Smart Tip: Peel Fava Beans in Half the Time Using One Common Ingredient

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Fava bean season is long over in my area, but I’m looking ahead to next spring and filing away this tip for easier fava bean peeling from food scientist Harold McGee. He recently stumbled onto a trick that accomplishes the laborious task of peeling off fava skins in half the time — all you need is one common kitchen staple.

Baking soda is the key to easier fava bean peeling; add one tablespoon to a quart of boiling water, followed by the beans (removed from their pods, but still in their skins). Then:

Fish them out as they pop their skins so they don’t pick up the soda soapiness, and drop them in a bowl of cold water to rinse. After two or three minutes, scoop the remainder into another bowl of water to cool them down. Peel them by gently squeezing on the thick end of the bean, if necessary nicking the thin end with your fingernails.

McGee says more than half the beans pop out of their skins while in the water, and the rest are easier to peel than usual. He isn’t surprised by this effect — alkaline substances such as baking soda break down the structure of plant walls — though he does wonder why it isn’t a more common practice in the kitchen. Maybe now it will be!

Do you have any tips or techniques for easier fava bean peeling?

(Image: Kathryn Hill)