At one point, these Garlic and Lemon Green Beans were one of our very favorite side dishes to make at home, but I didn’t make it for a long time after we went oil-free, because I just didn’t think it was possible to make them with out oil. However after much experimentation, I am pleased to bring this oil-free version to you, that I find just as satisfying and flavorful. It cooks up in 15 minutes, only uses 1 pan, and even good enough to have on the side with that Vegan Wellington you’re having for Thanksgiving! Trust me, this will become one of your easy go-to side dishes.
Method for cooking Lemon and Garlic Green Beans oil-free-
Cooking green beans is tricky. Do you sauté, do you steam, do you steam with an ice bath? If you simply sauté, the texture will come out tough and chewy. If you steam, they fare better, but you don’t get the same flavor as sautéing. Do you steam, put them in an ice bath, and then sauté? Who has time for that?!
What I’ve come up with here is a bit unconventional, but it’s the easiest and most flavorful way to make green beans taste great without the hassle. By steaming the green beans in the sauté pan initially, you achieve the desired tender texture, and then by adding the garlic and seasonings into the same pan to sauté, you simplify things and keep the best of both worlds.
A few tips on making great green beans:
Draining the green beans-
When you drain the water from the pan after the initial steaming, you have a couple options here. The easiest I find is just to leave the top on the pan cracked ever so slightly, and then tilt the pan over the sink to drain out the excess water. If you choose this option, do be careful about the steam escaping and go slowly. It is the lazy method for sure, but also can be a bit hard to get used to at first.
The other option would be simply to dump the beans into a colander to drain and then add them back to pan straight away. Either is fine, just choose what works best for you.
How do I sauté the garlic without oil?
This may sound impossible to those of us who grew up sautéing our garlic and crushed red pepper in olive oil as second nature, and who had Italian moms and grandmas shouting over our shoulders “Don’t burn the garlic!” But I assure you it is possible, it just takes a bit of adjustment. The key is add the garlic to the pan at a low to medium low heat. Once the garlic starts to sizzle a bit, do not walk away from the pan! You want to leave it there just long enough that you start to smell the garlic release it’s aroma, but not long enough that the garlic starts to burn. This will be about 1-2 minutes only.
It will start to stick to the pan, especially if you have pressed your garlic, but try not to panic at this point. Once you add some liquid to the pan, all those stuck bits will release from the bottom of the pan and incorporate beautifully into your dish.
When to add the lemon…
I strongly advocate for turning the heat off before you add the fresh lemon juice. When you add lemon juice directly to a scorching hot pan, it can start to take on a slightly bitter and unpleasant flavor. You don’t have to wait long after you turn off the heat to add it, just long enough for that overwhelming heat to subside- About 2-3 minutes should do the trick. I like to walk away and assemble the rest of my dinner on my plate, and then come back and squeeze the lemon into the pan, just before serving the green beans.
Should I use vegetable broth or water?
More often than not, I use water when making this dish. If I have an open container of veggie broth in the fridge, I will use it to give the dish a bit of extra flavor, but the acidity of the lemon and the punch of garlic are more than enough to make this dish extremely flavorful without it. Also, we tend to watch our salt content, so I try not to add unnecessary sources of sodium on the regular.
These green beans would pair perfectly with our Perfect Vegan Falafel!
Hope this extremely quick and easy veg will become one of your stapes as it is for me!
Garlic Lemon Green Beans (Oil free)
- 1 lb fresh green beans
- 1/2 cup water or veggie broth
- 5-6 cloves of garlic pressed or minced pressed brings out extra flavor
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- dash of salt
- Trim your green beans and cut in half to make bite size pieces
- Add green beans and 1/2 cup of water or vegetable broth to a saute pan with the lid on. Cook on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes to steam the green beans until they are fork tender and bright green.
- Remove from heat and drain excess water carefully from the pan.
- Turn the heat back on medium low and push all your green beans to one side of the pan. To the empty side of the pan, add your pressed garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté for about 1 minute. The garlic will start to stick, but just cook it long enough that it starts to release it's aroma.
- After about a minute, add a generous splash or two of water or vegetable broth to release the bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan, and stir everything well to combine. Cook for about another minute until the garlic and green beans are well incorporated.
- Turn off the heat and after the green beans have cooled for 1-2 minutes, squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the pan. Add a dash of salt (omit if salt free) and stir well to combine.
- Serve with mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted cauliflower, or whatever you're having for dinner that night!