a splash more water if needed.) Then remove the lid, stir until water evaporates.
  • Serve at once.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Improve less-than-fresh green beans - and dress up lovely truly fresh ones! - with this simple recipe for Garlic Green Beans.


24 thoughts on “Garlic Green Beans”

  • You know…my mom ALWAYS paired garlic and beans. Till this day I do the same. My kids love green beans…so this would be the perfect side dish to any meal, but especially holidays. Isn’t it fun when we can elevate simple food to another level of delicious.

    • Mine didn’t – come to think of it, Mom used very little garlic at all. I use it, well, what seems quite often to me, but not to many of my friends… But Rich’s parents like it and always used it quite a bit, so I’m starting to make more dishes where it’s a major note, not just part of the general aromatics. And yes – I love doing that!

  • I love garlic with green beans. When I was growing up, we seemed to always have canned green beans – so I didn’t really like them, but then I had garlic green beans at a Chinese restaurant and it turned my life around regarding green beans. I love how quick and easy your recipe is so I can make it at home!!

    • Yes – that’s me and zucchini. We didn’t eat canned vegetables, and Mom rarely overcooked any (I was so lucky!) so it had not occurred to me that this was the reason I hated zucchini until I had some that was not overcooked! Whole different vegetable… LOL

      This is not the Chinese dish – or, well, for all I know, maybe it is, but I didn’t intend it to be… Well, it’s not, because I think it’s a proper stir fry, over much higher heat than I used, and probably includes other seasoning. But it’s good!

    • How true. I was surprised at first that I had no specific recipes for them – and then I realized that it’s because they really don’t need them… But once in a while it’s nice to do a little something!

  • This is one of my favorite ways to prepare green beans. I remember when I was a child and my grandparents would grow what would now be called heirloom green beans. We would have to cut one end off and pull off the string, and then cut the other end off int he opposite direction to remove the “strings”. It’s so nice now that there’s no need for so much “stringing” before you can cook the beans.

    • Ah – the classic String Bean! LOL I grew up snapping them (and they’d occasionally have a string to remove) at my grandmother’s also. She didn’t grow them herself, though, but bought them from a local farmer. (I do have her notes about how many canner loads she could get from a peck – but she stopped canning when her eyes failed, long before my day.)

      Lovely memories!

    • Absolutely! I plan to get to the farmer’s markets here soon – but it’s no longer just a walk down the block for me. Meanwhile, I”m glad to be able to improve what I have!

    • It’s a great side when a meal just needs a little something… And green beans certainly are popular!

  • Green beans are my husband’s favorite veggie, and I love a reliable, simple, delicious way to prepare them like this! Totally agree, fresh is best, but you’ve got to know how to work with what’s available, too, and this is just the way to do it. 🙂

    • Thanks! Sometimes something just needs a little help… and then it’s delicious itself! (Mind you – this treatment is good on absolutely fresh from the field green beans as well. It just occurred to me that most people in the US are in my position at this time of year…)

    • Thanks! I finally got to a farmer’s market, though – and was thrilled to find more really fresh vegetables! I’ll have to make sure I shop there regularly… it will improve my table quite a bit. Meanwhile, I do what I can…

  • Yay for garlic and green beans… simple and wonderful! My hubby and I moved to the Rio Grande Valley in way south Texas in 2015 after 22 years in New Mexico. We called NM a “food desert” due to the lack of decent restaurants and awful produce. I’m a southern California native, so the lack of fresh veggies really bugged me. Your post is certainly a helpful one!

    • Oh, that’s rough. When I was a kid in New York City we didn’t have much good fresh produce (though we certainly did have good restaurants!) The situation started to improve when I was in high school, though – greengrocers and farmers markets started springing up. So I feel your pain! And glad I can help! Thank you!

  • Green beans are such a lovely vegetable, and I love this simple, flavorful way to prepare them. I hear you on the shortage of “fresh” produce during the cold months. I love my farmer’s markets, but I can’t wait until they’re once again able to sell the beautiful produce that they’ve grown themselves. Only a short time left until the season begins again!

    • Just found the season is starting here (though what today’s snow will do to that I don’t know…) So excited about fresh greens!

    • Oh, great! And just right – dressed up enough for a holiday, but not too hard when you’re doing a big meal… Enjoy them!

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