Green beans are a classic side dish — and we’re not just talking about for Thanksgiving. Sure, it’s easy to just steam them and call it a day, but they often end up bland and a little mushy. We prefer a sautéed green bean, but to truly get the freshest, most delicious flavor — and that vibrant color — there is a simple step you need to take before your veg hits the pan. Learning how to blanch green beans is easy and will help you avoid anything sad and overcooked from ever making it to the dinner table.
Trust us, this simple step will turn ordinary green beans into a side dish that’ll make even the pickiest eaters polish off their veggies! Don’t worry if it’s your first time trying this cooking technique: We’ll walk you through the steps for blanching green beans on the stove and in the microwave. Plus, we’ll share tips for storing them in the fridge or freezer to cook with later on!
Is blanching green beans necessary?
Blanching might seem like an unnecessary extra step to add on top of whatever cooking method you’re using for your dish, but according to the experts at Clemson University, it can make a huge difference. “Blanching stops enzyme actions which otherwise cause loss of flavor, color, and texture,” they explain.
Basically, blanching is a way to preserve the properties that make green beans a tasty, vibrant, and nutritious veggie. Clemson also adds that this method will remove any surface dirt and microorganisms you might have missed while rinsing them. It’s definitely worth taking the time to blanch the green beans before you sauté, bake, or store them away for another day.
How long does it take?
Blanching green beans should only take two to three minutes on the stove and four to six minutes in the microwave. It’s a speedy process of letting the veggies cook in boiling water before placing them in an ice bath. The cold temperature shock is key for immediately stopping the cooking process and preserving the freshness. The trick partially cooks the green beans so they’re still al dente even after you heat them again.
It’s important that you don’t over-blanch the green beans, though, or they’ll lose their crispness and flavor. The whole point of buying fresh green beans is to enjoy them in their purest form, unlike the soggier kind usually found in cans. Keeping a timer nearby can help make sure you’re not overcooking the veggie and avoiding any mushy mishaps.
How do you blanch green beans?
Whether you’re using homegrown green beans from your garden or buying a bag from the produce section, they’re easy to blanch. Just remember that it’s better to work in batches to avoid overcrowding in the pot and ensure the veggies are cooking evenly. Find a nice big pot, prep a bowl of ice water, and rinse your green beans before getting started.
Here’s an easy-to-follow method for blanching green beans from chef Jacob Burton:
- Wash and trim the ends from one pound of green beans.
- Bring a large pot to a boil and add a generous pinch of salt.
- Place a handful of green beans into the water and cook for two minutes.
- Then, submerge them in a bowl filled with ice water to shock the beans for 15 seconds. Remove them from the water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Cook with the green beans again by sautéing them right away or placing in plastic bags to keep in the fridge for up to five days.
See how well Burton’s blanching technique works in the video below:
How to Blanch in the Microwave
Your microwave is another option for blanching green beans if you don’t feel like standing over a pot of boiling water. Plus, the microwave’s timer is a lifesaver because it’ll ding exactly when the veggies are done so you won’t need to guess or risk overcooking them.
Although we usually think microwaves make cooking faster, blanching actually takes a few minutes longer because of the lack of direct heat. However, it’ll still get the job done pretty quick.
The experts at GE Appliances know a lot about maximizing a microwave’s features for cooking everyday meals with ease. Even if your appliance is a different brand, you can follow their simple method for blanching green beans in the microwave:
- Wash and cut the ends off of one pound of green beans. Place the beans in a 1 to 1 1/2 quart microwave-safe casserole dish. If you don’t have a dish that size or it doesn’t fit in your microwave, use a smaller dish and work in batches.
- Add one cup water and cover with plastic wrap.
- Set power on high and microwave for two to three minutes before stirring and microwaving for another two to three minutes.
- Drain and immediately dunk the green beans in ice water. Do this process again with the remaining green beans if you’re doing batches.
- Blot any excess water from the veggies with paper towels. Reheat them right away or place in plastic bags to store in the fridge for up to five days.
How do you freeze green beans?
If you went a little overboard with veggie shopping and bought several bags of green beans, blanching can help them last way longer in the freezer. Thankfully, you can follow the same methods listed above for blanching in the microwave or the stovetop.
After you’ve shocked them in the ice bath and dried them off, just place them in plastic bags and freeze. Nutritional expert, Toby Amidor, MS, RD, shared with Cooking Light that blanched green beans can last up to 10 months in the freezer. This means you’ll have plenty of time to figure out yummy dishes to reheat them in!
The green beans should still have their crisp texture once warmed back up. They can be reheated super quickly on the stove or used in your favorite casserole recipe baked in the oven. Whichever way you cook those frozen blanched green beans, we’re certain that it’ll be a flavorful dish for you and your family to enjoy!
How to Reheat Blanched Green Beans
Like other veggies, green beans are super versatile as an addition to a savory meal, especially when they’re already blanched. The cooking experts at Real Simple recommend placing your desired amount of green beans in a pan over medium heat with two tablespoons of water and a tablespoon of butter. Let the veggies cook for three minutes before seasoning with salt and pepper. It makes for a delicious and healthy weeknight side dish that can came together in minutes!
For dishes like green bean casserole, Eating Well food editor Hilary Meyer says there’s no need to warm up the blanched veggies before baking. “They hold their texture better than canned, and you can cook them straight from their frozen state,” she says. You can let the oven do all of the work, which will totally come in handy while prepping for a Thanksgiving feast.
Now that you have all the tips for blanching green beans, take a look at our mouthwatering recipes for dijon green beans with bacon and no-bake crispy onion green bean casserole. And while you’re at it, upgrade your other weeknight side dishes with our guides on how to cook rice, how to boil corn on the cob, and how to cook okra!