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caramelized green beans in cast iron pan

Best Way to Cook Frozen Green Beans

It’s the dead of winter and you’re tired of tasteless imported lettuce, green cabbage, leeks and Brussels sprouts.

You remember a bag of frozen organic green beans in the freezer. No matter how you cook them–sauteed, steamed, roasted, boiled–they’re always lame. Squeaky between your teeth, limp and bland.

But this time, inspired by a Saveur email alert, you try something completely different. Preheat the cast-iron pan, toss in the better part of a stick of butter. When it melts and bubbles, in go the 1-pound bag of green beans. They sit and begin to steam, then gradually lose their coating of frost.

Once they’re bright green, you hear sizzling and popping, you stir and see promising signs of color–ochre and brown. You attend to the dishes, the kids, the mess of construction paper on their play table. You come back and stir–more beans losing their green grass color and their plumpness.

On and on it goes for the better part of an hour, a stir and then you leave them to their soothing sizzling. When some of them change to brown-black you taste a bean to be sure you’re on the right track.

caramelized green beans

The one you want is the crispiest bean in the center of the pan. Buttery and pleasingly salty, it actually crunches lightly in your mouth, like a delicate French fry that is unmistakably green bean.

You keep going, letting the beans cook as long as they can stand and then eat half the pan before you call anyone else to dinner.

Are you dying for something green? Try these game-changing caramelized frozen green beans.

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caramelized green beans
5 from 9 votes
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Caramelized Frozen Green Beans with Mushrooms

This recipe is originally from cookbook author Anne Willan who calls them "burnt beans." It deals with the problem of mushy green beans, which is what happens when you cook any frozen green bean--even those you've picked, blanched and frozen straight from your garden. But in this recipe, the beans slow cook until crispy. Don't fret the butter.

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 188 kcal
Author Lynne Curry

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee
  • 1 pound frozen green beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium cremini mushrooms, sliced

Instructions

  1. Heat a large cast-iron pan or skillet over medium-high heat and add the butter. 

  2. When the butter foams, add the green beans, stir to coat them in the butter and leave them to heat until they're no longer frost coated, about 5 minutes. 

  3. Add the salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low so that you can still hear them sizzling and stir the beans intermittently until they shrink, wrinkle and about half of them are darkly colored, about 30 minutes more. 

  4. Add the shallots and mushrooms for the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking until the mushrooms brown and the shallots soften.

  5. Taste for seasoning before serving. 

Recipe Notes

For some reason, frozen green beans come in many sizes, from 10 ounces up 19 ounces. I've written this recipe for 1 pound of frozen green beans--home grown or commercial--so that you can readily scale it to whatever amount of green beans you have on hand.

Comments

  1. Liz

    Genius! I made these tonight with green beans from 2 summers ago and they were delicious. I can’t eat dairy so I cooked in EVOO and seasoned with sea salt. Seriously, every last bean eaten. Thanks!

    1. I’m so happy to hear that the results are as good with olive oil. (And why wouldn’t they be?) Thanks for reminding me of this recipe when it’s zero degrees outside.

  2. Kristin

    What an eeeeasy and delicious recipe. My in laws who don’t even like veggies at all raved about them, and then they are such and easy and cheap side to take to my aunt’s house for Christmas dinner. My husband requested these over my from-scratch green bean casserole which he loves. Thank you!!

    1. What a wonderful report Kristin–pleasing the in-laws is big. Not to mention beating out green bean casserole in your husband’s eyes. Thanks for writing!

  3. Katie

    I made these for dinner tonight. YUM! I subbed ghee for butter as we are paleo. These were the best green beans I have ever had…fresh or frozen! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Thanks for the glowing report, Katie. It is kind of a counter-intuitive recipe, isn’t it? I love your idea of using ghee and am going to add it to the recipe now with thanks to you for the recommendation.

  4. Ginny

    This IS the best way to cook frozen green beans! Many thanks, that bag of frozen beans in the freezer was getting no love until now. For some reason the rating feature is giving me grief, but 5 stars from me!

    1. I know, weird–right? But it so works, especially at this time of year when I am force-feeding my whole family (myself included) green vegetables. Thanks for the 5 stars, Ginny!

  5. The beans in my freezer were looking a little bit old for standard steaming, so I did a quick online search for alternative ways to cook frozen beans. Your recipe was the first one I clicked on, and I’m so glad I did. These were so good! I really think the cast-iron pan is key here to get that nice, slow cook with browning, but not burning. I also toasted up a handful of chopped pecans and tossed them in — wow, the perfect complement to the beans!

    1. You pretty much summed it all up, Wendy. Thanks! Love the idea of the toasted nuts, too.

  6. Kathy Lacebal

    Will this work in a normal non-stick pan if I don’t have a cast-iron pan?

    1. Yes, you can make this recipe in another type of pan. You may not get the same depth of browning as in cast iron, but if you follow the slow-cook technique, you’ll get similar results. Hope you let me know if you do try it.

  7. MYL

    Wow. I never thought frozen vegetables could be so tasty. That was so delicious and easy to make that I had to write and say thank you for this amazing recipe. I served it alongside chicken piccata and the veggies disappeared long before the entree. I’d give it six stars if I could. Thanks Lynne!

    1. So sweet of you to take the time to write to tell me! Your meal sounds terrific.

  8. TBies

    I’m going to make these today. Do you think these are good to reheat the next day?

    1. I’d recommend making them to eat the same day, to be honest.

  9. Andie

    Tried this tonight and l loved it. I’ll never look at frozen green beans the same way again, lol. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You’re welcome, Andie!

  10. I came across this recipe last night while trying to figure out what to do with a bag of frozen French cut green beans. Holy tamole!! This recipe is incredible! It would have never occurred to me to cook them like this. My family finished these before anything else. Your method turned Ho-hum frozen green beans into delicious comfort food. Thank you so much!!

    1. That’s awesome, Eva! It really is an unexpected method, and we can both thank Anne Willan for the idea. Thanks for commenting to let me know!

  11. I freeze our green beans also and this was so amazingly delicious ! Normally I only use them in my ham and green beans recipe because they are mushy and that’s ok for that dish. But now we’ll be using this recipe a lot!! We loved it! Thank you.

    1. Fantastic to hear, Lisa. Love those homegrown green beans.

  12. Lori

    My grocery delivery service was unable deliver my fresh green beans the day before Thanksgiving and I had absolutely no time to find good, fresh beans close by. I scrambled to the internet and was so fortunate to have stumbled upon this recipe. I had almost all of the ingredients on hand (I subbed sliced shiitakes for criminis), so I took a chance at service it for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Wow. These were incredible. Absolutely delicious and so, so easy to make. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Since everyone raved about it, I’m going to make it part of Thanksgiving tradition. But it was so easy and inexpensive that it’s also going in the rotation for regular old dinners at home. As an added bonus, I loved them reheated. 🙂

    1. I love your happy ending, Lori! Thank you for writing to share this story of an averted green bean crisis. They’re one of my favorite holiday sides, too! Happy holidays.

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