What Are Fava Beans and What Do They Taste Like?
Get your fava fix.
Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are one of the world’s oldest cultivated plants. Here’s everything you need to know about the delicious and nutritious food:
What Are Fava Beans?
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Nobody seems to know exactly where fava beans originated, though experts are able to trace its history back to at least 6,000 B.C.E.
Today, they’re frequently found in Middle Eastern, European, South American, and African cuisines. They grow in green pods and can be eaten raw or cooked. They do well in soups, stews, salads, and more.
The fava bean’s durability probably accounts for its longevity. The plant they grow on is easy to grow and tolerates cool weather well.
Fun fact: The magical beans in Jack and the Beanstalk are believed to have been fava beans.
What Do Fava Beans Taste Like?
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Though they look like lima beans, fava beans are less starchy and have a milder taste. Fava beans are creamy, earthy, nutty, slightly sweet, and slightly bitter. Some people say they have a slight cheesy flavor.
Fava Beans Nutrition
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Though small, fava beans pack a serious nutritional punch. Some notable health benefits of fava beans are:
- They’re rich in protein and fiber, so they help you stay full for longer (so they’re great for weight loss and weight management).
- They’re a good source of iron. Iron deficiency can result in anemia, which is characterized by fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath. One caveat: Individuals with a G6PD deficiency, a genetic disorder, should not eat fava beans. This can actually cause another type of anemia.
- They’re rich in antioxidants, which can improve your immune system, and manganese, which promotes bone health.
Fava Beans Substitute
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No fava beans? No problem! You can easily substitute lima beans, which may be easier to find depending on where you live. Since they’re similar in texture and flavor, this works well when your recipe calls for fresh fava beans.
If you’re making a soup or stew, try using canned cannellini beans as an alternative. It will slightly alter the flavor, but it shouldn’t be too noticeable.
How to Cook Fava Beans
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How you should prepare fava beans depends on if they’re still in the pod.
To prepare fresh fava beans:
- Shell them. Snap off the tip of the pod and pull down. The pod should easily slip open like a zipper.
- Remove the beans. Discard or compost the pods.
- Blanch them. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Boil the beans for about 30 seconds. Then, using a slotted spoon, immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water. Once you’re certain the cooking process has stopped, drain the beans in a colander.
- Peel them. Pinch the skin with your thumb and forefinger. It should easily slip off after blanching.
You can use freshly shelled and peeled fava beans however you like. Some people like to eat them as a snack, add them to a salad, or steam them.
To prepare dried fava beans:
Dried fava beans are prepared like other dried beans, so soaking is essential. You can either soak them overnight in a large pot of water or do a quick soak. To do a quick soak, put the beans in a large pot of water and boil for 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it soak in the hot water for about an hour.
Fava Bean Recipes
Fava, Farro, Pecorino, and Salami Salad Photo: Laura Dart
Get your fava fix with one of our favorite fava bean recipes: