Haricot or Coco are the most popular names for beans in France, and beans play a significant part in French cuisine. Beans, legumes, are one of the world’s oldest cultivated crops and arrived in the Old World with Christopher Columbus’s return from South America. Beans of one type or another will be on the menu or part of the recipe in hundreds of traditional and modern dishes from an entrée, the French first course, to a salad and on to the main course and finally the dessert.
The two most popular beans that begin this post divide half of the market between them; one is fresh and the other dried. The first is the Haricot Vert, the fresh green bean, and the second the Haricot Blanc, the dried white navy bean. The others appear in alphabetical order, and since many beans have more than one name I have chosen the one that is most often seen in markets or on menus.
Number 1 the Haricot Vert:
Haricot Vert – The fresh Green Bean, or Snap Bean; the most popular of all the fresh French green beans. These particular beans are sweeter and have a more delicate texture than other green beans, and cooks appreciate the lack of strings on the sides. When very young these beans will be among the various green beans called haricots mange tout, which means that you may eat every part of them.
In the markets, the most expensive of these beans will be classified by length with the shortest and youngest, that’s also the tenderest, being the most expensive. The better restaurants serve the shortest beans with those under 6.50 cm (2.40”) long being called fins. Under 8.00 cms (3.10”) long they are called très fins and so on with the more mature and longer beans becoming less and less expensive; when they are over 10.5 cm (4.10”) long, which is the size most often seen in the markets they are called moyens.
The Haricot Vert on French menus
Le Blanc de Turbot Sauvage Rôti au Poivre de Passion, Risotto de Haricots Verts au Vieux Parmesan – A filet of roasted wild turbot flavored with passion berry pepper and accompanied by a risotto of green beans served with shavings of an aged Parmesan. The Passion berry pepper is the fruit of an African plant and it is not a real pepper nor is it related to passion fruit. It adds a pleasant but light bitter taste similar to some Szechuan peppers but without the bite.
Haricots Verts et Salade de Pommes de Terre Vitelotte – Green beans with a salad of France’s blue-violet fleshed Vitelotte potatoes.
Mesclun, Haricots Verts Frais, Tomates Confites, Médaillon De Foie Gras De Canard – A round or oval cut, a medallion, of lightly fried fattened duck’s liver served with a mesclun salad, fresh green beans, and a tomato jam. A salad mesclun should include at least five different salad greens and the best mesclun salads will be created around a variety of tastes and textures including, for example, lettuce (sweet and crunchy), Treviso radicchio (bitter), mache (sweet, nutty), escarole (crispy and sharp), rocket (spicy), etc. and will be served with a vinaigrette sauce. The ingredients will change with the seasons and the name Mesclun comes from the Provencal word mescal that means mixed.
Number 2 the Haricot Blanc:
Haricot Blanc, Mogettes, Lingot, Coco and Coco Blanc – France’s most popular white dried bean, the Navy Bean; in France usually just called the Haricot or Haricot Blanc. This bean will be in thousands of recipes, from soups to salads and is the bean of choice for most French lamb and beef stews and cassoulets. The bean is grown all over France, but a number of areas have a recognized terroir, a unique taste and flavor said to come from the soil, weather and possibly a micro-climate available nowhere else. Those areas produce beans that are recognized with France’s Label Rouge, red label; and one very special bean holds France’s highest food rating, an AOC/AOP.
The Haricot Blanc on French menus:
Velouté de Haricots Blancs au Lard – A thick velvety soup, made using the navy bean and flavored with bacon.
Brochette de Lotte aux Haricots Blancs et Tomates – Grilled cubes of monkfish served with the navy beans and tomatoes.
Haricot Lingots du Nord, Label Rouge – The white haricot navy bean when produced in a particular part of Northern France; there the clay soil, graded seeds, and crop rotation every four years produces a recognizably tastier bean. They are marketed as Lingots, not Haricots Blanc, to set themselves apart and have been awarded the Label Rouge for excellence. (Lingot means ingot in English, like a gold ingot).
Ragoût d’Agneau aux Lingots du Nord – A traditional lamb stew made with the Haricot Lingots du Nord.
