What are Fava Beans? What You Need to Know About One of the World's Oldest Pulses

Humans have made some pretty important discoveries through archaeology. Over the years, we’ve found cities preserved in volcanic ash, graves of kings, prehistoric paintings … and beans. The latter might seem slightly less impressive, but it can still teach us about our past. It turns out, thanks to a discovery in northern Israel in 2015, we know we’ve been eating fava beans for at least 10,000 years, since the New Stone Age. In fact, before the late 1400s, in Europe, fava beans were likely one of the only beans consumed by humans for centuries.

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But fava beans are far from out of date—what was good enough for our ancestors is still good enough for us today. Fava beans are nutritious, versatile, and easy to cook with. Here’s everything you need to know about one of the world’s oldest domesticated pulses, including nutrition and their role in food tech.

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What are fava beans?

Fava beans are green legumes that grow in pods on Vicia fabas plants. They’re often referred to as broad beans, but while they are the same species, the two are slightly different. Fava beans are smaller and harvested when they are fully mature and dried. Broad beans, however, are bigger and often harvested when they are fresh. While they are consumed all over the world, fava beans are particularly popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. For example, one of Egypt’s traditional dishes, ful mudammas, refers to stewed fava beans served with herbs and spices in a metal jug.

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Fava beans nutrition

Unless you suffer from favism (a genetic allergy), fava beans are an incredibly healthy addition to your diet. They’re rich in protein (one 100-gram serving contains around 13 grams of protein), plus they’re a good source of fiber, as well as nutrients like copper, folate, manganese, iron, and potassium. They also contain compounds that may help to increase antioxidant activity in the body.

Fava bean uses

Fava beans can be used in many different ways. They can form the basis of dips, stews, soups, and even falafel. While Moroccan recipes often call for chickpeas to make the popular North African and Middle Eastern snack, in Egypt, fava beans are the star of the show. But their potential doesn’t end there. Here, we’ve gathered a few of our favorite recipes that demonstrate just how versatile fava beans are alongside some of our favorite products made with the legume. 

Products containing fava beans

Here are some of the unique ways brands have used fava beans to make alternatives to traditional animal-based foods, like eggs, ice cream, and cheese. 

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1 Arctic Zero ice cream

Arctic Zero has discovered the value of adding fava beans to its non-dairy ice cream recipes. In fact, it is the first entirely fava bean-based frozen dessert line on the market. All of its flavors are vegan, and they include Cake Batter, Hint of Mint, Cookie Shake, Pistachio, and Classic Vanilla.
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VegNews.FavaBeanCrumble.UptonsNaturalsUpton’s Naturals

Upton’s Naturals’ taco crumbles

Since 2006, Upton’s Naturals has provided tasty, animal-free meat alternatives made with “real, recognizable ingredients.” Perhaps best known for its seasoned jackfruit and seitan products, the brand also offers meat crumbles made from a base of fava beans. Taco Tuesday just got a tasty, nutritious upgrade.
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3 The Good Bean’s crispy fava snack

As its name suggests, The Good Bean is committed to making delicious foods using a base of beans, from chickpeas to edamame to fava.  The brand’s crispy fava snacks are a healthier alternative to potato chips. They’re made simply with fava beans, sea salt, coconut oil, and safflower oil. Plus, they pack an impressive seven grams of protein per serving.
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4Ecoideas’ Fava + Pea Protein Plant-Based Chunks

While not an entirely vegan brand, Canada-based Ecoideas churns out high-quality plant-based products. These meaty, vegan chunks owe their texture to a combination of fava beans and pea protein. With a whopping 19 grams of protein for every 36-gram serving, they make a great addition to taco bowls and stir-fries. 
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How to use fava beans

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1 Moroccan Cauliflower “Couscous” Salad

In Morocco, beans are a cuisine staple, and so is couscous, a form of semolina-based pasta. But you can make a very similar alternative to the latter with cauliflower, which is the basis of this quick, easy, and tasty salad recipe. Add a burst of extra flavor with dried apricots, red peppers, and orange dressing.
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2 Fava-Pistachio Hummus

Hummus, another Middle Eastern classic, is usually made with chickpeas. But you can also make the creamy, indulgent dip with fava beans too. All you need to make this recipe is half a can of fava beans, as well as pistachios, garlic, cumin, parsley, and lemon juice. And, of course, you should always serve with plenty of pita.
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3 Bean Marbella With Salty Roasted Potatoes

It sounds Spanish (Marbella is a place in Spain, after all), but Chicken Marbella actually comes from Manhattan in New York City. It’s a popular Jewish-American dish, but you don’t need to eat meat to enjoy it. This recipe subs meat for dried beans. And while it calls for preferably either cannellini or great Northern beans, fava will work just as well.
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vegnews.tuscanbeansamturnbullSam Turnbull

4 Pasta With Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Transport yourself to the Tuscan countryside with this creamy pasta. This indulgent recipe features sun-dried tomatoes (an Italian favorite), as well as spinach and white beans. While the latter usually refers to beans like cannellini and haricot, fava beans will work equally well in this recipe.
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5 Bean Bruschetta

Bruschetta, another popular Italian dish, is great for a quick lunch, a snack, or as an appetizer if you’re planning more than one course. It’s usually served with tomatoes, fresh herbs, and olive oil, but it’s also delicious with a bean spread. Swap cannellini for fava to make this creamy topping, which is guaranteed to become your new go-to.
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