Fava, faba, or broad beans are a popular variety due to their beautiful color when fresh, as well as their slightly sweet and nutty flavor. Both fresh and dry fava beans are a culinary gem, able to be prepared in a number of delicious ways. They grow in large pods, up to 12 inches long, and to get to the good stuff you'll want to shell them at least once, if not twice. If you're starting with the pods, simply snap off one end and squeeze and twist from the seams—your fava beans should pop right out. Now, you can cook and eat your favas, as is, but many people find it worth the extra effort to remove the skin that covers each bean. To do this, boil them for about 5 minutes before removing and shocking them in cold water. Finally, press each bean from one end and again, they should pop right out. Voilà! Now you have fava beans and options for how to cook with them. Read our recipes below to take advantage of both fresh and dried varieties.
01 of 07
Fava beans are found in nearly every cuisine, but their culinary roots lie deepest in the Mediterranean. This fava and fennel soup is a traditional dish from Sicily and has been enjoyed for thousands of years. Its smooth texture is a great canvas for having some fun making your dish look elegant. Drizzle olive oil, drop a fennel frond, or reserve a few cooked beans and place atop each portion.
02 of 07
If you take a minimalist approach to cooking, you know that often, fresh is best. This recipe for sautéed fava beans is easy to fall in love with, simply using double-shelled favas, a dab of butter, and optional seasonings like salt and fresh mint. If you love this recipe, be warned—the season to buy fresh favas is about two months long, between early April and late May, depending on where you live. So, why not go gangbusters at the market and purchase enough fava beans to blanch, freeze, and cook later on? They store quite well.
03 of 07
If you’re fond of the renowned Turkish delight, think of this fava bean appetizer as the savory version. Its dense texture is well balanced by bright and tangy dill weed but by all means, don’t stop there—parsley, thyme, and rosemary also fair well. This appetizer is best suited as a part of mezze, which is a dining tradition from the Mediterranean and Middle East composed of a spread of small plates for sharing. To this end, think pickled and roasted vegetables, spreads like baba ghanoush, and a variety of cured meats.
04 of 07
This dried fava bean soup is worthy of second servings. The recipe uses double-shelled dried favas, so you won’t end up with the unwelcome lumps or bitter flavor that their outer shell can contribute. Besides the usual onion, garlic, and olive oil suspects, this soup is infused with fresh cumin, a spice that is used in a variety of cuisines, like Indian and Middle Eastern. If you can't resist coloring outside the lines, toast your cumin seeds first—it brings a warm, intense flavor to the dish.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
06 of 07
Street food is deeply integrated into Moroccan culture, especially amongst the bustling backdrops of cities like Marrakech and Fez. Fava bean dip, or bessara, is one of the most popular dishes and is typically topped with a drizzle of olive oil. To this end, try making your own olive oil infusions—it’s a very addicting hobby. If you're not eating in the Medina of Marrakech, you can enjoy your bessara with less classical toppings, like slices of preserved lemons or a few olives.
07 of 07
Besides its delicious alliteration, falafel with fava beans is a delicious dish. Although the variety of falafel made from pure chickpeas is the most recognized in the west, this two bean falafel is commonly found in the Middle East. Nutritionally, fava beans and chickpeas complement each other well, as favas are higher in B vitamins, vitamins A and C, while chickpeas are higher in vitamin K and choline. No falafel—repeat—no falafel is complete without its sauce. Here we have not just one or two, but three!