Mogettes, Label Rouge – Another haricot navy bean with a noticeably superior taste. This bean comes from the department of Vendee on France’s Atlantic coast in the Pays de la Loire The soil and climate are the terroir and the award of a Red Label confirm this bean’s unique qualities. (BTW Every two years the Vendee – Globe round-the-world, single-handed, yacht race begins and finishes at the Vendee seaside resort of Les Sables-d’Olonne).
Jambon de Vendée Grillé aux Mogettes – The famous cured and smoked ham of the Vendee, grilled and served with their Mogettes de Vendée Label Rouge.
A few of France’s other favorite beans in alphabetical order:
Haricot Beurre – Butter bean. The name given to many beans with yellow pods, the most well known is the Haricot Jaune. (The bean inside the pod of the Haricot Lima, the Lima Bean is also called the Haricot Beurre).
Haricot Borlotti – See Haricot Canneberge
Haricot Calypso – The calypso, orca bean or yin-yang bean. A dried bean with a unique black and white pattern. When young these beans with their green pods may be prepared like other fresh green beans, but when fully grown the beans are dried. This bean has a potato flavor with a creamy texture and will be added to soups, stews, pasta, rice, and vegetables.
Haricot Cannellini or Cannellini – A large white dried bean with a kidney shape that as its name indicates originated in Italy and will be on menus close to France’s Italian border. Despite its Italian heritage, the Haricot Cannellini will also be found in traditional French recipes where they will be replacing the traditional haricot blanc. The Cannellini bean has light nutty flavor and a smooth texture.
The Haricot Cannellini on French menus:
Ragout d’Agneau avec Tomates et Haricots Cannellini – A traditional French lamb stew prepared with tomatoes and the cannellini beans replacing the more usual Haricot Blanc.
Haricot Canneberge, Haricot Borlotti or Coco Rose – The Cranberry or Borlotti dried bean. Inside the pods, the beans are cream colored with red streaks, though their name comes from the reddish streaks on the pod.
The Haricot de Canneberge on French menus:
Haricot Chevrier or Haricot d’Arpajon – A variety of the kidney bean named after M. Chevrier the farmer who developed it near the town of Arpajon in the department of Essonne in the region of Île-de-France. This bean will be in recipes where the Haricot Blanc, the most popular dried navy bean may have been used. The town of Arpajon is less than 30 km (19 miles) from Paris and was and still is, the center of France’s dried bean trade. They have an annual bean fair in September.
Le Jarret d’Agneau sur Lit de Chevrier – A dish made from a cut across the shank of a lamb with the marrowbone in the center and served on a bed of Chevrier beans. The same cut from a veal shank is the dish called Osso Buco in Italian and Jarret de Veau in French.
Haricot de Cocos de Paimpol AOP – The Paimpol bean from Brittany with its AOP ranking and unique taste is the French gourmand’s bean. The Cocos de Paimpol took the slow boat from the New World to the Old World and only began to be cultivated in Brittany for their unique taste in the 1930’s. This white bean has an oval shape with a pale yellow pod that has slight violet markings; it is sold as a haricot demi-sec, a semi-dry bean. Semi-dry means the bean will be sold without the pod, but not dried like many of France’s traditional white beans that require long soaking to rehydrate them before use. This is the most highly rated bean in French cuisine and to read its own post click here.
Haricot de Cocos de Paimpol AOP
Haricot Dolique à Œil Noir or Haricot Œil Noir.– The dried black-eyed pea.
Haricot Fevre – The broad bean or fava bean. These beans when very young may be cooked and eaten whole, but are most often seen when they are still soft inside a full-grown pod. Then the usually deep-green beans may be removed from the pod, peeled and spread and uncooked on toast or as part of a dip. Cooked dishes will braise the unpeeled beans and then serve them as a garnish.
Haricot de Lima or Haricot Beurre – The Lima or butter bean. The name butter bean refers to its starchy but buttery texture.
