Old Fashioned Southern Green Beans

by Lana Stuart on June 6, 2014 · 38 comments

Old Fashioned Southern Green Beans

I shouldn’t write this post. I know I shouldn’t. Before I write even one word, I know I’m going to be blasted. The green bean patrol is going to be all over me.

I know that I’m supposed to like my green beans just blanched. All bright green and crispy and crunchy. But I just don’t. I don’t. They taste like grass to me.

I like my beans the way I grew up eating them. Nice and tender and richly flavored with smoky pork. So there.

Besides, old-fashioned southern cooking gets enough bad press without me adding to it. I shouldn’t write this post. Sigh.

I’m doing it anyway! Just think of it as something interesting to learn about whether you’d ever try it or not :-)

Ham hock for Old Fashioned Southern Green Beans

The most important thing about making Old Fashioned Southern Green Beans is to find a really good ham hock. You want a nice meaty one. Some of the ones I see in the store these days are all skin and bones. Leave those in the case and look for a big, plump one. Now put your lovely, smoky ham hock in a large pot with just enough water to cover it. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

What you’re making is a smoky, pork flavored broth. That’s what you’ll use to cook your beans in and all that lovely flavor will go right into the beans themselves. Delicious!

Prep beans for Old Fashioned Southern Green Beans

While the ham hock simmers, prepare the green beans. I remove the “tips and tails” and just snap them into pieces. You can leave them whole if you prefer. If you have string beans, be sure to remove the strings as well.

Cooking Old Fashioned Southern Green Beans

Add the prepped beans to the pot. Bring the contents to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.

Cover and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender but not mushy. Start checking them after about 50 minutes.

When they’re nice and tender and olive colored (no, they will not stay bright green), remove the ham hock to a plate and allow it to cool for a few minutes until you can handle it easily. Remove and shred the meat from the ham hock, discarding the skin, fat, and bone. Add the shredded meat back to the pot and stir it into the beans.

This is simplest method that I know for making old fashioned green beans. People add all sorts of other things to their beans like onions, tomatoes, hot pepper, parsley, and I do too occasionally, but I also appreciate just the simply beautiful smoky flavor of this method. Hope you’ll give it a try!


Old Fashioned Southern Green Beans
Prep time
Total time
A very old fashioned, southern method for cooking green beans.
  • 1 lb. meaty, smoked ham hock
  • 3 lb. green beans, washed, trimmed and cut in 2” pieces
  • 2 tsp. salt
  1. Place the ham hock in a large pot with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. While the ham hock simmers, prepare the green beans. I remove the “tips and tails” and snap them into pieces. You can leave them whole if you prefer.
  3. Add the beans to the pot. Bring the contents to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.
  4. Cover and cook for 1 hour or until the beans are tender. Remove the ham hock to a plate and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Remove and shred the meat from the ham hock, discarding the skin and bone. Add the shredded meat back to the pot and stir it into the beans.
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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jane June 6, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Also being from the deep south, I totally agree with you. Blanching is for the birds – cook them with hamhock or salt pork – yum


2 Lana Stuart June 6, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Yes, salt pork or even bacon will work in a pinch. So totally different from blanched.


3 Ashley @ Wishes & Dishes June 6, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I never would have thought to cook green beans this way! Love it!


4 Lana Stuart June 6, 2014 at 9:27 pm

I’m glad I could show you something new, Ashley.


5 Joan@Chocolate and More June 6, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Yes! This is how green beans should be cooked. I’m all for eating a green bean raw but not when it’s meant to be cooked. Now I want green beans for dinner!


6 Lana Stuart June 6, 2014 at 9:29 pm

After I finished writing this post, I went to the grocery store and came home with a huge bag of fresh green beans and a gorgeous ham hock. I made *myself* crave them :-)


7 Carol G. June 6, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Sounds good to me, sign me up!


8 Linda June 6, 2014 at 3:03 pm

This is the way I grew up eating green beans. I did not know there was any other way until graduated from college, visited UP NORTH, and crisp, crunchy green beans showed up on my plate. While I like them that way, my favorite is still the way my mama and grandmama cooked them – cooked until there is probably not a vitamin in sight, but, boy, do they taste good (especially with FRIED chicken, rice and milk gravy).


9 Lana Stuart June 6, 2014 at 9:32 pm

Now you’ve made me hungry for fried chicken with rice and gravy, Linda!


10 Ginny McMeans June 6, 2014 at 3:30 pm

I use to live in the south and would love love love these beans. Thanks!


11 The Food Hunter June 6, 2014 at 4:09 pm

I love green beans


12 Elizabeth@ Food Ramblings June 6, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Yum! I live in the south, so these are a staple where I live :)


13 gloria patterson June 6, 2014 at 4:26 pm


I don’t like green beans cooked all day or for 5 minutes they are gross to me:-)

BUT I can remember being in the kitchen with my grandma fixing dinner. She would start early in the morning I guess because of the heat. She would start the ham hock and let me break the beans. Then she would make the cornbread, oh it was so good……………. MEMORIES


14 Lana Stuart June 6, 2014 at 9:33 pm

I’m so glad I could recall a happy memory for you, Gloria.


15 Amanda @the_kitcheneer June 6, 2014 at 4:41 pm

LOVE this! This is how my mama made them! Yum!


16 Vicki June 6, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Bless Your Heart for printing this! I’m so tired of the Food Police telling me I have to eat and like veggies almost raw. Just don’t taste right undercooked.


