Eat More Fava Beans: Skip the Peeling & Sometimes Even the Shelling

Eat More Fava Beans: Skip the Peeling & Sometimes Even the Shelling

Fresh fava bean season is in full swing in the Pacific Northwest. These last few weeks of school are also a particularly busy time which may have something to do with why I can’t be bothered to peel each individual bean. And when tender and small enough I just prepare and eat the whole pod. Italians, who know a thing or two about enjoying fava beans, often don’t peel them. So I’d like to make the case for more fava bean consumption this spring with less hassle.


If your beans are on the larger side, there’s always an Iranian method of cooking them–the whole pods are cooked in heavily salted water until they start falling apart. The resulting beans are tender and well seasoned and do not need peeling. So there! Skip the finicky peeling, enjoy the beans and more nutrients to boot!


Seared Young Fava Beans with Garlic Scapes and Lemon

In this dish I shelled some and left most in the pod and just cut them into bite-sized pieces. The combination of shapes and textures was delicious.

When you have young/small fava beans you can eat the whole pod, either grilled or just seared in a heavy skillet, in this case alongside some shelled ones and garlic scapes and scallions. The whole pod gets tender and when well seasoned with salt and lemon, is just delicious. You can cook them all whole or shell a few for contrast and fun-either way is delicious.


Serves 4


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 lb young, tender fava beans in their pods
1 bunch garlic scapes, cut into 2-inch lengths or 2-3 the stalks green garlic or 1 head new garlic, minced
3-4 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths (optional)
Juice from 1/2 lemon


If you have time, shell 1/3 of the fava beans and cut the remaining whole pods into 2-inch lengths. The combination of the shelled and whole favas is fun but not necessary, see headnote.


Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high to high heat. Add the fava beans in their pods (if you shelled some you’ll add those a few minutes later), the garlic scapes and scallions, if using, sprinkle with salt and cook, covered and undisturbed for a few minutes. When they start browning give them a stir and continue cooking, stirring often, for about 3-4 more minutes. Add the shelled fava beans and cook for another couple of minutes. When the pods, beans and garlic scapes are tender remove from the heat. Taste and adjust with salt if needed and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Serve hot or warm.

7 thoughts on “Eat More Fava Beans: Skip the Peeling & Sometimes Even the Shelling”

  • Over the last 5 years I have grown 12 different varieties of Fava. Usually 7 at a time. I have had ample opportunity to compare different varieties of favas at different maturities. It is the variety of the fava and the individual bean pod age determining if it needs to be peeled or not NOT the individual bean seed or pod size. For example I have found all varieties labelled Longpod have a bitter coat on the seed and need to be peeled no matter how small unless of course you like bitter – I don’t. From Saltspring Seeds in British Columbia you can buy two varieties, Sandra’s and Andys – both of whom have gigantic pods, gigantic seeds, many seeds in each pod AND do not have a bitter seed coat even though a large seed. Of course if the seed is overly mature – on its way to through the maturing stage to dry down as a dry bean all bets are off as to flavour and toughness.

    • cookwithwhatyouhave says:

      Thanks for this very informative note Lisa. The farmers in my area must be growing the later varieties, for which I’m very grateful! I would imagine though, that the Iranian method of boiling the whole pods in heavily salted water until they fall apart and then eating the whole beans (unpeeled) would still work for the former variety. I’ve tried that with every variety (when larger) I’ve ever had and always been pleased. But maybe just lucky there too. . .

  • Carol Anton says:

    I remember when you cooked Fava beans in class after shopping the farmers market. Never forgot how good they are!!!!

  • Why is it that we are unable to find the whole favs beans unshelled in a can similar to green beans???? I have been looking everywhere to no avail. Could you help if you know anything about this.

  • I bought some today at the farmer’s market and the farmer said the whole pod is edible so let’s see how it goes. The farmer is Nigerian and says they eat the whole pod there — he actually steams them.

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