No. Quick Southern green beans is not an oxymoron. You can indeed make green beans that are tender, with the flavor of bacon (or ham, if that’s your bag) and perfectly seasoned in just a little more than thirty minutes. I am not joking.
I’ve lived in Tennessee my entire life. Every potluck, every church dinner, every holiday, and, yes, every post-funeral meal, involves slow-cooked Southern-style green beans. Sometimes there is onion, or, like my grandmother used to do, there might be peeled new potatoes. But always, always, there is ham hock involved. And lots of simmering. Those are the magic ingredients, and until maybe about a year ago I thought that if you took away either of those ingredients, well, you could not have true Southern green beans.
I was incorrect. Thankfully so.
People who work full-time don’t often have time to simmer green beans all day long, and while in theory I love my Crock-Pot I frequently get stressed out by having to more or less prep a second meal to go into the crock in the morning before I go to work. We eat dinner with my parents every Sunday night so there’s not even the “Sunday dinner” excuse to cooking a pot of green beans all day long on the stovetop.
Once I was watching a show on Food Network (I don’t remember which one, but it was quite a few years ago) where the chef/host made some disparaging remarks about Southern-style green beans and proceeded to make some crispy sautéed green bean dish with other ingredients that I don’t remember. While I rolled my eyes at the chef’s attitude about tender green beans (I get very, very tired of people trashing Southern cuisine in magazines and on television…it’s not just about fried food and gravy…and besides, what’s wrong with those things? They’re gooood.), I thought that the recipe sounded interesting so I decided to make it. Then and there I decided that crispy green beans were not. for. me. Sorry, crispy green bean lovers. The texture, the waxy squeak on your teeth when you bite down, just doesn’t do it for me. For a long time, I thought my access to tender green beans infused with smoky pork flavor was limited to those rare occasions that I could find time to monitor my stove for several hours.
Enter this recipe. I have no idea the origin of it or even if my recipe is anything like the original, but my mom made something like this a while back and a month or two later I started making this on a regular basis, using my memory of what she told me was in the green beans she made. The bacon and onion take 5-10 minutes, then simmering the green beans takes about twenty minutes, and another 5-10 minutes to reduce the liquid. I like to add a brown sugar glaze, but if you don’t want to do that, well, don’t (though I encourage you to try it at least once. It’s amazing.).
By the way, you may notice that this is not four servings pictured here. You may or may not have figured out by now that I have two people living in my household and sometimes I half recipes for the two of us. Feel free to half, double, triple-whatever-the recipe!
These Southern green beans are quick enough for a weeknight meal!
Yield: 4 servings
10 minPrep Time:
30 minCook Time:
40 minTotal Time:
- 4 Strips thick-cut bacon (sliced into 1/4 inch pieces)
- 1 Small onion (sliced into half-moons)
- 1 Pound green beans (trimmed and cut into manageable lengths)
- 2 Cups chicken stock (low-sodium or homemade)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (optional but highly recommended!)
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- Preheat a medium saucepan (I used a 10-inch cast-iron skillet) over medium heat. Place the bacon into the pan and cook until almost crisp. Add the onions and cook until they are tender and translucent.
- Add the green beans and the chicken stock to the pan. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about twenty minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the lid and raise the heat to medium-high. Simmer vigorously until most of the liquid has evaporated.
- If using, add the brown sugar, stir to coat, and allow to cook until the brown sugar makes a "glaze" on the green beans-two to three minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.