Hi, I'm Kim

Hi, I’m Kim Christensen, M.Om., Dipl.OM, L.Ac. I’m a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and owner of Constellation Acupuncture & Healing Arts in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Back before going to school and becoming a healthcare practitioner, Affairs of Living was my creative outlet while healing from chronic health issues. There's big changes coming to the site - it will soon be the home of my new health coaching practice! Stay tuned. 

Recent Posts

Subscribe to RSS headline updates from:
Powered by FeedBurner

Site Search

Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on this blog are free of gluten, peanuts, soy, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shellfish, cane sugar, oranges, and yeast. Most recipes are also free of egg, dairy, and tree nuts (if used, reliable substitutions will be provided for these when possible). Check out my recipe index for a full list of recipes by category. 

« Fave Fresche, Finocchi e Piselli Brasate al "Latte" - Fresh Fava Beans, Fennel, and Peas Braised in "Milk" (gluten free, vegan, ACD) | Main | Yeast-Free Pumpkinseed Teff Sandwich Bread (gluten-free, vegan, ACD) »

How to Cook Fresh Fava Beans

Fresh fava beans are such a treat, and are totally representative of springtime.  They can, however, be a little intimidating. How do you turn a gnarly looking pod into a succulent, nutty, tender, bright green little bean?  It is a time-consuming process, but worth every minute.  Plus, spending all that time peeling beans makes them taste really good when you finally get around to being able to use them.  My dad and I embarked on our first fava bean adventure last summer, and I've been excited for this year's fava season ever since.  When I saw some at the co-op the other day, I couldn't resist putting them in my basket.  So, I cooked them up and made a delicious Italian-inspired dish that I"ll be sharing very soon.  Before posting the recipe, I decided I wanted to demystify the fava bean for any of you who haven't yet prepared them fresh, so here's a little guide.


About the beans

Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are native to north Africa and southwest Asia, and are one of the most ancient cultivated plants.  According the ever-useful Wikipedia, it is believed that fava beans, along with lentilspeas, and chickpeas, became part of the eastern Mediterranean diet in around 6000 BC or earlier.  Beans can be eaten young and fresh or allowed to grow to maturity and used as dry beans.  Both fresh and dry favas are used through the Middle East, Mediterranean, and northern Africa in a variety of dishes, as well as China and Latin America.  In addition to being tasty, fava beans have great historical cultural significance, playing an important role in various festivals, traditions, and even being used as currency. 

Fava beans are extremely nutritious, and are high in fiber in iron.  They are more starchy than other beans, however, and therefore are higher in carbs and calories.  They also have a couple of very strange quirks. If you have the rare hereditary condition hereditary condition glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD), the high levels of certain naturally occurring chemical substances in the raw fava bean can cause hemolytic anemia, a potentially fatal condition (this seems to be eliminated if cooked). It is called "favism", after the bean. Crazy, right?  Apparently, eating too many fava beans can also be harmful if you are taking MAO-inhibitor, due to the high level of naturally occuring tyramine.

Fresh fava beans are available in spring and summer, and can be found at natural food markets, well-stocked grocery stores, and farmers' markets.  You can generally find them all year long at Middle Easter food markets.


Buy the beans

Fresh fava beans are purchased in the pod.  Pods should be bright green, smooth, and plump.  Wondering how many pods to buy? Each pound of bean pods yields roughly 1/2 cup of shelled, peeled beans.   Figure out how many cups of shelled, peeled beans you need for your recipe, and do the math!



Prepare the beans

Fresh fava beans have three parts - a tough, green outer pod, a light greenish-white skin, and the little inner green bean. You cannot eat the pod. You can eat the skin and, of course, the little inner bean. The skin is slightly tough, and depending on how you are using them you may want to peel or not.  I prefer them peeled, so the tender little inner green bean can really shine through.  But again, as long as you cook the bean, you can eat them with the skin on or not, up to you.

Step 1: Shell

Rinse pods under cool water.  Break off the tip of the bean at the stem end, then peel the string down the length of the pod.  You can then peel the pod open easily, and remove the beans from the pod. Put the beans in a bowl, and discard the pods.

Step 2: Blanch

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Blanch the shelled beans in boiling water, until the first beans start the rise to the surface, about 2-3 minutes.  Pull out a large bean, and peel back the skin; the bean inside should be bright green and tender.  When done, drain, and transfer immediately to a bowl of cold water.  Let sit a few minutes to cool; this will make peeling the skin much easier!  If you are leaving them unpeeled, go ahead and use as is.  If you want them peeled, continue on...

Step 3: Peel

To peel the skin off the bean, pinch the skin to loosen, or use a small knife to cut a slit (my preferred method).  Pinch it, and your lovely green fava bean will slip out from the white skin. Fun!  Discard the skin, save the bean.  Keep peeling. Keep peeling. Keep peeling. Patience is a virtue, remember that...

Step 4: Use

Hooray! Your beans are now ready to use!  Add them to soups, stews, braises, casseroles, salads or whatever else you'd like.  

If you peel them and realize that - uh-oh! - your beans are not fully tender after all, and you will be adding them to a dish that doesn't require additional cooking (like a salad), you can cook them briefly in a pot of boiling water.  Bring a pot of water to boil once again, and cook the shelled, peeled beans for about 2-4 minutes, until bright green and tender.  Drain beans and cool.  If you want to cool them quickly, you can place in a large bowl of cold water.  


Feeling inspired?

Very soon I'll be posting a really awesome Italian-inspired recipe I made for Fave Fresche, Finocchi e Piselli Brasate al "Latte" (Fresh Fava Beans, Fennel, and Peas Braised in "Milk"). Seriously yummy. In the meantime, here's a few tasty recipes that use fava beans to really get your mouth watering: 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (6)

Thank you for all this awesome information :)

Are you familiar with Weekend Herb Blogging - it's a weekly blog event - this post would be perfect for it :) I have not participated in months, but here is the info: http://cookalmostanything.blogspot.com/2010/04/whb-229-hosting.html

This is great! I just saw favas at the market and didn't buy them because I had no idea how to prepare them. That said, they sell the shelled beans here frozen, but the instructions do not say to peel them before eating. I never have and always ate them as is... what are the negative effects of eating the peel?

April 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArielle

Thanks for the tip on weekend herb blogging, looks like fun! I may have to try it :)

As long as you cook the bean first you can totally eat the skin - just not the outer green pod! Depending on how you want to use the beans, you may want to peel or not, it is up to you. I updated the post so it is more clear. :)

April 13, 2010 | Registered CommenterKim

This was a lesson a really needed , I always also just ate them while they were still in the shell, I think now by preparing them the proper way as you've shown here they will be much tastier ! Thanks :)

April 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

Thanks so much for the detailed descriptions AND the fantastic photos. So helpful!!

Wonderful post. Thank you so much. I just got some fava beans and had no idea what to do with them :)

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCocoa
Sorry, no comments/questions allowed right now.
Hi reader! My schedule as full-time grad student with two part-time jobs doesn't allow me the time to manage comments. I hope you enjoy what you find and can figure out answers to any questions you may have. xo