Old Fashioned Southern Style Green Beans
My low and slow method for cooking Old Fashioned Southern Style Green Beans with its beautiful, smoky ham hock broth for flavoring, will take you straight to the country no matter where you live!
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 fresh 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 green beans the way I grew up eating them — country style. That means 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.
But I’m doing it anyway! Besides, you’ve never had MY southern style green beans before. Who knows, I may just convert you over to the country side. :-)
🤔 What Are Southern Style Green Beans?
Southern, or country style green beans are slow cooked, fresh string or green beans simmered in a smoky broth made from a ham hock or bacon.
It’s worth making them just for the aroma alone. The smell of that smoky pork filling your kitchen and tickling your senses as it spreads through the house will have your family clamoring to get to the dinner table.
After the sweet torture of waiting for them to finish cooking, your fresh green beans will have transformed into a melt-in-your-mouth side dish.
You now have the perfect companion to any southern recipe like my Real Simple Fried Chicken, Salisbury Steaks with Chunky Mashed Potatoes, Country Fried Steak, or Pot Roast with Rosemary and Garlic.
💗 Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Three ingredients!
- Minimal prep time
- Classic smoky southern flavors
🥘 Ingredients You’ll Need
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The ingredients list for this recipe is really short! Just three things:
- Fresh green (or string) beans (look for ones that are firm, not wilted, and without any discoloration)
- Meaty ham hocks (or substitute an equal amount of smoked turkey wings or legs)
That’s it! Could it be any easier?
You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.
🔪 How to Make Old Fashioned Southern Style Green Beans
Make the Ham Hock Broth
The most important thing about making this recipe is to have really good ham hocks. You want nice meaty ones. Some of the ones I see in the store these days are all skin and bones. Leave those in the case and look for big, plump ones.
Put your lovely, smoky ham hocks in a large, deep pot with just enough water to cover. Bring the pot 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 veggies in and all that lovely flavor will go right into them. Delicious!
Prepare the Fresh Green Beans
While the ham hocks simmer, prepare the green beans. I remove the “tips and tails” and just cut them into pieces. You can leave them whole if you prefer. If you have string beans, be sure to remove the strings as well.
Cook the Beans in the Broth
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 green 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 them to cool for a few minutes until you can handle them easily.
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Remove and shred the meat from the ham hocks, discarding the skin, fat, and bones. Add the shredded meat back to the pot and stir it into the beans.
This is the simplest method that I know for making old fashioned country style green beans. People do add all sorts of other things 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!
💡 Tips and Suggestions
- You can also substitute a smoked turkey wing or leg for the ham hock. It gives an equally nice, smoky flavor to the green beans and is suitable for anyone who doesn’t consume pork.
- Also, don’t be afraid of overcooking these green beans. It’s nearly impossible :-)
🍚 How to Store and Reheat
Southern style green beans reheat really well since you don’t have to worry about keeping a crisp texture. You can store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container or resealable bag for 3 to 5 days. Reheat them on medium-low heat on the stovetop or even in a slow cooker (low heat for about an hour).
Yes, you can use canned or frozen as a substitute. If you just can’t source fresh green beans, I’d suggest frozen over canned. The canned ones won’t pick up as much of that yummy smoky pork flavor because they’ve already been partially cooked.
Yes! You can snap (or cut) them the day before you need them. Just make sure to keep them refrigerated until you’re ready to cook.
Yes, you can. If you just can’t find good ham hocks, you can substitute about a pound of bacon. Here’s how:
Brown all but two slices of bacon in the same pot you plan to use for cooking your green beans. When the bacon is crisp, remove it and set it aside. To the fat in the pan, add the green beans, salt, and the remaining two slices of uncooked bacon with enough water to cover. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. To serve, drain the beans and serve topped with the crumbled cooked bacon.
🧾 More Old Fashioned Southern Recipes
- Caramel Layer Cake
- Southern Butter Beans
- Southern Fried Okra
- Classic Macaroni and Cheese
- Easy Hot Water Cornbread
- Southern Streak o’ Lean
- Baked Corn Casserole
HAVE YOU TRIED THIS RECIPE?
I’d LOVE to know what you thought!
Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked it!
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Old Fashioned Southern Style Green Beans
- 1 pound smoked ham hocks (or equal weight of bacon, smoked turkey wings, or smoked turkey legs)
- 3 pounds fresh green beans washed, trimmed and cut in 2” pieces
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Place the ham hocks (or other choice of seasoning meat) 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.
- While the ham hock simmers, prepare the green beans by removing the “tips and tails.” Snap the beans into approximately 2" pieces or leave whole if desired.
- Add the beans and salt to the pot. Bring the contents to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.
- Cover and cook for 1 hour or until the beans are tender.
- Remove the ham hocks to a plate and allow to cool for a few minutes.
- Remove and shred the meat from the ham hock, discarding the skin and bones. Add the shredded meat back to the pot and stir it into the beans.
- An equal amount of bacon, smoked turkey wings, or smoked turkey legs may be substituted for the ham hocks.
- Green beans may be cleaned, trimmed, and cut up to 24 hours in advance. Store in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat over medium-low heat on the stovetop or slow cooker.
Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.
— This post was originally published on June 6, 2014. It has been updated with new photos and additional information.
Can you use a leftover ham bone with some meat on it instead of ham hocks ?
Yes, you can! You might not get quite as much smoky flavor but it will still be delicious.
I take the green beans and hocks out of the cooking liquid, better known as “pot liquor.” I reserve the pot liquor by itself. It’s so rich and delicious. I warm it up and take sips of it whenever I want something, but not a lot of something. It’s full of minerals.
It’s definitely a comfort food!
Never toss the cooking liquid, right? It’s also really good with cornbread crumbled into it.
So – a quicker way to “overcook” your green beans is to use your pressure cooker (or in my case, my “Insta-Pot”), 15 minutes in there, and allowing 15 minutes for the pressure to release, and you have a really yummy dish. This does not overheat my south-facing kitchen. And – I peel and slice some potatoes and put a quartered onion in there. The onion will jus about disintegrate in the pressure pot, but there is no reason to make it small. YUM! And plenty of juice for dipping your bread into. With the farm-fresh beans now available in our area, we are having this once a week.
Pressure cooking is definitely an option and a good choice for when you’re short on time. In this post I wanted to show how to do it the old fashioned way.
This what I’m talking about! Real green beans! Great!
This is how I loved them growing up in Missouri. Thank you, thank you.
Some people say they’re “cooked to death.” I think they’re fabulous!
Made this for a church potluck and it was a hit! I didn’t get much meat off of the ham hocks, but got enough flavor that I really don’t think the meat was that necessary.
Great! It’s hit or miss with the ham hocks. Sometimes you get nice meaty ones and sometimes not so much. The green beans are still good either way :-)
I got the ham hocks at a very popular local meat market that smokes their own meats. I told them I wanted meaty ones but I didn’t actually see them before I purchased (because of covid, you place your order, then have to wait outside till it’s already packaged and ready for pick up). I was a bit disappointed when I unwrapped them, but wow, they sure gave good flavor to the beans! I fixed 4 1/2# of beans and used 1 1/2# ham hocks and every bit was gone at the potluck!