Do you like green beans? I, for one, am keen for the green bean, and though no one asked, I have taken it upon myself to write about the green bean cuisine scene of Champaign-Urbana. I didn’t like green beans as a kid — probably because my parents would crank open a can of soggy green beans, slop it in a bowl (still shaped in a wet cylinder), and microwave the crap out of it. Thankfully, not one green bean on this list tastes like that version; this list has five places to find delicious green beans in Champaign-Urbana from Chinese stir-fried green beans in a black bean sauce to an appetizer of breaded green beans and ranch.
If I missed other great green beans in Champaign-Urbana, please email bean recommendations or drop a comment on our socials.
Fresh Green Beans︱Champaign-Urbana Farmers’ Markets
If you want to find green beans in Champaign-Urbana, there is nowhere better to find the freshest beans than the farmers’ markets. Green bean season lasts a long time, pretty much all summer, and it doesn’t take much to bring out the naturally delicious flavor of green beans. I love that twice a week, we can find locally grown, freshly-picked green beans sold by the farmers who grew them. Lots of vendors at the Urbana market and some at the Champaign market sell green beans. These green beauties were from Ben & Molly’s Farm; the farm stand sells them for $6 a pound at both markets, and they’re great.
My favorite way to cook fresh green beans are to toss them in a hot pan (ideally after cooking steak or chicken) with a splash of water, a pat of butter, and some seasonings, but the internet has endless ideas for how to prepare fresh green beans.
Urbana Market at the Square
Sa 7 a.m. to noon
Champaign Farmers’ Market
Tu 3 to 6 p.m.
Stir-Fried Green Beans with a Black Bean Sauce︱Rainbow Garden
A lot of Chinese restaurants in town make a green bean dish. The regular stir-fried beans at Rainbow Garden are good, but these stir-fry green beans in a black bean sauce ($13.45) were a step up in terms of flavor. One small caveat: fermented black beans can be quite salty, so take care not to eat them alone — unless, of course, you like that sort of thing.
The stir-fry cooking blistered the green beans, which were served piping hot less than ten minutes after ordering. The long beans had a garden-fresh flavor and a great pop. With a big soy taste and minced garlic, the thin black-bean gravy covered all the beans with an elevated saltiness. The portion was huge, but thankfully, Rainbow Garden leftovers always heat up well, and these were no exception.
1402 S Neil St
11 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily
Breaded Green Beans︱Seven Saints
You know your girl’s going to include a fried green bean. Served with a bowl of Seven Saints‘ chipotle ranch, this appetizer of breaded green beans ($11.99) was so yummy. The beans were encased in a crispy, thin breading, then fried up to golden deliciousness. Chopped to about fry-size, the green beans had a satisfyingly crunchy exterior that clung well to the tasty green bean center, and I liked the seasoning in the batter. This app was a perfect dish to share before a show in the restaurant’s beer garden and a must-try if you haven’t had them before.
32 E Chester St
Su-Th 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to midnight
Sautéed Green Beans︱Smoky’s House BBQ
When I reviewed Smoky’s House BBQ in March, my friend Dan told me to try the restaurant’s green beans, and once I did, I was hooked. The restaurant’s sautéed green beans ($2.50) were tossed in barbecue sauce with bits of brisket. The green beans can be added as a single side, a large side (pint), and a family side (quart). The sweet-smoky flavors of the sauce played well with the natural sweetness of the fresh beans. I loved the tender texture — not overcooked but a nice softened exterior and a little bit of crunch. The saucy green beans go well with the smoky barbecue, and it’s a unique dish we can’t get anywhere else in town (that I know of).
Smoky’s House BBQ
1333 Savoy Plaza Ln
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Garlic Green Beans︱Harvest Market
This grocery’s deli has some really good garlic green beans, and I am low-key obsessed with these. Anytime I’m at Harvest Market I like to pick up these beans, and Paul likes them, too. Cooked in olive oil, the beans have lots of minced garlic, but the secret ingredient in these is almond. The crushed almonds don’t overpower the green beans; they add a quiet nuttiness to the grassy and garlicky flavors. Find these green beans in three spots at the store: over by the fried chicken with the other hot sides, by the pound to-go, or in the grab-and-go fridge between wine and produce. A $6.99 a pound, the beans come already washed, cooked, and seasoned, so it’s literally the easiest way I’ve found in town to add green beans to meals at home.
2029 S Neil St
6 a.m. to 10 p.m.