Fava beans in yogurt sauce (Ful bel-laban)

April 29, 2014  •  Category:

This is a popular stew made especially in the Spring season when fava beans are freshly picked and offered on the side of the road going to the mountains or in the city’s greengrocers.  A vegetarian version can be prepared by simply omitting adding the meat (and stock) to the stew and replacing them with water.

In the South of the country, it is called fustukiyeh, for fustuk (meaning pistachios); I am assuming it is because the still green beans look like pistachios against the white sauce. However, the stew is made without the cilantro sauce.

There are many many ways to cook fava beans. In the US, I usually buy them frozen at the Middle-Eastern market and boil or steam them a few minutes. 

 This stew consists of a meat-based broth in which chunks of meat or lamb shanks are slowly simmered. The fava beans are added, then the yogurt, thickened with cornstarch and one egg. A few tablespoons of cilantro pesto are added at the last minute for a boost of flavor.IMG_1898INGREDIENTS:

  •          1 lb fava beans (green), either fresh or frozen
  •         1 lb lamb shanks with bones or stew meat
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped fine
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped and mashed in a mortar with 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 lb plain yogurt
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • a few black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch diluted in 1/3 cup of water (add more if the sauce is not thickening)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp.  olive oil
  1. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large soup pot and brown the meat; add water to cover and pepper and the chunks of onion. Cover, bring to a simmer and maintain a simmer for 40 minutes or until the meat is cooked. Strain the stock and break the meat into chunks, discarding fat and bones. Set the meat aside.
  2. Add the fava beans to the meat stock and cook them until done (time will vary depending  on whether the beans are frozen or fresh). Reduce the stock to about 2 cups before adding the yogurt. 
  3. Add the yogurt back in the soup pot. Add the cornstarch and egg and stir in the same direction with a wooden spoon until the mixture is slightly thickened. The yogurt and stock need to simmer for a while.
  4. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a small skillet; add the mashed garlic and cilantro and stir for 3 seconds until the cilantro is fragrant and the mixture gets lumpy. Set aside.  Add the meat back to the yogurt sauce, add the cilantro pesto and stir; taste to adjust the amount of salt and serve warm with rice or pasta. (Rice is traditional)

NOTE: One version of this dish consists in cooking rice and adding it to the yogurt sauce alongside the meat. The cilantro can be replaced with dried mint instead; one tablespoon of crumbled dried mint should suffice and can be fried for 3 seconds in the oil with the mashed garlic.

The cilantro pesto can be cooked and frozen ahead and added at the last minute when serving.

If using fresh fava beans, they need to be shucked and peeled. The skin on these beans is kind of hard to digest for some people. 

images George Clooney  is happily getting “a Taste of Beirut”. His fiancé was born and raised in the city 🙂





16 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:

    A beautiful dish! Wonderfully spring-like and ever so mouthwatering.



  2. tom | tall clover says:

    Joumana, this looks really good, and I’m going to post a link on our local Vashon Farmers Market Facebook page. It’s a little early for fava beans here, but in the weeks to come, we’ll be ready to make it when they finally appear. Now as for George Clooney, I always thought he had impeccable taste, now we know he does.

  3. Jamie says:

    What an amazing recipe! I love lamb so much it is pretty much the only meat I cook. I love the tangy yogurty sauce and fava beans are marvelous. What a great dish, Joumana!

  4. S Maloof says:

    I want to try this soon! One question though. At what point are the fava beans added?

    • Joumana says:

      @S Maloof: You will add them after the meat pieces are fully cooked, since they dont take long to cook. Remove the meat pieces then add the fava beans and simmer till cooked; then add the yogurt with the cornstarch and egg (you can add just the egg white). stir continuously till thickened a bit, add the meat pieces back and the cilantro and garlic sauce.

  5. Providence says:

    Looks so appetizing ! Can I use dried fava beans for this recipe, since I don’t have access to fresh or frozen ?
    Thank you !

    As for George Clooney fiancé, this makes you realize that Lebanese people are everywhere, discrete yet very successful at what they do 😉

    See, I’ve even found a Lebanese in a very remote area of my home state, Montana, where 99.99% of the population is pure WASP. He lived there in the beginning of 20th century, in a very nice area, full of wild thyme bushes (may be reminded him of homeland), and was a successful businessman… Today, there’s still a place that bears his name, LaHood.

    (On another topic, I’ll post later a picture of my Easter dish on your Facebook page, it was just delicious, you’re definitely the best chef I know!)

    • Joumana says:

      @Providence: Honestly, I have not tried it with dried fava beans. I’d substitute green peas, fresh if possible. You are right about Lebanese people they are everywhere, forced to migrate and leave their homeland for centuries; I personally have family members from my grandfather’s generation (and grandmother) all over, including New Zealand and Brazil. The Lebanese, like their Phoenicians forebears, are adaptable and have a knack for business (and love cooking generally). Can’t wait to see what you fixed for Easter! 🙂

  6. Oui, Chef says:

    Still a little early for favas here, but I am SO making this dish once they show up in the markets.

  7. maritachicita says:

    This looks great! thank you. it looks like an interesting combination of textures.

  8. Susan says:

    I thought that looked like George Clooney but then assumed it must be someone famous in Lebanon that looks like him 🙂 I didn’t even realize he was engaged – his fiance is beautiful!

    Beautiful dish as well with those lovely fresh beans and rice.

  9. Sue says:

    I am posting a dish with fava beans tomorrow — it ‘s the first time I’ve tasted them. Next time I’ll try this, the yogurt sauce sounds amazing.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I used to work for a Syrian woman who used to make a very similar soup/stew but made with the very young broad beans still in their pods and dressed with garlicky yoghurt sauce. I’d almost forgotten about it but it was very delicious.

    • Joumana says:

      @Elizabeth: It is made this way also in Lebanon, when the pods are still young; since these are not available often in US markets, I figured I’d showcase this dish instead.

  11. Hélène (Cannes) says:

    C’est la pleine saison de s fèves … et de l’agneau … Je copie ton idée tout de suite !

  12. maria s says:

    Oooo interesting i’ve never had anything like this before but i love the flavors

  13. Nuts about food says:

    Sounds very exotic and delicious!

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