How To Pick, Clean and Prepare Fava Beans

updated Aug 8, 2022
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(Image credit: Kathryn Hill)

Go ahead and make your jokes about fava beans and a nice Chianti. There’s no denying that these fresh, meaty beans are delicious, and they are in season right now, so grab them up! This protein-packed legume can be mashed and spread on bruschetta, or folded them into mashed potatoes.

Most Americans aren’t familiar with fava beans, so we hope this post will make them seem less mysterious and cause more people to give them a try. Here’s what to look for when buying them, and how to clean and prepare them.

How To Pick Fava Beans

It takes a lot of bean pods to produce enough fava beans per serving, so plan on buying one pound bean pods per person. Select pods that are green and somewhat smooth. If the beans are over-bulging underneath the pods, that means they are older and likely to be bitter.

Note: Fava beans (also called broad beans and pigeon beans) are high in tyramine, and shouldn’t be eaten by people who take MAO inhibitors (e.g. antidepressants.)

(Image credit: Kathryn Hill)

How To Clean And Prepare Fava Beans

Pull off the top and “unzip” the seam of the bean pod.

(Image credit: Kathryn Hill)

Open the pod and remove the beans. There are usually 4 to 5 beans per pod.

(Image credit: Kathryn Hill)

The beans have a waxy outer coating, which you’ll need to remove. Blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds, and then transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. The waxy coating will slip right off.

(Image credit: Kathryn Hill)

Ta-da! The finished beans are now ready for most recipes.

There are different ways to cook fava beans. From here, you can steam them till tender, and toss them in a mixture of salt, olive oil, and lemon juice. You can also grill them, or mash them and spread them on bruschetta, or fold them into mashed potatoes. They’re also a great addition to a green salad, a risotto dish, or pasta. Try making this protein-rich fava beans and peas with burrata and they are deliciously filling!

Here are some fava bean recipes to try out:
Recipe: Ricotta Pasta with Fava Beans and Bacon
Grill Recipe of the Day: Grilled Rainbow Chard With Fava Beans And Oregano
Fava Bean Dip with Roasted Garlic and Yogurt
Ancient Egyptian Recipe: Ful Medammes – a stewed fava bean dish marinated with garlic, parsley, and lemon juice that is still a staple of Egyptian diets.