17 Lana Stuart June 6, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Thanks, Vicki! Eat your beans however you like! I know I will.


18 Nancy June 6, 2014 at 6:34 pm

This is the ONLY way to cook green beans. I have been cooking them this way for years. My sons love them this way, they could eat their weight in these green beans.


19 LindySez June 6, 2014 at 6:39 pm

I do like my green beans more tender, then crunchy, but I’ve never cooked them a full hour. I’ll have to try this soon.


20 Bonnie P June 6, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Yes, this is the only way to cook green beans!


21 Baby June June 6, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Interesting preparation! I am a fan of fresher green beans, but infusing them with a lot of fat and flavor like this actually sounds pretty darn good! Great recipe! :)


22 Lana Stuart June 6, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Glad I could introduce you to something different. This is a very old, traditional preparation that most people still love but has fallen out of favor in the food world.


23 curious in kansas June 6, 2014 at 8:39 pm

my grandmother (who lived to be 96), and my mother ( who lived to be 86) cooked their beans this way and sometimes would cut fresh corn off , the cob and add to the beans for the last 10 minutes or so…rather than using ham hocks, would fry “fat back”, also known as salt pork, and pour a tablespoon or so of the grease into the cooked beans along with a tbs of sugar….but this was before the chemicals we now use came along…does anyone else remember this method….


24 Lana Stuart June 6, 2014 at 9:44 pm

I’ve made them with fat back but have never seen them with corn added. Sounds good!


25 katylib June 6, 2014 at 8:40 pm

His this is the way my mother always made green beans – there’s no other way to make them.


26 Vicki June 6, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Ihave always cooked my green beans like this , I also add onions . I just love them.


27 Barbara | Creative Culinary June 6, 2014 at 9:42 pm

I like beans both ways depending on what they’re for. Cooking them with ham…has to be low and slow.

This is when that ham bone from Honey Baked Ham is my friend. I think so much better than ham hocks; the good ones have enough meat to clean from them for a couple of sandwiches and then of course more falls off during the cooking and is just perfect with beans like this. I’ll wait til fall though; I’m not an air conditioned house by choice and that means no long cooking on the stove in the summer..wait, maybe I could put this on the grill. I should try that huh?


28 Lana Stuart June 6, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Yes, on the grill! Why not! Our grill has a side burner that I often use for frying food so that I don’t smell it in the house for days. Why not use it for simmering beans, too.


29 sue buresh June 6, 2014 at 10:33 pm

I agree with you. I can’t stand fresh green beans just slightly cooked. Taste like eating grass. I want my beans nice and tender. I add bacon chunks when I cook them. I put them on and simmer real low for about 1-2 hrs.


30 Shelby June 7, 2014 at 12:51 am

I love green beans! Had them today with a pork bar-be-que sandwich at our favorite BBQ Restaurant. They have really well cooked and seasoned green beans. My favorite cooked green beans were prepared by my husband’s grandmother. Not sure if she used ham hock or fat back, but she always added potatoes and carrots. Up to that time, 50 years ago, I had only had them with corn and plain. Today, I love to steam them (to soft) about 20 min. And then sauté in olive oil with red bell peppers. They are really delicious! I always enjoy visiting your blog.


31 Renee - Kudos Kitchen June 7, 2014 at 9:32 am

Oh Lana… you’ve captured my heart with these green beans! LOVE them!


32 Mary Susan June 7, 2014 at 10:05 am

Never would I blast you for cooking green beans the way MOST of us in the South cook them. I do like green beans blanched. I will even eat them raw and often do while preparing them. BUT like you, I grew up eating them cooked your way and still love the flavor the pork gives them. Dale will NOT eat green beans cooked any other way. So, that tells you how I cook them most of the time. I wish I could get a good meaty ham hock like the one in your photo. They are hard to find here. When I do find a good one like yours, I am going to try simmering that good piece of pork for 30 minutes to an hour first, which I have never done. I do think Mama did it that way but I have never taken the extra time. The reasoning makes PERFECT sense. You have me hungry for some Old Fashioned Southern Green Beans.


33 claire @ the realistic nutritionist June 7, 2014 at 9:46 am

Okay, these look DIVINE.


34 Jan June 7, 2014 at 6:05 pm

I agree about stiff green beans! My short-cut method (even using canned green beans) gets requests from my children and friends: Empty beans into saucepan, add a teaspoon of oil (corn or canola ), one beef bouillon cube and a sprinkling of dried onion flakes. Simmer for at least 15 – 20 minutes; longer does not hurt. My husband even prefers the cheaper house brand of green because they are less salty. At one time, before processed oils fell out of favor, this method was recommended by the Heart Association. I doubt it is now.) But will try your method this summer when the farmers’ markets offer green beans!


35 Samantha June 7, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Go you for standing up for your way of eating green beans!! They look great, btw!


36 Nutmeg Nanny June 8, 2014 at 10:38 am

This dish always reminds me of my grandmother. I have something like this coming up soon. Beans and ham hocks – total summer food :)


37 CC June 12, 2014 at 3:59 pm

I am from up North and I like my green beans “cooked “also. I use bacon, usually several strips cut up. I like fresh beans but will also use canned. This is the way my mom cooked them too. We learn so much from our mothers.


38 CindyT June 19, 2014 at 11:11 pm

Mama canned all her green beans; they came out of the jar olive colored, with all the juice they canned in, right into the pot. Then you cook down all the liquid, adding your bacon grease along the way. Simple! Thanks for your recipe to make fresh ones taste like Mama’s!


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