Sautéed Green Beans with Garlic and Lemon

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Lemon zest, garlic, and a few red pepper flakes make these sautéed green beans fresh tasting and full of flavor. What I like about this side is that a good portion of it can be prepared ahead of time, from par-boiling the green beans to mincing the garlic and zesting the lemon. With a little advance planning, I can prepare the beans early in the day and just sauté them in olive oil for a few minutes to finish up. Adding a tablespoon of butter as it comes off the heat imparts a nice rich flavor to the dish.


  • To help retain the color of the beans, don’t cover the pan with a lid while they’re cooking.
  • I only use lemon zest in this recipe because the acidity in lemon juice tends to diminish the color of the beans.

How to Make an Ice Water Bath

Fill a large bowl with water and ice cubes. Once the beans have cooked in boiling water, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon or tongs and plunge immediately into the ice water bath. This will stop the cooking process and help the beans retain their texture and bright color.

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Sautéed Green Beans with Garlic and Lemon


  • 1 pound green beans, ends removed (leave tips on)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (as needed)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes – Explore The Spice House | Shop Now
  • 1 tablespoon butter


Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and carefully add the beans. Bring back to a boil, adjust the heat to medium-high, and continue boiling for 5 minutes, uncovered. Immediately remove the beans and place them in an ice water bath to cool them down quickly. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel.

At this point, the beans can be set aside or placed in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble the dish.

Heat the oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the green beans and cook for about one to two minutes, or until heated through if they’ve been in the refrigerator. Tongs work well here to toss the beans. Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and sauté for about 30 to 60 seconds. Don’t overcook the garlic, or it will become bitter.

Just before removing the pan from the heat, add the lemon zest, butter, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Toss well to combine and transfer to a serving dish.

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