A Guide to Different Types of Green Beans

It turns out that not all green beans are green. 

purple green beans, wax beans, and string beans on wooden background
Photo: Helen Norman/Meredith

The term "green bean" encompasses a whole lot more than what you can find in your typical produce aisle. Although most varieties can be used interchangeably, some take to different cooking methods better than others. Let's take a deep dive into the most common types of green beans.

Bush Beans vs Pole Beans

There are many varieties of green beans, but all can be categorized into one of two ways: bush or pole. These two categories refer to the way in which the beans were grown. Bush beans grow on a short, bushy plant, while pole beans (also known as runner beans) grow as climbing vines that require a trellis or staking. Many of the common types of green beans below come in both bush and pole types.

Common Types of Green Beans

There are countless varieties among each of these broad categories, but for culinary purposes, these are the different types of green beans to know. The differences between them are slight, and all the beans are more or less interchangeable in recipes, but cooking times may vary depending on the different sizes and shapes.

Green Beans (String Beans or Snap Beans)

string beans on green surface
Jason Donnelly/Meredith

Often referred to as just green beans, this type also goes by the names string beans and snap beans. Historically these beans have tough, fibrous strings running the length of the pod, hence the name "string." However, the strings have been bred out of most modern varieties, including those available at supermarkets. They also get the name "snap beans" because they can easily be snapped right in half when fresh.

String beans can grow as either bush beans or pole beans, depending on the breed. Like all types of green beans, they do well steamed, sauteed, roasted, or even pickled.

Popular Green Bean Recipes:

French Green Beans (Haricots Verts or Filet Beans)

french green beans in pile on burlap
Andy Lyons/Meredith

It can be hard to tell the difference between a standard green bean and a French green bean, but it's there nonetheless. French green beans, also called Haricots Verts, tend to be smaller, more tender, and quicker to cook. Their seeds are so small that they're almost unnoticeable. For these reasons, French green beans are generally considered the best green beans to buy, and they're priced accordingly. They take well to quick cooking methods such as blanching or sauteing.

French Green Bean Recipes:

Romano Beans (Italian Green Beans or Flat Beans)

hand holding flat green beans over dirt
Scott Little/Meredith

hese wide, flat green beans go by many names, and belong to a different family than the common green bean plant. They have a satisfying crunch when eaten raw, similar to that of a sugar snap pea. Romanos can stand up to longer cooking times than other types of green beans, whether you choose to steam them, boil them, or braise them.

Romano Bean Recipes:

Long Beans (Yard-Long Beans or Asparagus Beans)

long green beans in bundles with rubber bands
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Native to China, these beans reach around 18 inches in length. They can get even longer, but we wouldn't recommend buying longer beans, otherwise they'll be too tough. Aside from the fact that they dwarf them in size, yard-long beans are similar in flavor to your standard green beans. But take care when cooking these extra-long beans — they can become waterlogged when cooked in water, so it's best to saute or stir-fry them (or eat them raw!).

Try this recipe: Chinese Peppered Green Beans

Purple String Beans

purple green beans on gray and brown background
Andy Lyons/Meredith

These eye-catching beans are simply a purple version of your standard green bean, and come in many different varieties. They get their color from anthocyanins, an antioxidant that is also responsible for purple cauliflower and purple potatoes. Underneath that violet exterior is the same juicy green flesh. Sadly they lose their purple color once cooked, so if you're wanting to show off their stunning hue then consider serving them raw or lightly steamed. (Although they can be used anyway you would a regular green bean.)

Wax Beans

yellow wax beans in crate
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Wax beans are the same type of bean as green string beans, except they're yellow — that's really the only difference. They have been bred to not contain chlorophyll, which is responsible for the green color in green beans. And the name is a little misleading, it comes from their color that resembles beeswax, not because they have waxy texture. They're just as crisp as their green counterparts, and can be used the same ways. Although, it is fun to combine them with green beans in a salad for a colorful result, like in this classic three bean salad.

Wax Bean Recipes:


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