What would your holiday table be without a delicious dish of green beans? These humble legumes are not only highly versatile, but they provide several vitamins and minerals. Are you looking for new and nutritious ways of serving one of America’s favorite sides?
Green beans, also known as string beans or snaps, aren’t just an American treasure. These green gems are native to South America and were introduced to the North American indigenous people. Native peoples of both Americas cultivated string beans for over 7,000 years.
When white Europeans invaded the Americas, the indigenous tribes introduced them to string beans, which were a staple in their diet. It reminded them of the broad beans that are native to Europe and parts of Asia.
The Europeans brought this new bean back to their respective countries and cultivated them successfully. Soon, string beans became a favorite in culinary dishes throughout Europe and Asia. They were among the successful crops that were started in the American colonies.
The Green Beans of Today
Whether you call them green beans, snaps, or string beans, they earned their rightful place on the world’s table. They are easy to grow and come in a wide variety of colors and cultivars. According to a recent USDA report, the United Stated processed at least 670,569 tons of snap beans in 2019.
Although most people refer to snaps as beans, they are not actual beans. Since they grow in pods, they are considered legumes like peas and peanuts. You will also see that most culinary traditions also categorize them as vegetables.
Have you ever seen a sign in the produce aisle advertising haricot verts? These French varieties are longer and skinnier than American green beans. They are often served whole by blanching or sautéing.
How Nutritious are Green Beans?
Unlike their delectable cousins’ peas, kidney beans, and pintos, string beans don’t have as much starch. Therefore, they are lower in carbs and maybe a tasty option if you count your carb intake. They are part of a balanced nutritional diet.
For a half-cup (100 grams) of snap beans, you only consume 31 calories. Yet, they are loaded with calcium, iron, and potassium. You will also get healthy protein and only about five net carbs.
Since string bean varieties come in different colors, they contain phytonutrients that are good for your whole body. They also have fiber that benefits your digestive system. The extra fiber also helps make you feel more satisfied after a meal.
Preparing Green Beans
Recipes for string bean dishes are as varied as the cooks who make them. It’s worth noting that although snaps are a healthy option, you must also consider how you prepare them. The classic creamed casserole on many people’s holiday tables isn’t the healthiest way to enjoy them.
String beans can be prepared in many ways while still maintaining their nutritional value. They also are easy to preserve by canning, freezing, or drying. However, many canned and frozen varieties in stores have unnecessary green food coloring added.
Nutritious Green Bean Recipes
Are you and your family snap bean fans? Would you like to discover some exciting ways to prepare them besides the usual fat-laden soup casserole? Here are some healthy green bean recipes that you and your whole family will enjoy. We scoured the internet for the three healthiest, nutritionist-recommended recipes.
1 – Pan-Seared String Beans
If your idea of preparing string beans consists of opening a store-bought can think of them to microwave, this is new territory. Once you’ve tasted fresh string beans gently charred in a pan, you’ll fall in love with them again. The tarragon adds an enticing nuance of anise flavor to the smoky beans.
•½ Pound fresh whole string beans (washed and ends trimmed)
•Butter-flavored cooking spray
•2 Teaspoons butter or plant-based butter
•1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
•¼ Teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
•1 Small bunch fresh tarragon, finely chopped
•Place a medium-sized heavy skillet without a nonstick coating over high heat for 2 minutes.
•When the skillet is hot, carefully coat it with cooking spray. Add the string beans immediately in a single layer. Sauté the beans (no stirring) until they are lightly charring, about 2 minutes.
•Allow the beans to sauté while tossing them until tender-crisp and charred evenly on all sides, about another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
•After the beans have rested for about 1 minute, add the butter and let it melt. Toss the beans gently until they are completely coated. Add the vinegar and toss again. If you have too much liquid, turn on the heat again to most is evaporated.
•Sprinkle the beans generously with salt and tarragon and toss again. Serve the dish immediately.
2 – Southern-Style String Beans & Potatoes
Remember going to Grandma’s house for Sunday dinner and enjoying produce straight from Grandpa’s garden? No doubt, she probably had this classic string bean side dish. Here is an updated version that would even make Grandma smile.
•2 Tablespoons olive oil
•1 Small onion, thinly sliced
•2 Cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
•3 Cups low-sodium chicken stock
•1 Teaspoon fine sea salt
•¼ Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
•2 Pounds new yellow or red potatoes
•1-Pound fresh whole string beans, cleaned and ends trimmed
•In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add oil and heat until it’s shimmering. Add the onions and sauté them until slightly tender, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until the onions are opaque and the garlic is fragrant, about another 3 minutes.
•Carefully pour in the stock and add the potatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes.
•Now, add the string beans, cover the pot and simmer until they are tender, about 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beans and potatoes to a serving platter.
•Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the remaining liquid to a boil until it’s reduced to about 1 cup, about 5-6 minutes. Pour over the beans and potatoes and gently fold until they are completely coated. Serve this dish hot.
Of the countless Asian-inspired dishes, stir-fry is probably one of the most popular around the world. This is a spin on the classic vegetarian stir-fry that features tofu and a Thai-style peanut sauce. You can also leave out the tofu, or you could add chopped chicken breast if you prefer.
For the Thai Peanut Sauce:
•¼ Cup water
•1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
•4 Tablespoons chunky-style peanut butter
•1 Teaspoon hot chili sauce, or to taste
•1 Teaspoon soy sauce
For the Stir-Fry:
•2 Teaspoons light brown sugar
•¼ Cup soy sauce
•1 Teaspoon hot chili sauce
•5 Cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
•3 Teaspoons sesame oil
•8-ounce package firm tofu (or one cooked boneless/skinless chicken breast) cubed
•3 Large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
•1 Large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
•1-Pound fresh whole string beans, with the ends, trimmed
•½ Cup water
•1 Small bunch of green onions, thinly sliced
•1 Bunch fresh mung bean sprouts, rinsed well
•First, prepare the peanut sauce. In a medium bowl, add ¼ cup water, one tablespoon brown sugar, peanut butter, one teaspoon hot chili sauce, and one teaspoon soy sauce. Use a whisk to blend well, then set aside.
•Next, prepare the stir-fry. In a small bowl, add two teaspoons of brown sugar, ¼ cup soy sauce, one teaspoon hot chili sauce, and garlic. Use a whisk to blend thoroughly. Set aside.
•In a wok or a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, add one tablespoon of sesame oil and swirl to for an even coating. Heat the oil until it is sizzling.
•Add the tofu or cooked chicken (if using) and half the soy sauce mixture, then sauté it until golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove it from the pan and cover to keep it warm.
•Add the remaining two tablespoons of oil to the pan and swirl it for an even coating. Carefully add the carrots, bell pepper, and string beans. Sauté for three minutes.
•Pour in ½ cup of water and reduce the heat to medium. Cover the wok/pan and allow the mixture to simmer until the beans are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.
•Now, stir in the remaining half of the soy sauce mixture, tofu or chicken, half of the onions, and the bean sprouts. Sauté until the shoots are tender, about two more minutes. Sprinkle the dish with the remaining onions and serve with the peanut sauce.
If you are used to a bland can of store-bought string beans or ones drowning in a heavy layer of mushroom soup, you’re in for a treat. You can easily prepare tasty and healthy green bean recipes. Your family will enjoy them, and they will be kinder to your waistline.