Sambal Green Beans With Coconut & Cashews

February 24, 2022
3 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Gerri Williams. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 4 as a side
Author Notes

When it comes to vegetables, green beans are my favorite canvas. They last up to a week in the fridge, making them one of the greatest emergency ingredients. In this Indonesian-inspired recipe, you only need a handful of other staples to yield a side so flavorful, it might overshadow whatever it’s accompanying, from rice to noodles.

A simple spice paste of chiles and garlic forms the sambal base, fried in oil until the chile is caramelized and wrinkled. Taking a cue from one of the most popular vegetable dishes in Indonesia known as sambal goreng buncis (sambal fried in oil with beans), the green beans come to life coated in the rich, intensely flavored sauce. This recipe sits on the crunchier end of the green bean spectrum, the beans cooked to peak vibrant green. It overflows with textures—flaky coconut and snappy cashews—but it is the combination of kecap manis and coconut sugar that has my fork scraping the plate for more. Just a little bit of each brings out the natural sweetness of the green beans, and keeps the chiles in check.

I use pre-roasted and salted cashews for ease, but if you prefer to use raw cashews, simply roast them on a sheet pan in a 350°F oven until golden. Swap the coconut sugar for brown sugar if that’s what you have on hand, and if you can’t source kecap manis (an Indonesian sweet soy sauce), you can substitute 1 tablespoon of kecap manis for 1 tablespoon of soy sauce mixed with 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. —Lara Lee

Test Kitchen Notes

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What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup (25 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
  • 4 long red chiles (such as cayenne, aji sivri, dagger pod, Holland red finger, or jwala finger), deseeded and finely diced
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 tablespoon kecap manis
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut sugar or light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (57 grams) roasted, salted cashews
  1. Toast the coconut in a wok or large frying pan over medium heat for about 2 minutes, shaking the pan frequently, until golden. Transfer the coconut to a plate.
  2. Wipe out the pan. Heat the oil in the wok or pan, still over medium. Add the garlic and chiles and cook, stirring continuously, for 3 to 4 minutes, until the chile has softened and is starting to wrinkle.
  3. Add the green beans along with 1 tablespoon of water, the kecap manis, sugar, and salt. Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the green beans are just cooked through with a crunchy bite.
  4. Stir in most of the toasted coconut and cashews, reserving a little of each for garnish. Transfer to a serving plate, topping with the remaining coconut and cashews.

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Lara Lee

Recipe by: Lara Lee

Lara Lee is a Chinese-Indonesian and Australian chef and food writer. She is the author of Indonesian cookbook Coconut & Sambal, and a contributor for Food52, Bon Appetit, the Guardian and New York Times. Her book was named one of the best cookbooks of 2020 by the NYT, Guardian, Eater, National Geographic and more. When she's not cooking, you'll find her teaching Indonesian words to her toddler Jonah.

1 Review

SilverInBlood March 11, 2022
This is a winner. I paired it with yuba in sweet chili sauce and rice, and I am definitely coming back to this recipe during the summer when green beans are plentiful. So easy to make for the flavor payoff!