17 Ways And Ingredients To Take Canned Green Beans To The Next Level

A pantry staple, green beans are a reliable addition to your dinner plate, but not often thought of as particularly revolutionary. While convenient, they can sometimes lack the pizzazz of their fresh counterparts. However, with the help of some simple yet transformative ingredients and techniques, it's easier than you might think to elevate these humble veggies, injecting them with delicious flavors and enhancing their texture.

We're here to take you through a whole host of inventive ways to breathe new life into canned green beans. From zesty citrus to savory bacon, each ingredient brings its own unique twist, with so many different ways to give the beans an upgrade that suits your taste preferences. So, it's time to end the blandness and start seeing canned green beans as the perfect canvas for a variety of delicious side dish options. Let's dive in and discover the top tips for taking canned green beans to the next level.

1. Lemon

When it comes to reviving the flavor of canned green beans, few ingredients are as versatile and refreshing as lemon. Its zesty brightness is the perfect way to add a flavorful punch to your beans. The first step to any recipe using canned green beans is draining and rinsing them well, as cooking them in any unnecessary liquid could make them mushy. Rinsing them in a colander will also help to get rid of any salty residue from the canning liquid.

Canned green beans are already cooked, so there's no need to boil them first. Once your green beans are drained and rinsed, add a little olive oil to a frying pan and heat it up. Then, toss in some lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Give everything a good stir and cook for just a few minutes until heated through. This will leave your beans infused with a delicious citrusy burst of flavor that complements their natural sweetness perfectly.

2. Garlic

Few ingredients have the power to elevate a dish quite like garlic. Its aromatic flavor can transform even the most basic ingredients into something truly delicious. When it comes to canned green beans, garlic serves as a potent flavor enhancer, infusing the beans with a comforting savory depth.

To incorporate garlic into your canned green beans, start by sautéing minced garlic in butter or olive oil for one minute until fragrant and golden brown. Then, simply toss in the drained and rinsed green beans, allowing them to soak up all the rich flavors. For an extra kick, try adding a pinch of red pepper flakes or a squeeze of lemon before serving. You can also opt to roast canned green beans in the oven. For garlicky baked green beans, simply drain them as normal and toss them with some minced garlic and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Spread the beans out on a baking sheet, and roast them at 400 F for about 20 minutes.

3. Butter

If you're looking to add richness to your green beans, butter is the way to go. Butter can add a delicious creamy depth to just about any dish, and when paired with green beans, it can transform them into an indulgent and flavorful side dish. To infuse your canned green beans with the luxurious taste of butter, start by melting a generous knob in a frying pan over a medium heat. Once the butter begins to foam, add the green beans along with a healthy pinch of salt, and sauté for a few minutes until they are heated through. The result will be sweet, tender green beans, coated in the velvety goodness of the butter.

Butter also makes the perfect base for adding other flavors to your beans, such as garlic, chili, or even chopped shallots or mushrooms. If sautéing other ingredients in butter that take slightly longer to cook, it can help to combine the butter with a little olive oil as this will prevent it from burning in the pan.

4. Cheese

Cheese is equipped with the ability to turn even the simplest of dishes into an indulgent, melty delight. Add it to a simple can of green beans, and it will bring a creamy richness that takes them from plain to oh-so moreish. A variety of different cheeses will pair wonderfully with green beans, such as feta, Parmesan, or mozzarella. We love to use a sharp cheddar for its robust flavor and gooey texture when melted. 

To make cheesy green beans, spread the drained and rinsed beans out in a greased baking dish. Sprinkle with your shredded cheese of choice and a good pinch of salt, and toss well to combine. You could also toss in a drizzle of heavy cream for richness, or some minced garlic for extra flavor if desired. We highly recommend scattering some extra cheese over the top too! Then, simply bake until the cheese is golden and bubbly — about 20 minutes.

5. Beer batter

Beer batter is not just reserved for fish and chips; it can also be an amazing addition to green beans. The batter adds a crispy, golden coating that contrasts beautifully with the tender texture of the beans. It's an unexpected yet totally delicious way to jazz them up.

To create beer-battered green beans, start by heating about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a deep frying pan. While it heats up, whisk together a cup each of beer and all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, and any other seasonings of choice in a mixing bowl. The result should be a smooth batter. Then, dip each green bean into the batter, ensuring they are fully coated, before gently lowering them into hot oil. Let them sizzle away for about five minutes until golden and crispy, then drain them on some kitchen towels to remove any excess oil before serving. These crispy green beans are great for dipping, too, so serve them with some spicy sriracha mayo or ketchup for a delicious snack or side dish.

