Fava bean puree shines bright as a summery spread for baguette slices or crackers, or as a bed for simply cooked proteins like our seared scallops. Make-ahead and freezer-friendly.
Why we love this recipe
This recipe has all the best vibes. It's rustic and comforting, yet somehow also bright and summery. Dress it up a bit by making it perfectly smooth, or leave it a bit textured for a more casual vibe. Make it a starter with bread or crackers, or serve it as a side dish. You'll love it no matter what.
I first published this recipe here way back in 2009. I've updated the post for clarity and the recipe a bit to reflect our preferences for a brighter, more lemony and garlicky puree with less oil than the original. I saved the original text for posterity. You can read it by scrolling down past the recipe card if you like.
What you'll need
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe.
- This recipe uses fresh fava beans, which start showing up in markets in the late spring and last through mid- to late summer. You can see the details of how to prep them below. It's a bit of a process but well worth the effort. Be sure to weigh them in their pods before beginning prep. Favas start the season more tender and get starchier as the plants mature. You can use any of the above in this puree.
- I've pictured tarragon here, and I love it in this dish. But you can swap in a big sprig of thyme or rosemary if you like.
- My adaptation of this recipe features more garlic and lemon juice and less olive oil than the original.
How to make it
Here's what you'll do to make a dreamy batch of fava bean puree. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.
- The first few steps are all about prepping the beans. First, remove them from their large outer pods. Then set a big pot of water on the stove to boil and cook the favas until they float, a minute or two.
- Transfer to a bowl of ice water. When cool, peel off the whitish outer layer to reveal the bean inside.
- To make the spread, heat the olive oil in a medium pot. Add the garlic, shelled favas, and herb sprig and sauté for a minute. Then pour in the water, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the beans are easy to mash with the back of a spoon.
- Off the heat, mash until they're as smooth as you like. Stir in the lemon juice, along with a little bit of additional water if necessary to create a spreadable puree. That's it!
Expert tips and FAQs
This recipe requires fresh favas. Save the dried ones for another use.
Yes! These are two names for the same thing. Lima beans, however, are different.
Yes, you've got lots of options here. You can prep the beans up to a year in advance, freeze them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then transfer to an airtight container, and add them to the pot straight from frozen.
You can cook the puree in advance and keep it in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a year. Same goes for leftovers.
A perfect summertime dinner party
- Start with sea beans if you can find them and a stiff gin and tonic
- For the main dish, serve seared scallops over fava bean puree
- On the side, serve sautéed zucchini and onions
- For dessert, make one of our fruit crisps with whatever's in season. (Here's blueberry and cherry.)
- ½ cup (120 ml) olive oil
- 4 pounds (1814 grams) fresh fava beans in their pods
- 8 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- A sprig of fresh rosemary, thyme, or tarragon
- ¾ cup (174 ml) water
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- To prepare the fava beans for cooking, remove them from their large outer pods.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, and fill a large bowl with ice water.
- Blanch the beans in the boiling water for one to two minutes, until they float. This is when they'll slip fairly readily from their skins.
- Transfer the beans with a skimmer or slotted spoon to the ice water. When they’re cool, drain the water and peel to remove the beans from their whitish skins.
- To make the puree, heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat.
- Add the garlic, herbs, and shelled, skinned beans and sauté for a minute.
- Add water, salt, and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are very tender (about 15 minutes), adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent burning, and adding more water if necessary.
- Remove the pot from the heat, and remove the herb sprig.
- Mash the beans with the back of a spoon or pass the mixture through a food mill.
- Stir in the lemon juice until smooth.
- This recipe requires fresh fava beans. Save the dried ones for another use.
- If you like, add a bit of additional water along with the lemon juice to ensure spreadability. Whether you leave the puree more rustic with a with a bit of texture or make it very smooth is 100% up to you.
- You can prep the beans up to a year in advance, freeze them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then transfer to an airtight container, and add them to the pot straight from frozen.
- You can cook the puree in advance and keep it in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a year. Same goes for leftovers.
I first published this recipe here way back in 2009. It's adapted from Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food. Over the years I've continued tweaking it, so it now reflects more of my own preferences. I've updated the post and recipe for clarity, as well.
Serving Size:¼ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 276Total Fat: 10.1gCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 10.4gProtein: 12.7g
Shelling beans with kids
Did you know that a three year old, sitting sun-kissed and cross-legged on the kitchen floor, and not under any earthly duress, can skin more than three pounds of shelled, blanched fava beans in one sitting? And did you know that it’s possible for a family’s kitchen to hold so many shelled, blanched fava beans that such an impressive act of determination could leave her feeling defeated? I wouldn’t have thought so either, if you’d asked a year ago today.
An overwhelming abundance
Early last July, the CSA we help coordinate delivered the season’s entire haul of favas to our garage in one go. I knew I’d fallen hard for Farmer Rich when he let me in on his reasoning: better to deliver them all at once than to give each member “four beans a week for four weeks.” Right on!
Turns out, though, that thanks to the mysterious forces that tangle the wires of CSA communication, there were two large baskets full of favas left after all of our members had come to pick up their shares.
We considered donating some to the local homeless shelter but thought, perhaps wrong-headedly, that the soup kitchen workers wouldn’t want to be bothered preparing them. (I know — Alice Waters, whose recipe follows, just threw up in her mouth a little when I wrote that. Sorry, Alice.)
So instead, we three Umamis peeled and blanched and skinned those suckers for hours, until our fingertips were chapped and white. It was summer; it was our first experience with overwhelming CSA abundance; and we were happy.
Freeze favas batch by batch
Later that day, inside my head, I scattered the beans marvelously onto baking sheets and froze them batch by batch. Once frozen, I put them in double layers of zip-top bags to ward off frost. When I needed a few, I reached my hand in and elegantly removed a small handful.
In actuality, I turned a deaf ear to the tiny screams of those hundreds of wet little beans as I poured them, unfrozen, into a bag and tossed them into the freezer. Because really, what fun is it making saffron risotto with charred fava beans for your very hungry family at 9 p.m. upon a late-September evening if your prep doesn’t involve a hammer, or the throwing of a seven-pound mass of favatude onto the floor to break off a meal-sized portion?
Please. I tire easily of your pleasantries.
My old friends
If there are foods whose names more comfortably follow “the lowly,” let me assure you that they don’t spring to mind when you’re staring at a frozen seven-pound mass of fava.
Despite that reality, and despite the fact that I may have read every fava bean recipe on the internet these past 10 months, favas continue to seduce me with their simple, earthy charms.
I’m a little surprised by how glad I am to think of them back at the markets again. Maybe it’s because of how well you get to know your food when you have to peel it, blanch it, skin it, freeze it, hammer it and throw it before cooking it. And maybe that’s why favas now treat me like an old friend, always there to lend nourishment to a pantry meal when we’ve got other draws on our attention — like raising a newborn, or buying half a cow, or planting an edible garden by the seat of our p(l)ants…or contemplating how many fava beans a four year old might be able to skin in one sitting.