These effortless Chinese Green Beans are pan-fried to blistered perfection then coated with a garlicky-sweet-spicy sauce that makes them impossible to resist.
Fried green beans tossed with a sweet and feisty garlicky soy sauce are a staple in most Chinese restaurants. I find them completely addictive and always order them when we are getting takeout. Sadly, our favourite Chinese restaurant has closed but it turns out recreating a similar dish at home is quick and easy.
I was thrilled to learn all you need is a skillet and 5 main ingredients. If you’re looking for a new side dish that is healthy, easy to make, and super tasty, give these Chinese green beans a try. They’re insanely good.
Chinese Green Beans (Sichuan-Style) Cooking Method
Authentic Sichuan-style green beans are deep-fried in a wok in very hot oil for just a few minutes until their skins blister and shrivel but retain some crunch on the inside. Though it has created some confusion, this deep-frying technique is actually called “dry-frying”. Once fried, the beans are then quickly stir-fried in a sauce that contains Sichuan peppers, garlic, soy sauce, sugar and sometimes ginger and scallions.
For this recipe, however, we are avoiding the deep-fry which means it isn’t authentic, but it’s utterly delicious nonetheless. If you own an air-fryer, you’re lucky, and you know what to do to get the green beans slightly charred and tender. I don’t own an air-fryer but found a great recipe in my trusted Lucky Peach cookbook that offers similar results. All you need is a skillet (preferably cast iron) and 1 tablespoon oil.
Using a hot skillet and very little oil it takes about 10 minutes to cook the beans and leads to pretty outstanding results: Blistered beans on the outside with a perfectly snappy interior. It’s so much healthier than deep-frying and doesn’t leave you with a huge amount of oil to deal with.
Ingredients And Substitutions
This Chinese green bean recipe has only 5 main ingredients (not counting the oil) yet is full of intense flavours that will delight you. The Lucky Peach recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger and 1/4 cup chopped scallions but I find this dish tasty enough without them. Feel free to add them in if you wish.
- Green beans – For best results, choose beans that are bright green with no brown spots and similar in size. You will need 1 pound for this recipe.
- Neutral oil – I use avocado oil but any neutral oil will work. In a pinch, you can use olive oil.
- Garlic – These Chinese green beans are meant to be garlicky. But you can use as much or as little as you like.
- Soy sauce – I like low-sodium soy sauce but any soy sauce, including gluten-free Tamari will work.
- Honey – A little bit of sweet is really important here to balance out the flavours.
- Sambal Oelek – This is an ingredient I always keep on hand. Rick Martinez from Bon Appétit has this to say about it: flavorful and so simple—crushed raw red chiles, a little vinegar, and salt. It’s good as a condiment and is also good as an ingredient in cooked foods, and, even better, it will taste like you are cooking with fresh chiles. Sambal oelek is available in most grocery stores in the Asian food section, right next to the sriracha. One tablespoon is roughly the equivalent of a chopped, small jalapeño. If you can’t find it, you can use another Asian chili sauce such as this garlic chili sauce or similar.
How To Make Chinese Green Beans
This dish comes together really fast. Here is the quick run-down:
- Wash and trim the beans. Make sure you dry the beans really well. Otherwise they will steam in the pan and not blister properly.
- Prepare sauce: In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, honey, sambal oelek and 1 tablespoon water. Set aside.
- Cook the beans: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, like really hot, add the green beans. Give them a quick toss to coat in the oil then leave them undisturbed until they start to slightly char, about 4 minutes. Flip them around to char on the other side, another 3 minutes, or so. Toss again and continue to cook beans until they are tender and blistered, about 3 more minutes. Increase heat to medium-high if you find the beans are not getting enough char. You may also want to do this in two batches.
- To finish: Lower heat to low, add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour the soy sauce mixture into the pan and sauté for 1 more minute, tossing the beans until coated in the sauce. Serve immediately.
Pro tip: Don’t overcook the beans. You want the beans slightly blistered on the outside and tender on the inside but with a bit of snap. That said, I have accidentally taken them to the side of limp many times and they are still delicious.
Can I make ahead?
Cooked green beans have a tendency to go limp pretty quickly so I prefer to serve these Chinese green beans while still hot straight from the skillet. That being said, I wouldn’t hesitate to reheat the leftovers the next day and add them a stir-fry or chopped into some scrambled eggs – drool.
What to serve with dry fried green beans
These Chinese green beans are so good I could sit down with a bowl-full and eat them like French fries – not kidding. But they are of course delicious as a side to many dishes. Here are a few of our favourites:
- Teriyaki salmon
- Roasted chicken
- Grilled lemongrass chicken
- Scrambled or fried eggs
- Crispy tofu and rice bowl
- Chinese eggplant stir fry
- Coconut rice I love these Chinese green beans served over coconut rice – so good!
- Make it spicier: If you like heat, add at least another teaspoon of samba oelek. Or if using a mild chili sauce, add some red pepper flakes to taste.
- More flavour: As mentioned, you can add ginger and scallions (or shallots) for more flavour.
- Sesame seeds: Garnish the dish with toasted sesame seeds.
- Butter: Cook the beans in oil plus 1 tablespoon butter for more delicious flavour.
If you give this Chinese Green Beans recipe a try, please feel free to leave a comment and/or a star rating below. We appreciate and welcome all your feedback. Thank you!
Chinese Green Beans
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or use Tamari for gluten-free
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon chili paste such as Sambal Oelek or chilli garlic sauce or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil (I use avocado oil)
- 1 pound green beans trimmed, washed and thoroughly dried
- 2 fat garlic cloves minced
- pinch of salt only if necessary
- In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, honey, sambal oelek and 1 tablespoon water. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the green beans. Give them a quick toss to coat in the oil then leave them undisturbed until they start to slightly char, about 4 minutes. Flip them around to char on the other side, another 3 minutes, or so. Toss again and continue to cook beans until they are tender and blistered, about 3 more minutes. You may want to do this in two batches if your skillet isn't very large.
- Lower heat to low, add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and pour the soy sauce mixture into the pan and sauté for 1 more minute, tossing the beans until they are fully coated in the sauce. Taste and add a pinch of salt, if needed. Serve immediately.