6. Balsamic vinegar

Another way to enhance the natural sweetness of green beans is with the balancing tanginess of balsamic vinegar. With its rich, sweet-tart flavor, it's your secret weapon for adding a sophisticated twist to canned green beans. As with many of these green bean flavoring options, the simplest way to add balsamic vinegar is by tossing it into the frying pan when you heat up the beans. Simply heat a little olive oil over medium heat, add the canned beans, and warm them through. Then, drizzle over a little balsamic vinegar and toss to coat.

There are plenty of other ingredients that will work wonderfully with the balsamic vinegar, too. A pinch of sugar can help to balance the tartness, and finely diced onion or shallot can bring extra savory flavor. For a spicy kick, try sprinkling over some red pepper flakes, or amp up the aromatic goodness with some minced garlic.

7. Jalapeños

For those who love a bit of heat, jalapeños are a brilliant addition to your green beans. These spicy peppers add a kick that will take these canned veggies from bland to fiery. You could use either fresh jalapeños or pickled jalapeño slices here. It's another super easy add-in, with everything coming together in a pan. If you're using fresh peppers, slice them up first, and fry the jalapeños in olive oil for a few minutes on their own until tender. Then, add the green beans with a little salt, and sauté until heated up. 

With their natural sweetness, thinly sliced shallots can make a great pairing for the spicy jalapeños and green beans. Just add these to the pan at the same time as the fresh jalapeños, so they can soften and release their delicious flavors before adding the beans. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and you've got the ultimate spicy side dish!

8. Basil

Basil is a wonderful ingredient for bringing a burst of freshness and herbaceous flavor to your canned green beans, turning them into a delicious, aromatic side dish. Both fresh leaves and dried basil will work well to add a touch of Mediterranean goodness to these veggies.

If using fresh basil, tear the leaves into small pieces and add them to the pan with the green beans. As everything heats up, the leaves will infuse the beans with that amazing fragrant aroma. If you're using dried basil, sprinkle it directly onto the green beans as they cook. As always, a good pinch of salt won't go amiss. If you'd like to add some extra flavor, consider adding additional ingredients such as minced garlic, diced onion, chopped celery, or perhaps some rosemary sprigs. These aromatic additions will complement the herby taste of the basil and add more depth to the dish.

9. Thyme

A much-loved herb with a distinct yet delicate flavor, thyme is a fantastic way to add a touch of sophistication to green beans. Use it fresh or dried, and thyme will infuse the beans with a subtle earthiness that complements their natural sweetness perfectly. If you're going for fresh thyme, make sure to strip the leaves from the stems first. Add the leaves to the pan with your oil or butter, green beans, and other ingredients of choice, and toss everything together as it heats through. Dried thyme can be used in the same way.

Again, there is plenty of room for creativity when it comes to adding extras. An age-old pairing for thyme is of course rosemary, but other herbs like parsley and oregano also complement thyme well. Alternatively, you could continue the sophisticated vibes by adding a splash of white wine to the pan or scattering some lemon zest on top of the beans to serve.

10. Pine nuts

Because canned green beans sometimes lack the bite of their fresh counterparts, adding something crunchy to them can be a great way to help enhance their texture. Pine nuts are a brilliant way to do this. With their buttery flavor, pine nuts can bring a subtle nuttiness and richness to any green bean side dish. That crunch is super satisfying, and really helps to elevate the final dish.

Before you add the nuts to the green beans, it's best to toast them first. This will bring out all of that sweet, nutty flavor and amp up the crunch, too. To do this, place the pine nuts in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Shake the pan frequently to prevent burning, and keep cooking until they are golden brown and fragrant — about 3 minutes. Keep a close eye on them as they can burn quickly. 

Then, simply scatter the toasted pine nuts over your prepared green beans, for the ultimate flavorful and elegant topping. If you don't have pine nuts on hand, other nuts that can work fantastically paired with green beans include toasted walnuts, almonds, and cashews.

11. Bacon

It seems that bacon can elevate just about any dish, green beans included. Its deeply savory, salty flavor and crisp texture are a match made in heaven for the tender, naturally sweet green beans. To incorporate bacon into your canned green beans, start by cooking chopped bacon bits in a pan until they are crispy and golden brown. You shouldn't need to add any oil for this. Once cooked, remove the bacon from the pan and set it aside. Reserve some of the bacon grease in the pan for added flavor.

Next, drain the canned green beans and add them to the skillet with the reserved bacon grease and a little salt and pepper to taste. Sauté the green beans until they are heated through. Then, simply transfer the beans to your serving bowl of choice and scatter all those delicious crispy bacon bits on top. It's a totally mouth-watering combination!

