French Green Beans with Shallots

5 stars based on 14 votes


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

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.

Reviews & Comments

  • I am excited to try these. I need to triple the recipe. Do I triple the water too, or should I do three separate batches?

    - Pam on November 18, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Pam, You should be able to make it all at once, but you may need to add more or less water; just keep adding it gradually until the beans are cooked through.

      - Jenn on November 19, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I am always looking for easy and minimal ingredients. This is just that! These green beans are so amazing even the kids ate them including the baby!

    - Brittany Ashley on November 18, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Love, love. love this recipe. I make more than I need and snack on them the next day. I don’t know what it is, but they are really full of flavor and yet so simple.

    - Esty on November 1, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I love this recipe and made it many times over the summer with fresh green (and sometimes yellow) beans from the local farmer’s market. I live in upstate New York, and the fresh green beans are not so great right now. Thoughts on using frozen?

    - Dawn on October 27, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Dawn, Unfortunately, I don’t think this method will work with frozen. Sorry!

      - Jenn on October 30, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Shallots. Many and more. I occasionally use white wine instead of the water and occasionally add in some slivered almonds for a crunch, but this is such a standard recipe that always wins.

    - Brandy on August 26, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This was delicious. I followed it completely – no changes. :) I served it as a side to your Peruvian Chicken and Mexican Pilaf. These are the first three recipes I have ever followed from your website, and I am bowled over by how delicious they all were! Thank you for your terrific work. Looking forward to trying some of your amazing looking desserts. :) Bisous from Belgium!

    - Hannah, an Australian in Belgium on July 16, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this tonight for a get together with friends. It was a big hit. Someone even said it reminded him of his mother’s cooking. I thought, wow, I’ll have to remember this recipe. I don’t have a lot of time so I like to keep it simple. This was simple and delicious. I usually use onion to season cooked vegetables. I like the way the shallots broke down and became saucey. I doubled the recipe to meet tonight’s need and used more shallots than called for because I needed to use them up. Thanks for turning me on to this recipe and shallots.

    - Deborah on March 24, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I had never met a green bean I loved – until I tried this recipe. Ditto my partner, and even my 3-year-old enjoyed these. What an excellent recipe. Thank you for showing me the light with green beans!!!

    - Jenn on February 26, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Great recipe! So simple, so good, and healthy – can’t beat that. I’ve also made a “less healthy” version with some bacon I had to use up… I chopped up 6 slices of center cut bacon and sauteed it (replacing the olive oil) then followed the rest of the recipe. Also very good!

    - Michelle on January 17, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I love any excuse to cook with shallots! This recipe was so easy and a nice change from the plain green beans that I usually make.

    - Blair on December 3, 2014 Reply
  • I plan to make your recipe for thanksgiving crowd. I’ll have to do in batches. How far ahead can I prepare? and how would I reheat? Thanks

    - Cary B. on November 25, 2014 Reply
    • HI Cary, You can make a day or two ahead and reheat in the microwave.

      - Jenn on November 25, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Excellent. Tested this recipe out tonight for Thanksgiving. These were delicious. I think they took a bit longer to steam/sauté than indicated but if you just use a little patience you’ll be well served. Very tasty. Thank you!!!

    - Cheryl on November 22, 2014 Reply
  • How far in advance before serving can
    this be prepared?

    Thank you.

    - ellen on August 10, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Ellen, I’d say a day or two.

      - Jenn on August 12, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Makes such an elegant and delicious side dish, have made it many times. Goes with any entree.

    - Cindy on July 23, 2014 Reply
  • Loved this recipe. Served it with the grilled pesto shrimp. So easy to grill both dishes at the same time on the grill.
    5 stars

    - Shari Lunde on July 17, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is my favorite way to have fresh beans straight from the garden. There is no taste comparison. Thanks for the recipe.

    - Angie Mehrtens on July 14, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this a couple of times already. I used to just boil the beans till soft and added salt and pepper. This tastes much better.

    - TS on July 11, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Such an easy way to spruce up green beans! Worth the expense of shallots over onions.

    I’ve also added small bits of lemon zest in the past that’s gone over well, particularly in the spring time.

    - Sam M. on July 10, 2014 Reply
  • Hi – this is a staple in France and was regularly served up by by family there. Frozen beans were steamed slightly first and finished up in the frying pan with the shallots and a clove of garlic (it was France, after all!)

    - Trasy Doran on May 24, 2014 Reply
  • I prepared this for a dinner party and it was the talk of the table! Even the children loved them.

    - Kimberly on April 19, 2014 Reply
  • 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.

    - Faye Morris on January 16, 2014 Reply
    • 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.

      - Jenn on January 17, 2014 Reply
  • This is a great way to cook green beans!

    - Arthur in the Garden! on January 15, 2014 Reply
  • Sounds good – I usually buy frozen Haricot Verts from Trader Joes – How would you modify this using frozen beans?

    - Amanda on January 15, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Amanda, I am not familiar with Trader Joe’s brand. Are they fully cooked?

      - Jenn on January 15, 2014 Reply
  • Those do not look like shalotts to me, they look like a red onion. Which are they?

    - Barbara Watson on January 15, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Barbara, They are shallots…sometimes they are more purple in color.

      - Jenn on January 15, 2014 Reply

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