Three Easy Ways to Steam Green Beans

Illustration depicting three methods to steam green beans
Illustration: Catherine Song. © The Spruce, 2018 

Steaming is a great way to cook green beans to maintain their beautiful green color and keep their nutritional value. There are three ways to steam green beans: in the microwave, in a steamer basket, and a pan on the stove. In all three cases, the beans are being cooked by the heat of the steam from boiling water. The moist and relatively gentle heat cooks the beans evenly, softening their hearty texture while allowing them to hold onto their impressive levels of vitamin K (as well as vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, folate, and iron).

Steaming in a Microwave

Steaming green beans in a microwave is certainly quick and convenient. Yet it is more difficult to get vegetables steamed to a precise and even level in a microwave, and beans steamed in a microwave may require a bit of draining or drying depending on how much liquid you use and how powerful your microwave is.

Put trimmed and cleaned green beans in a large bowl, with a scant tablespoon or so of water on the bottom (freshly washed green beans can be used with the water clinging to them). Cover beans with a microwave-safe lid or plate (avoid plastic wrap in microwaves), and cook on high power for 1 minute. Test for doneness and repeat at 15-second intervals until beans are steamed to your liking. 

Steaming in a Steamer Basket

This is the classic method of steaming, using a steamer basket or insert that fits in a pot.

Bring about an inch of water to a boil in the bottom of a pot into which your steamer basket or insert fits. Put trimmed and cleaned green beans in the steamer basket, set it over the boiling water, cover, and steam until tender to the bite, 3 to 5 minutes (depending, again, on how crisp or tender you like your green beans).

Steaming in a Pan

This may become your go-to method for steaming green beans. It uses minimal equipment and results in evenly cooked, vibrant, flavorful green beans.

Bring a scant 1/2 inch salted water to boil in a large frying pan or sauté pan. Add trimmed and cleaned green beans, cover, and cook until the beans are tender to the bite and the water has evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes (depending on how crisp you like your cooked green beans).

Steamed Green Beans in Recipes

Having a favorite method for steaming green beans will bring you one step closer to creating some interesting and flavorful dishes featuring this vegetable. A few simple salads—such as marinated green bean saladgreen bean red onion salad, and mint jalapeño green beans—will be ready in a snap, and are ideal dishes to bring to cookouts or picnics.

Looking for a heartier side dish or base for a casserole? The American classic, green beans amandine, and the delicious green bean casserole with tomato and mozzarella cheese, are wonderful uses of this crunchy vegetable as well!