12. Beef bouillon

For this nifty method, we use beef bouillon to infuse canned green beans with rich, savory flavor. Plus, if your beans are canned in water, there's no draining required. Simply empty the green beans and the water from the can in the saucepan. Then, you'll need to add half a teaspoon of powdered beef bouillon, or half a beef bouillon cube per can of green beans. Turn the heat to high, then once the water is boiling, reduce to a simmer and let everything cook for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced to about a quarter of the original amount. 

Next, remove the pan from the heat and let the beans rest for at least one hour. You can even pop them in the fridge overnight. This will help to infuse the beans with the delicious meaty flavors. When you're ready to enjoy the beans, you can pop them back on the stovetop and let them simmer until all of the excess liquid has evaporated.

13. Lemon pepper

If you want to add some zesty goodness to your beans without the hassle of chopping and zesting lemons, lemon pepper is your friend. This simple seasoning blend packs a punch in the flavor department.

With its citrus and peppery notes, lemon pepper is a great way to add a flavorful twist to your beans. It takes just a few seconds, and the result is a dish with heaps of zest and brightness. You can sprinkle lemon pepper straight over your green beans as they heat up in the pan, along with any other ingredients. Toss everything well as it cooks, and before you know it, you'll be hit with that mouth-watering citrusy aroma. Some great add-ins for lemon pepper green beans include garlic (of course!), sliced almonds, and red pepper flakes. If you want even more of a lemony kick, you could always incorporate some fresh lemon zest, too.

14. Mushrooms

Mushrooms, with their earthy flavor and meaty texture, are the perfect accompaniment to canned green beans, adding plenty of depth and umami goodness. You might be familiar with this combination in a classic green bean casserole, but as a stripped-back side dish, it can be just as delicious.

First, slice up your mushrooms. Cremini, button, or white will all work great here. Then, sauté them in some oil or butter until tender and golden brown. Next, add in the drained green beans, sprinkle over some salt, and continue sautéing until heated through. It comes together in minutes, and the result is a super comforting and satisfying veggie side dish. You'll find that the savory richness of the mushrooms pairs amazingly with the sweetness of the beans. If you'd like to add in some aromatic flavor, try sautéing some finely diced red onion in the pan with the mushrooms. Or amp up the savory taste by simmering the bean and mushroom mixture in a little chicken or beef broth until reduced and thickened.

15. Tomatoes

Sweet, juicy, and vibrant, tomatoes can be an amazing addition to canned green beans. They bring freshness and acidity, with their contrasting red color looking rather appealing against the green beans, too. To preserve their texture, it's best to add tomatoes to green beans raw. Just choose your favorite variety of tomatoes, and chop them up into chunks. Larger beefsteak tomatoes will work just as well as cherry or plum varieties here.

Once you've heated up the canned green beans in a pan with some oil and/or butter, remove the pan from the heat and throw in the diced tomatoes along with some salt and black pepper to taste. Transfer to your serving bowl of choice and you've got a beautiful side dish that's ready to enjoy. For extra flavor and contrast, try crumbling over some feta cheese. With its creamy saltiness, it's another great pairing for both tomatoes and green beans.

16. Mint

To give your canned green beans a super refreshing twist, try incorporating some mint. It's aromatic, slightly sweet, and infuses the beans with a unique freshness that transforms them into something totally delicious. You can use mint in either fresh or dried form, and again it's a simple case of adding it to the pan as you heat the beans. If using leaves, chop them up roughly before tossing them in. If using dried mint, just sprinkle it.

Minty green beans make the perfect base to build a light and summery side dish. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a hint of lemon zest is a wonderful addition to mint, in keeping with the bright and refreshing theme. Garlic is another classic pairing, while other herbs like basil or parsley can bring extra herbaceous flavor. Or feel free to add some color and crunch with a scattering of pomegranate seeds.

17. Sesame

For a simple Asian-inspired side dish, try infusing your canned green beans with sesame. Both sesame seeds and sesame oil can add a rich, nutty, toasted flavor to canned green beans, creating a dish that is sure to impress. 

When it comes to heating the drained green beans in a pan, ditch the olive oil and opt for sesame oil instead. Then, cook the beans as usual, sautéing for just a few minutes. Once heated up and infused with the flavorful oil, scatter the green beans with some sesame seeds for extra nutty flavor and a little crunch. To take the flavor boost even further, consider adding some grated ginger, minced garlic, or a splash of soy sauce to the pan along with the green beans. These aromatic additions will complement the nutty flavor of the sesame and add depth and complexity to make a delicious, well-rounded final dish.