Southern-Style Green Beans {vs. 'Northern-Style' ~ The Great Green Bean Debate}

July 19, 2014
How do you take your green beans?  Simmered & soft Southern-style ... or still-crisp, lightly steamed & vibrantly green Northern-style?  That  is the 'Great Green Bean' debate in our family!

When I moved from Vermont to North Carolina ... goodness, 20 years ago ... I learned there was a difference ... a big  difference ... in how Northerners and Southerners cook their fresh green beans.  See, there's Southern-style, simmered on the stovetop for a good piece, soft, and dullish green.  And then there's Northern-style ...
... quick-cooked steamed, still a tad bit crisp, and vibrantly green.

Which way do you 'take' yours?

Me?  I love, love, love my green beans both  ways!  My hubby?  He detests  Southern-style green beans.  Even though he's a through-and-through Southern boy who grew up eating them at almost every meal.  Yes, his parents grew a huge garden, put up green beans in the freezer, and his Mom cooked Southern-style green beans almost every night for dinner.  And Mark couldn't.  Stand.  Them.

So the first time I said I was making green beans for dinner for Mark, well, let's just say he was less than thrilled.

He assumed I was making them the Southern way.  And I couldn't quite understand why he was so lackluster about my choice of dinner sides.

When a bowl of lightly steamed, vibrantly green, still a tad bit crisp green beans appeared on the table, Mark didn't quite know what to think.  These weren't the green beans he'd grown up with!

And so, a discussion of Northern vs. Southern green beans ensued.

Mark tried them.

And to his surprise, he liked them!

I've succeeded in making a green bean lover out of him.  They just have to be cooked Northern-style.

So, what's the difference in preparation, you ask?  Let's take a look.

Both Southern-style and Northern-style start out with fresh green beans ...

... but then take a different path from there.

Northern-style tends to use smaller, 'younger' beans, and leaves them whole ... just trimming off the stem end.  I like to line up a little pile of beans for easy trimming of several beans at once.  These smaller, 'younger' beans, if they're the 'string' kind, generally don't need stringing ... at least that's what I've found.

The beans are then steamed over boiling water in a steamer basket for about 5 to 7 minutes ...

... until still-crisp-tender and vibrantly green.

Season them with a touch of salt and pepper and a little pat of butter, and you've got a bowl of delicious Northern-style green beans ... just the way Mark likes them.

What about Southern-style green beans?

Southern-style tends to use larger, 'older' beans ... which do need to be 'stringed' if they're the string type.  The beans are then cut into thirds ...

... and placed in a pot with a bit of water, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  {And generally, with a little bacon or fatback for flavor, too ... though we go meatless with ours.}

The beans are then simmered for 30 to 45 minutes until soft and tender.

So, which way wins 'The Great Green Bean Debate' for you?

As for me, I'll happily take 'em either way!

Southern-Style Green Beans
Source:  My mother-in-law

  • 4 c. fresh green beans
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  1. Trim ends of beans and cut beans into thirds. Place beans and water in a medium saucepan. Add olive oil, sugar, salt, and pepper.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, over low to medium-low heat for 30 to 45 minutes.
Note:  Add a strip of bacon, chopped, or a touch of fatback for flavor, if desired.


  1. I'm a southern girl and therefore, I love southern style. I am not that fond of "crispy" green beans. But I will tolerate them. :)

    Thanks for the comparison and recipe!!

  2. Born and raised in North Carolina....give me Southern Style!!! I just cooked some like this except I covered the beans with water. So good!!

  3. I love green beans either way, and this recipe looks perfect! Pinned and tweeting!

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your fresh Green Beans with Full Plate Thursday. Hope you have a great week and come back soon!
    Miz Helen

  5. I'm from about far south as you can get before sitting in the Gulf. New Orleans. I have never seen anything like your southern style green bean recipe before but I'm going to try them. Thanks for the recipes . I'm anxious to try the northern version. Thanks again

  6. I like green beans any way you fix them - as long as they're cooked long enough to get them hot. I don't mind crisp but they must be a little tender and very warm. Southern style green beans are best cooked for a long time IF they are canned or fresh. Not frozen. Frozen green beans turn into limp beans and get mushy.


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