When you’re in the supermarket and looking to buy some green beans, you’re often presented with two options: green beans, and usually right next to them, haricots verts, sometimes called French beans. What’s the difference between the two?
The answer? Not very much. In fact, haricots verts just means “green beans” in French. There are two main differences, though: haricots verts tend to be skinnier than traditional green beans, and are also more expensive. They’re actually bred that way: not only are they thinner, they’re also more tender and flavorful than comparably sized traditional green beans. They’re also younger than traditional green beans; if you were to pick regular old green beans at the same age at which haricots verts are harvested, they’d be missing a lot of that “beany” flavor. In France, all green beans are called haricots verts; the skinnier, pricier ones are called haricots verts filets extra-fins.
Whether a restaurant serves green beans or haricots verts really depends on what type of restaurant it is. Traditionally, the green beans served at restaurants usually come from a can, and are common at diners. Better restaurants almost exclusively use haricots verts, because they’re more attractive (and the French name doesn’t hurt either).