Some like them grilled whole or mashed on toast. Others prefer them stuffed into ravioli or fried up as falafel.

By Nina Friend
April 23, 2019
Monique van Velzen/Getty Images

Spring is exciting for all kinds of reasons (Flowers! Sunshine! Outdoor brunching!), but the thing that most delights food-lovers is the abundance of colorful produce. There’s pink rhubarb, yellow daylilies, and a host of different greens—including nutty, earthy fava beans, which are only around from late March through May.

We’re now in peak fava season, which has us thinking about all of the ways we’d like to cook (and eat) them before they’re gone. We turned to 17 chefs, located in cities from Los Angeles to New York, to let us in on their favorite ways to prepare these green legumes. Here’s how they’re using fava beans this spring: 

Abraham Conlon, Chef/Owner, Fat Rice

“With the first of the season's fava beans, I really love them grilled in the pod so the outside is charred. When you open them up you have a tender, slightly smoky, vegetal burst of flavor from the beans. As the season goes on and the fava beans get bigger, I like to remove them from their pod leaving the outer husk and braise them with vinegar and garlic or Portuguese chouriço and sofrito. Either preparation is great with bread or as a side dish.”

Nyesha Arrington, formerly chef/owner, Native (now closed)

"I love that you can use the leaves of this amazing legume as well as the actual beans – two for one! Fava bean leaves are great to wilt into pasta dishes, and the beans themselves can make a purée that is great to fold into the pasta dough, giving it that vibrant green color. Toss with lemon, olive oil, and fresh shucked fava beans, and you've got a stunning spring dish."

Carlos Cruz, Executive Chef, The Promontory

“My favorite way to cook fava beans is by boiling them until they are tender and then frying them in pork fat.”

Try this recipe for grilled fava bean pods with chile and lemon:

"Trust me," says chef Nate Appleman about this unorthodox recipe. He quickly grills whole fava beans, tosses them with a crushed red pepper dressing and serves them hot. They can be eaten whole—the tender pods develop a lovely charred flavor on the grill—but it's also easy to eat them in the traditional way by popping the beans out of their pods and outer skins.

Thomas Raquel, Executive Pastry Chef, Le Bernardin

“One of my favorite ways to enjoy fava beans is by creating a dip. First, I blanch the fava beans, then blend them in a food processor with caramelized shallots and roasted garlic and the result is always delicious and beautiful in color as well.”

Tim Love, Chef/Owner, Lonesome Dove Western Bistro

“I like to purée them with a good pesto for ravioli filling. Then make a rich sauce made with spicy sausage, garlic, and an ungodly amount of good butter.”

John Cox, Chef/Partner, The Bear and Star

“One of my favorite chef tricks is to harvest the fava beans while they are still young, soft and covered in fuzz. These young beans haven’t fully developed the leathery shell that forms around adult fava beans (the ones that prep cooks hate because they require that you pick the beans out of the shells and then pick them again to remove the outer membrane; a tedious and time-consuming process). The young beans are so tender that you can simply toss them with salt, pepper and olive oil and grill them directly over charcoal. The grilled young fava beans, simply served with a touch of lemon, are an easy and delicious spring dish. For those less adventurous diners, we double pick the fava beans and then mash them with fresh garlic, onion, lime juice, jalapeño, cilantro, olive oil and salt. This decadent, bright green fava bean dip tastes and looks very similar to guacamole and is sure to convert even the most cynical diner.”

Try this recipe for spring peas and greens with cacio e pepe dressing:

Cacio e pepe is a great way to eat pasta, but have you tried cheese and black pepper on your peas? If not, we recommend doing so immediately.

Nicole Guini, Pastry Chef, Blackbird

“My favorite application for favas are mashed into a purée and incorporated into guacamole or hummus or other dips.”

Mike Simmons, Chef/Partner, Café Marie-Jeanne

“I love favas when they’re very young and just about the size of a sugar snap pea. The husk is still very tender and they can be cooked and eaten in their entirety. Grilled and drizzled with very very good extra virgin olive oil and a little vinegar, poached in lamb fat with preserved lemon, or braised in tomato sauce with octopus are all ways I love them.”

Akhtar Nawab, Chef/Owner, Alta Calidad

“I love to poach fava beans in a little good butter and lemon and finished with a little peppery olive oil. At Alta Calidad, we make a sope, like a little masa cake, and spoon the fava beans and a little aged cotija cheese over the top—kind of like a Mexican bruschetta.”

Try this recipe for fava bean and cauliflower risotto:

Linton Hopkins, Chef/Co-owner, Holeman & Finch, H&F Burger, C. Ellet's, Restaurant EugeneHop's Chicken

“I like fava beans tossed with fresh olive oil, lemon, and sea salt—simple.”

Katie Button, Executive Chef/Co-Owner, Cúrate, Button & Co. Bagels

“When it comes to fava beans, I am definitely in favor of the double peel to get to their super tender delicious center. Remove them from the pod, and then blanch and shock them to slip them out of their individual casing. Then I cook them briefly in a rich stock made from the scraps of iberico ham and drizzle them in olive oil, sea salt and lemon zest.”

Kevin Korman, Chef, Whitebird at The Edwin

“One of my favorite preparations for these delicate beans is to blanch them and toss with fresh spring peas, mint, lemon zest, olive oil, and the surprise ingredient of shaved white chocolate. It sounds crazy, but the flavors mesh so wonderfully.”

Try this recipe for bruschetta with mozzarella and smashed fresh favas:

Fresh lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil add a bright creaminess to puréed favas, best enjoyed on crispy baguette slices (with buffalo mozzarella, of course.)

John Kernick

Johanna Hellrigl, Executive Chef, Doi Moi

“My father, Andreas Hellrigl, was a chef. One of my favorite videos I have of him is him making a fava bean dish at his restaurant in New York. We are Italian, but as you can see from my last name it doesn't sound very Italian - that's because we are from the northern part of Italy that speaks a Tyrolean dialect called South Tyrol. This is where speck, the smoked cured meat, comes from, and it's absolutely delish. My interpretation on my dad's dish is sautéeing fresh fava beans (shelled from pods and then the outer layer) with chopped shallots, speck, and white wine and making it into a purée. A nice dollop of that inside a cooked artichoke bottom is great for when you are hosting friends or served as an amuse bouche.”

Gabriel Kreuther, Chef/Owner, Gabriel Kreuther

“I love to prepare and eat fava beans as a ragout for a vegetarian stew option, or in a fricassée style with a savory bacon cream sauce that’s purely indulgent.”

Jeremy Nelson, Chef de Cuisine, The Violet Hour

"Fresh fava beans are a delight to work with and I really enjoy making fresh falafel with them. These blended with fresh chickpeas and some light spices make for a really energetic and lively falafel, the bright green interior surprises a lot a people."

Try this recipe for charred fava bean salad with lemon and tarragon:

Jen Yee, Executive Pastry Chef, Holeman & Finch, C. Ellet's, Restaurant Eugene

“One of our chefs made some fava bean hummus, and that is now definitely my favorite way to eat them! The color is an inviting pastel green and it makes the best dip for crudités.”

Travis Swikard, Former Culinary Director for Daniel Boulud

“My favorite way to prepare fava beans is grilled whole in the skin and then eaten like edamame. I like to toss them in sour dill salt or a spicy zhug seasoning when they come off of the charcoal grill. This is how you get the best fava flavor from the bean.” 

Check out these recipes for more fava bean inspiration.

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