Boiled wax beans

Kokta vaxbönor

Boiled wax beans garnished with finely chopped chervil

Wax beans are often for sale during the summer at farmers’ markets in Sweden and are well worth buying if you get the opportunity. They look like French beans except they are pale yellow in colour. They get their name from their waxy texture and appearance.

The 1948 edition of Prinsessornas Nya Kokbok by Jenny Åkerström

Vaxbönor have been popular in Sweden for nearly 100 years, leading Jenny Åkerström to include three recipes for vaxbönor in her 1948 edition of her famous cookery book, Prinsessornas Nya Kokbok. Of her three recipes, my favourite is the simplest: simply boil the beans in lightly salted water until just tender.

Jenny also included a recipe for vaxbönor med tomatpuré in which the beans were tossed in fried onions and tomatoes. Her other recipe was for vaxbönor à la Chicago in which some ham was added to vaxbönor med tomatpuré, sprinkled with dried breadcrumbs and baked until golden brown. John Duxbury


Recipe summary for boiled wax beans


Wax bean growing on a plant

• If wax beans are not generally for sale where you live consider growing your own. If you can grow French beans or runner beans then you should be able to grow wax beans. (The variety shown above is Pencil Pod Black Wax available in the UK from Thompson & Morgan.)
• Strictly, not all yellow beans are wax beans, as some varieties aren’t particularly waxy, but nearly all yellow beans sold in Sweden are vaxbönor!
• Wax beans and green French beans look good when served together, but they should be cooked separately as French beans normally need to be cooked for a couple minutes longer, depending on the variety.
• For a nice salad, refresh the cooked beans in cold water, drain and dry on kitchen paper. Mix with some salad leaves, such as frisée (curly endive), perhaps some chopped celery, roasted pinenuts or walnuts, finely chopped herbs and drizzle over some vinaigrette.


450 g (1 lb) wax beans
1 litre (2 pints) water
1 tsp   salt
30 g (2 tbsp) butter, softened
1 tbsp   finely chopped parsley or chervil
    sea salt flakes


1. Trim the tops from the beans, but not the tails. Discard any thick seedy beans.

2. Bring the water and salt to the boil.

3. Add the trimmed beans and cook until tender (3-6 minutes, depending on the variety).

4. Drain in a colander and cover.

5. Add the butter to the pan and when melted return the beans, sprinkle over the herbs and gently toss.

6. Sprinkle over a few sea salt flakes just before serving.


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