How NOT to Cook Fava Beans

Peeling cooked fava beans

A few months back Matty and I picked up a one-pound bag of dried fava beans. As with most beans, they’re high in protein and fiber, while being low in fat, sugar, and sodium (unless added!).  Favas are also a good source of vitamins and minerals (especially folate, manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron).

The directions on the bag said they did not need to be soaked and merely to “Cook until soft.”  We did a bit of googling, but most of the recipes we found called for fresh favas, and we didn’t have much luck finding more specific directions.

Turns out, if you go straight from bag to boiling, you’ll be waiting about three hours for those beans to get soft. That’s not the real problem, though: They have a tough outer shell that you’ve got to get rid of somehow. We boiled them until the bean inside was very soft, but the shell didn’t really loosen up much.  So to get at the morsels inside, we Matty had to painstakingly, bean by bean, peel them apart by hand (I was busy taking photos, naturally).  It was a messy process.

Peeling Cooked Fava Beans

Turns out what we should have done was ignore the vague directions on the package, and instead soak the beans overnight.  Then, after the soaking, it would have been far easier to peel them (still have to go one at time, though!).  After peeling, it would have taken only about an hour or so to cook the beans the rest of the way.

Fava Bean Shells

Even so, our Rosemary Fava Bean Pate turned out quite lovely.  Click over to Matty’s blog for the recipe and his take on the fava experience.

Fava Bean Pate

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31 Comments on "How NOT to Cook Fava Beans"


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Ana K.

It makes no sense to me to have favas peel off, unless they are used as a snack described above. I soak mine overnight, then cook for about 45min. The outer shell is chewy but why not eat it? I am sure that’s where a lot of nutrients are [will check this up later]. This sounds like seedless grapes for Americans to me.

Off in a blender with them, salt, add spices, olive oil [or spices in hot oil first, indian style] + a great variety of optional fresh additions [finely chopped garlic, cilantro, scallions etc] = wonderful hummusy paste. Excellent texture!

Lisa Tuchmann

It has to do with trying to make falafel patties. I’m trying to find anyone that sells the small beans pre-shelled.

Willard Morgan


I agree with you! I have cooked dried favas twice recently, in my rice cooker after soaking them overnight andI ate the shell with the bean. I find it unnecessary to peal them. Your’s is the first post I’ve found among several searches that shares my wonder at why people want to do some much work when the complete bean must be more healthy and it’s certainly very tasty, hot or cold.

Are there any indication to the contrary, health wise? I doubt it.


john frank

I know! It’s like peeling tomatoes or red peppers, WHY??!!! I’ve never done it.

Joel Halprin

How come no one has mentions Ful Medames? It is a great breakfast, actually anytime, dish that is filling and satisfying.


I’m Portuguese and grew-up eating spicy, stewed fava beans. Part of the fun was sucking out the soft center and putting the skins aside. It was a snack food with a glass of wine!

Jodi Silvia

That is the way I remember also. I am Portuguese and you always ate the bean after freeing it from the shell. Goes great with beer. 😉


You don’t need to peel the beans to eat them. You do have to soak them for 1 or even 2 days before boiling for one hour. Them, the beans can be used as they are in salads or for arabic fool madammas beans. I usually soak them for 1 day for chewy beans (for falafel) and 2 days for beans I will mash (fool madammas)


Clearly if you had cooked the up with a nice chianti you would have been better off.

Sorry, I had to do it.

Lou B.

My mother soaked them overnight and then put them on a baking sheet. She salted them liberally and roasted them like chestnuts for about an hour. The skins popped open when squeezed and the insides were soft.


I grew up in Portugal and I ate Fava bean stew all the time. I loved the skins on it. More protein. Leave skins on! Its more protein. 😀


I think favas are one of those foods where it’s best to “be with someone experienced for your first time”, like roasting chestnuts, shucking an oyster or cooking couscous. (The latter being generally easy, but the first time I saw Moroccans make couscous, I was blown away. Oh, their mint tea, too!) I learned at a couldn’t-be-more-idyllic outdoor summer dinner where the hostess had done the prep and we just got in and peeled. Similar to crab feeds, but even more colorful! And all the waste goes to the chickens!