Haricot de Soisson, Haricot d’Espagne, Haricots Plats – The English runner bean or scarlet runner bean. The bean has a long story connected with its historical connection to Spain and that is behind one of its names, the Haricot d’Espagne, the bean from Spain. However, most menus use the name Soissons, the name of the town associated with this bean. The town of Soissons is in the department of Aisne and was part of the region of Picardy until 1-1-2016 when it became part of the new super region of Hauts-de-France.
Soissons was internationally famous before the first of these beans were grown in the region; then, in 1729, an international conference, the Congress of Soissons, was held there. The conference aimed to end a number of international problems but mainly the Anglo-Spanish War. At that conference among various agreements Spain agreed to Great Britain’s sovereignty over Gibraltar; Spain has regretted that agreement ever since. The Haricot de Soissons is France’s largest dried white bean and very popular. In restaurants in and around Soissons, the local organization promoting this bean is the Confrérie du Haricot de Soissons; this brother and sisterhood will make sure its name is on the local menus. If you are a true bean lover visit Soissons on the last Saturday and Sunday in September for the Fête du Haricot de Soissons, the Soissons Haricot bean fair; Soissons is just 90 km (56 miles) from Paris.
The Haricot de Soissons on French menus:
Filet de Carrelet Pané à la Chapelure de Haricots de Soissons, Crème de Noilly – A filet of plaice fried in breadcrumbs flavored with Noilly Prat, France’s first vermouth, accompanied by the Soissons white beans.
Haricot de Soissons Accompagne des Jarretons de Porc – Slowly cooked, braised, pork shanks cut across the bone and prepared with the white beans of Soissons.
Parmentier d’Agneau aux Haricots Plats d’Espagne – Ground lamb covered with mashed potatoes and accompanied by the Spanish/Soissons white beans. This, like many other French potato dishes, this one is named after Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (1737 – 1813), the man who convinced the French to eat potatoes, which were then thought to be poisonous. Potatoes saved tens of thousands from dying of hunger in the famines of the late 1700s. For the history of how this dish and its beef version became the British dishes of shepherd’s pie (lamb), and cottage pie (beef) click here.
Haricot Fayot or Chevrier Vert – A light-green to white, dried, kidney-shaped bean; it is a variety of the Haricot Chevrier and slightly different to the haricot blanc and will often take its place in local recipes.
Haricot Jaune or Haricot Beurre – The fresh, yellow bean; this is the only fresh bean that comes close in popularity to France’s haricot vert, their fresh green beans. The Haricot Vert and Haricot Jaune are varieties of the same bean, and like the Haricot Vert, the shorter and younger yellow beans are considered the best.
The Haricot Jaune of French menus:
Haricot Lingots du Nord, Label Rouge – See Haricots Blanc.
Haricot Mange Tout – The eat all bean. Any of a number of fresh green beans that when young can be popped in the mouth and eaten whole and prepared while lacking any strings on the sides. In the markets, in a manner similar to the green beans, the best and youngest beans are given labels such as filet mangetout or extra fin. On a menu, the Haricot Mange Tout bean may be confused with those tasty thin pea pods, the pois mange-tout, the snow pea or sugar pea.
Haricots Mange Tout on French menus:
Haricot Mogettes, Mogettes or Mojette – See Haricot Blanc at the beginning of this post.
Haricot de Mouton – This not a bean; it is a traditional stew made with the popular Haricot Blanc, the dried navy bean, mutton, vegetables, herbs, and red wine.
Haricot Mungo – Mung beans, bean sprouts. They are a legume but not a real bean and originated in Asia.
The Haricot Mungo on French Menus:
Haricot Mungo – bean sprouts.
Haricot Pelandron – A tasty variety of green runner bean which when fresh have dark mauve to nearly black markings; cooked these delicious beans are entirely green. Their French name comes from the Niçoise dialect used in and around the City of Nice on France’s Mediterranean coast, the heart of the Cote d’Azur
Haricot Pinto – The dried pinto bean; popular in France but even more famous in the USA as the bean of choice in chili con carne and refried beans. This bean came to France directly via Columbus and Spain and not via the USA. There are hundreds of varieties of pinto beans so do not be surprised if the French pinto bean looks different to the one you see at home.
