My Life in Peru

An Expat Mom Shares Her Experiences with Peruvian Life, Travel and Food

Habitas – Fried Fava Beans

Posted on | March 31, 2011 | 8 Comments

Vicia faba, the broad bean, fava bean, faba be...

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Remember the classic line from Hannibal Lecter?

“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

That was the first time I ever remember hearing about fava beans. I had no idea what they were, I kind of had the idea they kind of like chick peas, maybe.

In Peru (and other parts of South America) fava beans are called “habas” – I’m not sure exactly why the “F” got dropped, just one of those hinky things that happens with language, I guess!  (b and v are pronounced the same, so no big deal there)

I rarely see them served cooked with a meal, but anywhere you go, you’ll see vendors on the streets selling little packets of fried habas – called “habitas”.  I’m not particularly crazy about them – they have a really nice crisp texture, but for me, an unpleasant aftertaste. The hubs and the kids LOVE them, though, and will go through pack after pack if they can.

If you like habitas,  you can cook them at home! It’s a job that takes a little patience and practice, and there are actually two ways to do it, depending on your preference. The deal is that, like peas or lima beans, they come in a pod. So first, you have to shell them. But there’s an extra step with favas – the bean itself has a tough skin that must be removed. You have the choice of removing the skin before or after you fry them.

I prefer taking the skin off first. The skin is what has the most of the bitter aftertaste, and I think that taking it off first keeps the bean from absorbing as much. Maybe it’s all in my head – who knows?  But it’s what I think. Removing the skin first involves and extra step of dropping the shelled beans into boiling water for about 4-5 minutes, just enough to blanch them and loosen up the skin. Let them cool, then use a fingernail or knife to break the skin and the bean should squeeze out.

Fry the beans in a large frying pan in hot soy bean oil or peanut oil. When they’re brown and crispy on both sides (3-4 minutes per side), turn them out on paper towels to drain and sprinkle them with salt.  Go crazy if you want, add a little cayenne or garlic salt!

If you fry them with the skin on, let them cool first and then again the skin should just slip off. Salt and season AFTER you remove the skin! I don’t think they’re as crispy this way, either – for me, the extra step is worth the trouble.

For your trouble, you’ll get a crispy little treat that’s packed with a lot more vitamins than a potato chip.


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8 Responses to “Habitas – Fried Fava Beans”

  1. Cat
    April 1st, 2011 @ 07:50

    I love habitas. And I stick them in soups all the time.

    The only time I’ve seem them cooked in their pods and put on the plate is with pachamanca.

  2. Nisha
    April 7th, 2011 @ 21:44

    I love them in salad with corn and cheese :’)

  3. Kelly
    April 8th, 2011 @ 11:03

    Oh that sounds good – sprinkled on top of a nice salpicon de pollo, like croutons. I love having something crunchy in my salad.

  4. Amy
    September 22nd, 2011 @ 09:38

    In the UK they are called “Broad Beans”. We shell, peel and then boil them. Then we serve them with butter. I’d love to try them Peruvian style!

    Amy´s last blog post ..Rushfit: Your Questions Answered

  5. Kelly
    September 22nd, 2011 @ 09:54

    I didn’t know that! Thanks for stopping by, Amy. :)

  6. Barbara Weibel
    March 14th, 2012 @ 19:18

    Thought you might be interested to know that their name has nothing to do with the “F”being dropped from Fava and the “V” being softened to a “B.” Habas is the word for bean in much of Latin America, thus these little snacks become “Habitas” which is the diminutive of the word Habas (in other words, little beans). Trivia for the day and incidentally, I’d eat these things all day long, despite having had some packs of them that are fried so hard they could crack a tooth.
    Barbara Weibel´s last blog post ..PHOTO: Looking down on the Plaza de Armas in central Cusco, Peru, from the hillside neighborhoods

  7. Ronald Long
    January 14th, 2013 @ 23:16

    It looks like string beans. And it doesn’t look like it tastes good

  8. edgar
    January 21st, 2013 @ 17:33

    Hola, Kelly, te recomiendo comprar en el mercado “vainítas”, acá en peru las hervimos y les hacemos su guiso, con el que me supongo estarás familiarizada. Son deliciosas, aunque supongo que también habrá una manera de hervirlas y luego enfriarlas y servirlas como ensalada. Por si acaso, no tienen semillas.

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    I got tired of life happening while I made other plans, so I quit my job and came to Peru. I live here with my Peruvian husband, two sons, three dogs and various other family members, depending on the weather.

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