Give Fava Beans a Try This Spring—Here's How to Peel and Cook Them

These bright green legumes have a creamy texture and buttery taste.

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peeling raw fava beans
Photo: Miguel Perfectti / GETTY IMAGES

In the world of legumes, fava beans stand out. They are the oldest variety; there's evidence of fava bean cultivation as long as 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. They stand out visually, too: Their pods are larger than average and favas have a unique texture and a distinctive grassy flavor. Chefs embrace fresh favas as a herald of springtime and they're also a joy to cook when they're in season. The one hurdle you might encounter is getting the beans out of their pods. Here, we spoke to culinary experts, who shared their best tips and tricks for prepping and enjoying fava beans.

What Are Fava Beans?

Fava beans, a highly seasonal legume available in the spring and early summer, are also known as broad beans. They have long, sturdy, slightly fuzzy pods, but unlike fresh peas and green beans—but much like soybeans—their pods are not edible. The actual fava beans are inside the pod; they have another protective skin (called the inner skin) that is much thinner than the outer pod and is edible.

Dried Fava Beans

While fresh fava beans are only available seasonally, you can buy dried fava beans, both whole and split, year round. "Dried favas taste like a cross between a white bean and a chickpea," says Ronna Welsh, the author of The Nimble Cook and the owner and chef instructor at Purple Kale Kitchenworks in Brooklyn, N.Y. Welsh warns that like many dried beans, dried favas "hardly resemble their fresh counterparts."

Fava Beans vs. Lima Beans vs. Peas

Although favas are often compared to both lima beans and peas, there are noticeable differences. "Their taste and textures differ significantly," says Welsh. "Cooked fresh peas taste vegetal—almost leafy—and lima beans taste earthy and starchy. Favas, however, are grassy, yet creamy."

Abra Berens, chef and author of Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Vegetables and the new book PULP: A Practical Guide to Cooking with Fruit uses them interchangeably in a pinch, but says fava beans are her favorite: "They are buttery and a beautiful bright green. They can be a bit of work to prepare, but I think it's well worth it," she says.

How to Peel Fava Beans

The main conversation around fava beans is almost always about how to peel them. It's a taxing process for some and meditative for others. Either way, it's a project that's best handled in stages, says Welsh. First, release the beans from their pods, blanch them, and peel away their inner skin (though, this last step is technically optional).

Release the Beans From Their Pods

Unzip the pod by pulling its stem down the back, splitting the pod open in two halves. Working over a bowl, use your thumb to push the beans out. Once the beans are out of their pods, you have two options for preparing them to eat.

Blanch and Peel

Most often, fava beans are blanched; cook them in boiling, salted water for a few seconds before quickly plunging them in ice water. After blanching, they are easy to slip from their skins with a gentle pinch.

Blanch and Don't Peel

Berens holds a secret that she's happy to share: "You don't have to peel the interior pod," she says. "I always taste them after they are blanched and if the interior membrane is palatable, just leave it."

Don't Cook

You don't necessarily have to blanch fava beans, either. Not peeling fava beans saves plenty of time—not cooking them at all will save you even more. Berens suggests trying them raw to enjoy their nutty and creamy texture.

How to Store Fava Beans

Fresh fava beans still in the pod can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Once the beans have been shelled or shelled and blanched, store them in a zip-top bag or airtight container for a couple of days (or freeze them).

The Best Ways to Cook Fava Beans

Thanks to their bold color and delicate flavor, fava beans are best used simply, say Berens and Welsh.

  • Gently sautéed and tossed in herb butter
  • Blistered in a hot pan with olive oil and crunchy salt
  • Blitzed in the food processor to make a dip
  • Steamed and mixed into rice or pasta
  • Served over creamy cheese, such as burrata or ricotta

For a party snack, Berens will make deviled eggs and top them with a mixture of roughly chopped blanched fava beans and tapenade. "Fava beans and olives go really well together. It's simple, but so, so good," she says.

Grilling Fava Beans

"My favorite thing to do with fava beans is to serve them as an appetizer, grilling them in their large, spongy pods and serving them whole, allowing your guests to peel them as part of the party," Berens. "The moisture in the pod steams the internal beans and you still get some of the smoky quality from the grill. It is fun and interactive, and you've outsourced the labor—win, win."


Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency, also known as favism, is a common enzyme deficiency. Anyone with this condition should avoid eating fava beans (and avoid moth balls and various common medicines).

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