Fava Beans: What They Are and How to Cook Them

Fava beans
Fava beans.

Fava beans are a broad green legume that grow in long pods and are popular in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Fava beans are almost always removed from the pods before preparing them, although it is possible to braise whole fava bean pods.

Fava beans are notoriously time-consuming to prepare because of the shelling process. Removing the beans from the pods is easy enough. But each individual bean also is enclosed in a shell.

Removing the fava beans from their shells requires blanching them first. See below for more info on how to do that.

Fava beans are used in a number of different recipes and can be prepared using a variety of cooking techniques. They are frequently braised and used in stews, and can also be sautéed, or marinated and served in salads.

Fava beans can used as a main ingredient in making puréed soups. They are also frequently served with pasta or risotto.

Cooking with Fava Beans

A simple recipe for fava beans would be to sauté them with bacon or pancetta until tender and then serve topped with melted butter and shaved pecorino cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Or, to use fava beans in a pasta recipe, you'd first boil some water, add Kosher salt, and blanch the beans for 3 to 5 minutes. Like most green vegetables and legumes, favas will take on a bright green color when they're done, and they'll be tender to the bite.

You can either drain the water and boil new water (which is silly), or simply fish the beans out with a slotted spoon and save the water for making your pasta (smart).

So go ahead and add your pasta to the still-salted, still-boiling water. Farfalle (aka bow-tie pasta) is a great choice (as are conchiglie or radiatori).


Meanwhile, it is time to shell the beans. This is done by sort of squeezing the bean between your fingers at one end and pushing it through the outer white skin at the other end. Out comes the bean, and into your compost bowl goes the skin. Easy!

Next, saute some bacon in a heavy saucepan, pour off excess fat, then add the beans and cook a little longer until they're at the tenderness you like. You can stir in some cream, maybe some ricotta, then add the cooked pasta and mix until it is thoroughly coated with sauce. Season with salt and pepper and serve right away.