Wonderfully tender-crisp and well seasoned, these flavorful Chinese green beans are one of my favorite side dishes.
Ready in about 25 minutes, they're so easy to make. And the leftovers are really good!
I really like green beans. They are so delicious! Simple boiled green beans, liberally salted, are wonderful. I also love spicy green beans. When tender-crisp, rather than limp and lifeless, they are like a salty, spicy snack.
The secret to delicious Chinese green beans is sautéing them until tender-crisp and not a second longer. The tasty sauce - garlic, soy sauce and honey - is wonderfully flavorful.
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this tasty side dish. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
Avocado oil: This neutral-tasting oil has a neutral taste and a high smoke point, making it ideal for cooking.
Fresh green beans: I haven't tried making this recipe with frozen beans, but I suspect that fresh is the way to go in terms of flavor and texture.
Soy sauce: I use reduced-sodium soy sauce in most of my recipes. I find that traditional soy sauce is too salty. Obviously, you can also use a gluten-free alternative.
Rice vinegar: You can replace it with white wine vinegar. But don't use distilled white vinegar - it's too acidic.
Honey: Just a little to balance out the other flavors in this recipe. It doesn't make the dish taste sweet.
Cornstarch: Just a little to help thicken the sauce.
Minced garlic: Mince it yourself, or use the stuff that comes in a jar. Freshly minced does taste best, though.
Red pepper flakes: I use ½ teaspoon, which makes the dish quite spicy. If you don't like spicy food, you can use half that amount.
Sesame oil: To finish the dish after it's cooked. It adds great flavor!
Making Chinese-style green beans at home is easy. Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
Your first step is to mix the sauce ingredients - soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, cornstarch, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
Next, sauté the green beans in avocado oil until they are tender-crisp and just begin to brown in spots.
Reduce the heat to low, add the sauce, and cook briefly, just until the green beans are coated and the sauce has thickened.
Drizzle the dish with sesame oil and serve.
Cooked green beans should be bright green and tender-crisp. You don't want them brown and limp. So even though we want them to be browned in some spots, we don't want to overcook them.
Eight minutes over medium heat works for me (plus a minute after adding the sauce). But keep a close eye on them as you cook. Depending on how hot your stovetop runs, they might be ready faster.
Frequently asked questions
Some recipes will instruct you to parboil the beans prior to sautéing them. Frankly, I lack the patience for that, and I also find it unnecessary.
One-step cooking is always better than two-step cooking, and washing one pot is preferable to washing two!
So no, I don't parboil the beans, and they turn out beautiful - bright green and crisp and very tasty.
I don't recommend using frozen beans. You want the beans to be tender-crisp, which is impossible to achieve with the frozen vegetable.
I have four suggestions for you:
1. Use young, very fresh beans. Those will taste great even when simply boiled. Never use canned green beans! They tend to have an unpleasant metallic taste and they also tend to be brownish and limp.
2. Saute them with lots of butter and garlic. Everything tastes good when cooked with butter and garlic. 🥰
3. Cook them in a bold, spicy sauce such as the one we use here or the one I use in these spicy green beans.
4. Smother them in cheese! Much like butter, cheese greatly elevates vegetables. Try this cheesy green bean casserole, for example. It's wonderful.
Variations and substitutions
Here are a few ideas for changing up this recipe:
- You can use half a teaspoon of garlic powder in the sauce instead of fresh garlic. Freshly minced garlic will be much better, but in a pinch, garlic powder is an acceptable substitute.
- You can add a teaspoon of minced fresh ginger to the sauce.
- Try toasting a tablespoon of sesame seeds and sprinkling them on top of the finished dish.
- Instead of red pepper flakes, you can mix a teaspoon of hot pepper sauce into the sauce. The only caveat is that pepper sauce tends to create more fumes when cooked, so if you're sensitive to that, you might want to stick with pepper flakes (and possibly use less of them).
You don't have to serve Chinese green beans with an Asian-style meal. They are quite versatile and go well with any meat or fish.
I often serve them with grilled chicken breast. They are also very nice alongside fried eggs, for a tasty and filling meatless meal.
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 3-4 days. Reheat them in the microwave on 50% power. Sometimes I just snack on them cold - they are surprisingly good that way!
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Chinese Green Beans with Soy Sauce and Garlic
- 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce or a gluten-free alternative
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 12 oz green beans , trimmed, long ones halved
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, and cornstarch. Mix in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, about 3 minutes. Add the green beans and sauté them, stirring often, until they are tender-crisp and just begin to brown in spots, about 8 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low. Give the sauce another whisk, then add it to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until the beans are coated in the sauce and the sauce has thickened, about 1 minute.
- Transfer the green beans to a serving plate, drizzle them with sesame oil, and serve.