It's difficult not to be enticed by the sight of fresh purple beans. The veggie, emanating gorgeous hues ranging from violet to aubergine, contrast dramatically with their pale yellow and green counterparts.
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When cooked, however, the purple pigment (which is stored only in the outer layer of the beans) disappears almost as quickly as you turn the heat up under them.
It isn't long before you're left with beans that are virtually identical to French green beans — the standard green kind — although some diners say the temporarily purple varieties are a little sweeter and nuttier.
Nevertheless, these vegetables are special in their own right, and they're quite versatile, as they can be cooked using any technique intended for French green beans. Consider the color-changing charm a handy visual cue for the beans' doneness.
How to Store Fresh Uncooked Beans
Beans will stay fresher for longer when stored in the refrigerator at or below 41 degrees Fahrenheit, per Michigan State University Extension.
Considering these beans do best in humidity, place them in a plastic bag or in the vegetable crisper where they'll stay fresh for 3 to 5 days.
How to Cook Purple Beans
Purple beans, which are sometimes referred to as "purple pole beans," "purple green beans" and "purple string beans," can be cooked with numerous techniques.
Here's how to prep them:
- Place the purple beans in a colander and rinse them under cold running water.
- Transfer a handful of beans at a time to a chopping board and slice off the tips — the very ends of the beans — with a knife.
- You can leave the topped-and-tailed purple beans whole, slice them thinly diagonally or chop them into smaller pieces. For even cooking, keep the slices or pieces even in size.
The next steps will be determined by your desired cooking method. Some popular cooking methods include:
- Boil a pot of water — you'll want to fill the pot with enough water so the beans are covered.
- When the water begins to boil, add the beans. Boil the beans for about 6 to 8 minutes until desired tenderness.
- Toss them with lemon juice, salt and black pepper after draining.
You can give boiled purple beans a little extra flavor by using half water and half stock.
It's also possible to microwave your beans, per Michigan State University Extension. This is a very convenient method if you're in a rush or have several items already cooking on the stovetop.
To cook in the microwave:
- Place in a microwave-safe bowl and add a small amount of water (about ½ cup of water).
- Cover the bowl and microwave the beans for about 3 to 5 minutes — until the beans are crisp yet tender.
- Pour about an inch of cold water into a pan and bring it to a steady simmer.
- Place a steamer basket into the pan, making sure the simmering water doesn't rise above the base of the steamer.
- Pile the prepared purple beans into the steamer basket and immediately cover the pan with a lid.
- After 3 to 4 minutes, test the beans for tenderness. If necessary, replace the lid and keep steaming the beans for another few minutes.
Add your purple beans to your stir-fries and cook them the same way you cook your other vegetables. These beans can add a great crunch and pair well with a number of stir-fry sauces and flavors.
Your purple beans can also be added to casseroles, soups, stews and salads. Purple beans can also be eaten raw, which is one way you'll be able to admire their gorgeous color for a little bit longer. There's truly no wrong place to add a bean.
"I always roast string beans with oil, salt and pepper," says registered dietitian nutritionist Alex D'Elia, RDN, founder of Olox Nutrition.
- Preheat the oven to 400 to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Pat your cleaned beans dry with a paper towel or clean kitchen cloth, then lightly toss with olive oil and your preferred seasoning (lemon zest, salt and pepper or parmesan are all delicious options).
- Arrange the beans in a single layer on a coated or lined baking sheet, and roast for about 14 minutes. The beans are done when they're both crisp and tender, with some golden and caramelized spots.
If you want to serve cooked purple beans cold as part of a salad, steam or boil them until just cooked, then immediately transfer them to a big bowl of ice water. This method, called blanching, halts the cooking process and prevents the beans from getting softer.
Purple Beans Recipes
Need some cooking inspiration? Below are a few of our favorite ways to use purple beans (some of the recipes below may call for green or string beans, but remember, they are all interchangeable).
Both purple and green beans boast plenty of health benefits that make them worth including in your recipes. They make a low-calorie, crunchy addition to so many recipes and are a good source of vitamins C and K, folate and dietary fiber.
One 3-ounce serving of beans, per the USDA, contains:
- 25 calories
- 0 grams fat
- 0 grams sodium
- 5 grams carbohydrates
- 3 grams fiber
- 2 grams sugar
- 1 gram protein
Additional reporting by Kate Bratskeir.