French Green Beans with Shallots


How can a vegetable recipe with only one tablespoon of oil and three simple ingredients — olive oil, green beans and shallots —  be so delicious? It’s all in the technique, which combines slowly cooking shallots in olive oil to coax out their natural sweetness and simmering beans in a bit of water until tender.  


It’s important to use French green beans, which are longer, thinner, sweeter and more tender than most American varieties. They are usually labeled Haricot Verts, which is French for green beans — haricot meaning beans and vert meaning green — and you can often find them bagged and trimmed at the supermarket.


Begin by thinly slicing the shallots into rings and cooking them slowly in olive oil until soft, sweet and mellow.


Next, add the haricots verts and cook a few minutes more.


Add the water, little by little, and simmer until the beans are tender and the pan is dry.


Be sure to cook the beans all the way through — if they are too al dente, they’ll be squeaky and bland. Also, be sure that all the water in the pan is evaporated before serving, otherwise the flavor will be diluted.


Season to taste and enjoy!


French String Beans with Shallots

Print Recipe
Servings: 4
Total Time: 20 Minutes


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • About 1 cup water
  • 3/4 pound (12 ounces) haricots verts (French string beans)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and mellow, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the haricots verts, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add 1/2 cup of the water and cook, stirring frequently, until the water evaporates, 4-5 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of water and continue cooking until the beans are tender and the pan is completely dry, 5-6 minutes. Test the beans for doneness. If they need more cooking time, add a bit more water and cook until done; just be sure to cook off any remaining liquid in the pan before serving, otherwise the flavor will be diluted. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.
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  • Barbara Watson

    Those do not look like shalotts to me, they look like a red onion. Which are they?

    • Jenn

      Hi Barbara, They are shallots…sometimes they are more purple in color.

  • Amanda

    Sounds good – I usually buy frozen Haricot Verts from Trader Joes – How would you modify this using frozen beans?

    • Jenn

      Hi Amanda, I am not familiar with Trader Joe’s brand. Are they fully cooked?

  • This is a great way to cook green beans!

  • Faye Morris

    In the winter I must use frozen green beans but I can never get them to cook up well. If I were to use frozen bean in this recipe how would you suggest cooking them so that they are tender but not limp and tasteless.

    • Jenn

      Hi Faye, To be honest, I haven’t had much luck with frozen green beans either. The problem is that they are typically cooked before being frozen, so they don’t work well in recipes like this one. I’m usually able to find fresh haricot verts, bagged and trimmed, year round in my regular supermarket. That said, I’ve heard from several readers that the Trader Joes frozen haricots verts are very good, but I haven’t tried them myself.

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