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Old Fashioned Southern Style Green Beans

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These Old Fashioned Southern Style Green Beans will have your house smelling amazing and your mouth watering with anticipation.
4.9 from 53 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Old Fashioned Southern Style Green Beans with ham hocks in a serving dish on a tabletop.

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.

Old Fashioned Southern Style Green Beans with ham hocks in a serving dish on a tabletop.

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. 

Finished green beans with ham hock on a wooden spoon.

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. :-)

🧾 More Old Fashioned Southern Recipes


🤔 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


Photo of ingredients needed for the recipes: green beans, salt, ham hocks

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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)
  • Salt

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

Meaty ham hocks in water in a cast iron pot.

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

Fresh green beans on a cutting board with a knife.

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

Cast iron cooking pot with ham hock broth and fresh green beans added.

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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Shredding the ham hock meat to add back to the beans

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!

Serve in a Gorgeous Custom Serving Bowl (Great Wedding Gift!)

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Custom Red Ceramic Shallow Serving Bowl

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🍚 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).

Closeup of a wooden spoonful of Old Fashioned Southern Style Green Beans

❓ Questions


Can I use canned or frozen green beans or do they have to be fresh?

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.

Can I prepare the fresh green beans the night before I want to cook them?

Yes! You can snap (or cut) them the day before you need them. Just make sure to keep them refrigerated until you need them.

Can I use bacon instead of ham hock?

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 to cook your green beans. When the bacon is crisp, remove it and set it aside. Add the green beans, salt, and remaining two slices of uncooked bacon to the pot 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.

Any other tips/suggestions/recommendations?

A couple of things I would add: 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 :-)

Have you tried this recipe? I’d really appreciate you giving it a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card or in the comments section.
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📖 Recipe

Old Fashioned Southern Style Green Beans with ham hocks in a serving dish on a tabletop.

Old Fashioned Southern Style Green Beans

These Old Fashioned Southern Style Green Beans will have your house smelling amazing and your mouth watering with anticipation.
4.89 from 53 votes
Print It Rate It Save Text It
Course: Vegetables
Cuisine: Southern, Vintage
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 261kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

  • An equal amount of bacon, smoked turkey wings, or smoked turkey legs may be substituted for the ham hocks.
  • If using bacon — Brown all but two slices of bacon in the same pot you plan to use to cook your green beans. When the bacon is crisp, remove it and set it aside leaving the rendered bacon fat in the pot. Add the green beans, salt, and remaining two slices of uncooked bacon to the pot with enough water to cover. Bring the pot to a boil, 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.
  • Frozen or canned green beans can be substituted for fresh.
  • 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

Serving: 1 | Calories: 261kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 63mg | Sodium: 934mg | Potassium: 692mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1565IU | Vitamin C: 28mg | Calcium: 96mg | Iron: 3mg

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.

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— This post was originally published on June 6, 2014. It has been updated with new photos and additional information.

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Recipe Rating




69 Comments

  1. Made them for Thanksgiving and am making them for Christmas as well. Never goes to waste – everyone loves them. Simple recipe but I do add a little garlic to the broth and onion to the beans when they are cooking. Thank you Lana!

  2. 5 stars
    The Crockpot full was totally consumed at the family Thanksgiving dinner in 2019. (2020 no family dinner). Was asked to repeat it for 2021. Really looking forward to eating them again.

  3. 5 stars
    I was hoping to find a recipe online where fresh green beans were cooked the same way my Mom used to cook them. This is it! Thank you! I just HATE steamed or barely cooked green beans. I don’t like that green taste! And that is generally all you can find online anymore.

    1. I hope you enjoy your old-fashioned green beans, Stacey. Yes, most people want them just barely steamed nowadays. I like mine cooked well with some smoky seasoning. Tastes like an entirely different vegetable!

  4. My sister used to make her green beans the same way. She was an excellent cook. In her day she could fix anything. She passed away in 2017 from cancer. She is my Angel watching over me. I’m going to make some for Thanksgiving this year first time since she went to Heaven.

  5. Thank you for this recipe! My beloved and deeply missed southern grandmother made beans this way and oh how I loved them with a piece of cornbread right from the oven. You made me smile, no green bean police here. I’ve never purchased a ham hock before so thanks for the tip. Looking forward to beans and cornbread for dinner. Thank you, thank you.

  6. 5 out of six recipes I Looked at today have the Phrase ” Discard skin and Bones…” What The..?
    slice of bread Hock skin and Fat, and Horseradish… Thats a SAMMICH!!!!!!!!, unless Your Gall bladder will argue with You…. Then Call Me!

  7. Thank you Lana for another winner. I need to add that I also grew up eating beans cooked this way and I am from the North as was my mother and grandmothers! Only difference is that my mother made in a pressure cooker but I can not recall how long she cooked them. But they looked just like your picture and we would eat a huge pot of them in one sitting. Yum! Oh, and my mother always made her wonderful cornbread to go with them.

  8. These green beans bring back lots of childhood memories. I am a very old great-grandmother and love this method of fixing green beans. I don’t care for the crunchy ones either. You make me so hungry Lana. Would love a bowl of these for lunch without anything else.

  9. My mom was a great southern cook. Her green beans were oh so yummy. When she cooked beans or any vegetable she always added a little sugar. That little bit of sugar just took the dish over the top! She was also one of those cooks who kept a jar of bacon grease to add to her pot. Now when I make green beans – fresh or canned I add sugar, bacon grease, and red pepper flakes, which the men in my family love. Thanks for sharing your recipe for beans. I find southern recipes some of the best. Keep them coming.

  10. I never heard of boiling the meat in water first until I read it last week in “Making Do: How to Cook Like a Mountain MeMa” by Lois Sutphin. I don’t guess it matters as long as beans are joined with meat and rendered fat and cooked a good long time.
    Green beans in the North Carolina mountains were usually pole beans. These can have fierce strings, which is why you’d remove the “tips and tails” as you put it. Break off an end and pull down the bean; then break off the other end and pull down the other side. Discard ends, then break bean into pieces, pulling down each time to remove more string. Cutting the beans doesn’t remove the strings.
    Mom would cook green beans all afternoon, adding a couple of cut-up potatoes about halfway through. But they weren’t really done until put into the refrigerator overnight! Pull them out the next day and re-heat – some of the fat had absorbed into the potatoes…heavenly comfort food!
    And she did not salt the heck out of the green beans. Probably a teaspoon to a large potful was enough. She rarely used hamhock – that was pretty expensive. A good piece of streak o’lean was enough.
    The most difficult trick is to not put too much water in the beans. Green beans will render their own water, so you really just need enough to barely cover to start off.
    Toward the end of her life, Mom would easily fall asleep on the couch. The last pot of green beans that she cooked burned before she woke up.

    1. Hi Catherine – yes, by boiling the meat in water, you’re really just making a broth that you then use to cook the beans. I’ve cooked pole beans many times, too, and those string are really annoying, aren’t they? Pole beans weren’t very popular where I grew up in south Georgia. We just had the usual green beans, sometimes called string beans.

  11. This sounds both delicious and super easy However, I’m a little confused. The recipe calls for salt, but the instructions don’t say when to add it. I want to make this – do I add salt or don’t I?

    1. Sorry I was unclear about that, Cheryl. You can actually add the salt at any time, but I add it along with the beans.

      1. Thanks for the prompt reply. I’m going to try this as soon as I can get to the store and buy a ham hock.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

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

  15. 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!

    1. 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.

  16. 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.