What are Wax Beans?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Wax beans are a type of edible bean known for their bright yellow coloration. Similar in taste to string or green beans, wax beans can be used in a variety of dishes and may be eaten cooked or raw. Also known as butter beans, they are typically harvested in late spring and early summer, and grow in temperate areas.

Wax beans are a type of bright yellow edible bean.
Wax beans are a type of bright yellow edible bean.

In terms of nutrition, wax beans provide a considerable amount of vitamins A and C, while containing little fat and few calories. A 4 oz(113.39 g) serving of these yellow beans contains about 20-25 calories. Nutrients may wane if the beans are frozen or canned; as with most vegetables, nutritional content is highest just after harvesting.

Wax beans can be used as a substitute for green beans when called for in a recipe.
Wax beans can be used as a substitute for green beans when called for in a recipe.

When ripe, butter beans have a slightly sweet and rich taste and a crunchy texture with a lot of snap. When choosing beans, look for pods that snap crisply; limp pods are often a sign that the bean is past its peak. Beans should generally be washed before eating, but no other preparation is necessary. They can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Some experts recommend keeping beans in a sealed plastic bag to reduce moisture loss while in the fridge.

Wax beans are similar in taste to green beans.
Wax beans are similar in taste to green beans.

Wax beans can be used as a substitute in any recipe where green beans or string beans are used. They make a delicious addition to salads, soups, and pasta dishes. Their pleasant color creates a lovely contrast to regular green beans, so consider using half wax and half green beans in a recipe to add visual appeal.

Although these pretty yellow beans are found in dishes from many cultures, most species are native to North America and have been grown for thousands of years in this area. Native American cultures that specialized in farming grew beans in concert with squash and corn, referring to this nutritious trio as the “three sisters.” When planted together, these three crops actually stimulate growth and harvest in one another through their individual growing patterns and complementary use of nutrients in the soil.

Growing wax beans is relatively easy even for a novice gardener. The beans can either be allowed to develop into bushes or trained to climb up poles or trellises. Using poles can be a great way to maximize space in a small garden, as the beans will grow vertically. Beans require considerable sunlight and well drained soil that is watered lightly every few days. Planting usually begins in mid-spring, with harvest about two months after planting.

Lightly steamed wax beans can add crunch to a leafy green salad.
Lightly steamed wax beans can add crunch to a leafy green salad.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


I would note that wax beans taste quite different from 40 years ago. Back then, they actually had a surface texture like wax and the taste was very different from green beans, reminding me of how some plastics smell.

I avoided them for years because of that.

I recently ate some wax bean and the flavor was very different, tasting much like a green bean and the waxy consistency was gone.


I have a great yellow wax bean recipe that I have been making for years. It is super simple and couldn't be more delicious. It uses some of the basic flavors of India

Saute one pound of yellow wax beans until tender. Add 1T curry powder, 1t Indian chili powder and 3 minced cloves of garlic. Cook for an additional 3 minutes. The resulting dish is spicy, savory and so good you will probably eat them all in one sitting


@tigers88 - Interesting question, I can't say that I have. But I have never seen dried green beans or other beans that still include the pods in dried form either. I wouldn't be surprised if they are out there somewhere, but obviously they are not as ubiquitous as dried pinto or black beans. A good place to start looking might be Whole Foods or another specialty grocery store. You probably won't find them at your local mega mart


Has anyone ever seen dry wax beans available for sale?


As a kid I was horrified by wax beans. There odd beige color and waxy sheen reminded me of worms or water-logged cigarette butts. My mom would make the regularly but I absolutely refused to eat them until I was a teenager.

Boy am I glad I got over it. Beans are one of my favorite foods and wax beans are close to the top of my list. Their taste is both subtle and unique, distinct and complimentary. I love them plain or as a part of one of the hundreds of great recipes that put them to use. For anyone that is still on the fence as to whether to try wax beans, take the leap, you won't be disappointed.


Does anyone have any great recipes they can share that would use wax beans? I really enjoy the flavor of wax beans and would like to branch out and try adding them to various dishes.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy wax beans is to have them in a hearty soup.

All you need to make the wax bean soup is onions, parsley, butter, wax beans, vegetable juice, water, milk, wheat flour and a bit of sour cream.

To start, all you need to do is saute the onions and parsley in some butter. When the onions are clear add your beans, seasoning to taste, vegetable juice and water.

In a separate pot heat your milk and whisk in the flour to create a thickener.

Once your beans are tender, add the thickener and cook until the soup is at a consistency you like.


Growing wax beans in your backyard is one of the easier things to add to your home garden. Nutritious and great in a variety of dishes I would recommend giving them a try.

I would suggest for beginners that you get bush beans, which don't require a trellis to grow.

One spring has begun, and the danger of frost has passed, clear a patch of ground in your backyard that is usually sunny. Plant the seeds in 2 inch deep holes, about 6 inches apart.

After you have planted, water the garden until the water soaks down at least 3 inches. Do this twice a week until you see sprouts start to grow.

Harvest you new wax beans when the pods get to be around 3 inches long.

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