Alexander Smalls’ Sautéed Green Beans with Toasted Charleston Benne Seeds

published Nov 2, 2021
Sautéed Green Beans with Toasted Charleston Benne Seeds Recipe

Toasted Charleston benne seeds redefine this classic Thanksgiving side.


Prep10 minutes

Cook11 minutes to 14 minutes

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Sauteed green beans in bowl being sprinkled with sesame (benne) seeds
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh

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Traveling the world, I fell in love with wok-cooked vegetables that are cooked over a high heat with minimal liquid, so I adapted this dish and added the characteristics of the South. I add chicken broth, which helps tenderize the beans, soften the texture, and add flavor. 

I love this dish year-round: warm as a side or chilled as the base of a salad. Just add fresh tomato and your favorite leafy herb — fresh mint and basil work especially well.

Sautéed Green Beans with Toasted Charleston Benne Seeds Recipe

Toasted Charleston benne seeds redefine this classic Thanksgiving side.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 11 minutes to 14 minutes

Serves 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1 1/2 pounds

    green beans

  • 3 cloves


  • 2 sprigs

    fresh thyme

  • 1 sprig

    fresh rosemary

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1/4 cup

    unsalted vegetable or chicken stock or broth

  • Salt

  • Cracked black pepper

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons

    toasted benne (white sesame) seeds


  1. Trim the stem ends from 1 1/2 pounds green beans. Mince 3 garlic cloves (1 tablespoon). Pick the leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs and finely chop (1/2 teaspoon). Pick the leaves from 1 fresh rosemary sprig and finely chop (1/2 teaspoon).

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large cast-iron pan or high-sided skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and cook for 1 minute. Add the green beans and cook, turning them occasionally with tongs, until they brighten in color, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup unsalted stock, reduce the heat to medium, and cover. Simmer, turning the beans occasionally, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.

  3. Taste and season with salt and cracked black pepper as needed. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted benne seeds and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

From Meals, Music, and Muses by Alexander Smalls. Copyright © 2020 by the author and reprinted by permission of Flatiron Books.