When you need to get some veggies on the table, stat, there’s almost no quicker way to cook them than blanching. Simple blanched green beans would be excellent left alone, with nothing more than a splash of soy sauce or a drizzle of olive oil. But often blanching is just the first step in preparing them.
This task is basic and quick. You may be familiar with the traditional step of dunking blanched green beans in an ice bath to stop the cooking and preserve that verdant color. There’s also another, even more hands-off approach that will get the job done.
To learn how to blanch green beans properly, follow the step-by-step instructions below. The resulting perfectly al dente legumes can be used in a number of green bean recipes, like in this Hot Smoked Salmon Noodle Salad or this Spicy Green Bean Ditalini With Caramelized Lemon. Let’s dive in.
What is blanching?
Blanching is one of the speediest methods of cooking. The ingredient, typically a vegetable, is cooked in a large pot of water brought to a rolling boil. Given the high temperature, the total time spent in the water is extremely quick, anywhere from a matter of seconds (like in this Salty-and-Sour Lettuce with soy sauce and lime juice) to a few minutes (like these crisp-tender green beans for Tuna Niçoise Salad).
But blanching involves more than just water—you need salt too. When I was working in a restaurant a few years ago, part of my daily prep work was to blanch asparagus tips. I immediately learned that, because the cooking happens so fast, the water must be aggressively seasoned. While you don’t want your water to be literally “salty like the sea,” you do want it to taste, well, salty. The brief time spent cooking, compounded by the fact that your beans won’t absorb much water, means you can add salt with almost reckless abandon.
Salty water helps fresh green beans retain their nutrients and minerals too. Any memory of high school biology class will remind you that this is a result of osmosis: When the water the veggies are cooking in is saltier than the veggies themselves, they’ll want to take in some of that minerality rather than expel it (along with valuable nutrients), to reach equilibrium.
How to blanch green beans
Arguably the easiest way to cook green beans: Bring a big pot of water to a rolling boil and season it generously with salt. With Diamond Crystal, you can eyeball about 1 Tbsp. kosher salt per 1 qt. water. (No need to measure, just don’t be shy.) While the water is heating up, use that prep time to rinse the green beans in a colander, then use a sharp knife to trim their woody stem ends. Add the green beans to the boiling water and set a timer for 2 minutes. The cook time will depend on the size of your green beans. When the timer goes off, use a pair of tongs to remove a bean and taste for a crisp-tender (not mushy) texture. If it’s too firm, keep cooking for another minute, then check again.
To ice bath or not to ice bath?
Once you’ve cooked the legumes to your desired toothsomeness, you have two options: use an ice bath or skip it altogether. Up to you!