Haricot Rouge – A dried red kidney bean; with a deep burgundy wine color, this bean is a favorite of French chefs even if not as popular as the haricot blanc. These large, red beans are popular in salads, soups, and stews. This bean is never served uncooked as they contain toxins that are only removed when well cooked.
The Haricot Rouge on French menus:
Velouté de Haricots Rouges au Lard – A thick soup made with the red kidney bean and flavored with bacon.
Bœuf Mijoté aux Haricots Rouges – A slowly simmered beef stew made with the red kidney bean.
Haricot Rouge Aduki or Azuki or Haricot Rouge du Japon – The azuki or aduki red bean; a bean originally from China. The azuki is the seed of a vine and in Chinese and Japanese cuisine this bean is usually sweetened and will be part of desserts or pastries. French chefs have learned to appreciate this bean and it will be in many cakes and desserts. Some dishes may show a Japanese or Chinese influence while others will be purely French.
Haricot Rouge Aduki on French menus:
Gâteau Roulé au Thé Vert et Haricot Rouge – A roll, a rolled cake; flavored with Japanese Green tea and Azuki beans.
Haricots de Soja – Soya bean or Soybeans. Like the mung bean these are not a real bean and originated in Asia
Haricot Tarbais, Label Rouge or Haricot-Maïs – The Haricot Tarbais is one of France’s most highly rated dried beans that is also sold as a fresh bean from Mid-August to October. The Haricot Tarbais holds the Label Rouge, the red label, and its provenance will be noted when it is on the menu. The Tarbais bean may replace the haricot blanc in stews and other dishes. To read the post on the Haricot Tarbais click here.
The Haricot Tarbais on French menus:
Garbure du Pays Garnie de Haricots Tarbais – A traditional, heavy, country-style soup, almost a stew, often enough to be a complete meal, from the south-west of France garnished with Tarbais Beans.
Haricot Pois Chiches – Garbanzo beans, the chickpea or chick pea – This legume is not a bean and probably originated in the Middle East where it is the heart of hummus and falafel. Chickpeas are part of traditional dishes along France and Italy’s Mediterranean coast and now part of other dishes as the flour, also called gram flour, is gluten-free. This and other plants arrived with the Phoenicians who were the Mediterranean’s seafaring wholesalers and traded with France long before the Greeks and Romans came.
The Pois Chiches on French Menus:
Socca or Socca Niçoise – A hot and crispy chickpea pancake made with farine de pois chiche, chickpea flour. It is the quintessential street food of Nice, baked over hot coals on steel platters and best eaten when still hot.
Panisses or Panisses Frit – Originally another City of Nice fast food that would be bought hot and eaten on the go; but, now panisses have gone mainstream and will be on restaurant menus. Panisses are made with farine de pois chiche, chickpea flour, in a variety of shapes and deep-fried. They were traditionally served on their own with salt, but today will come with an optional addition of grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese. In a Nice restaurant, a Panisse may be used as a garnish or served with a salad.
The different names used for the same beans in this post are mostly linked to particular regions, and the use of local dialects. France had tens of local languages and dialects before modern French finally took its place, but traditional names remain, and in some parts of France, the older languages, like Occitan and Catalan are still spoken alongside modern French. Expect the occasional tasty confusion with some of the beans in menu listings as you travel around France. Caveat emptor: To include all the beans you may see in France’s markets would have required a separate book, possibly two.
French chefs accredit every bean with its own unique texture and flavor, and only certain beans will be accepted in a specific recipe. In a restaurant, with a talkative chef or with foodies you can get into long discussions over beans, or you can pass on that and just enjoy the dishes made with them. France is famous for its wide variety of stews, daubs, and cassoulets; most of them will include beans in their recipes. A visit to a French market will make you aware of more types of beans, fresh and dried; than you might have thought existed.
Searching for the meaning of words, names or phrases
Just add the word, words, or phrase that you are searching for to the words “Behind the French Menu” and search with Google. Behind the French Menu’s links include hundreds of words, names, and phrases that are seen on French menus. There are over 400 articles that include over 3,000 French dishes with English translations and explanations.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman