Spicy Ful Medames (Fava Beans) With Olive Oil and Chile Recipe

A boatload of olive oil plus lemon, garlic, cumin, and a kick of chile powder makes for a ridiculously intense-tasting ful

A small saucepan of spicy ful medames, ready to serve.

Serious Eats / Max Falkowitz

Why It Works

  • Toasting cumin seeds, then mashing them with garlic and chile flakes in a mortar and pestle releases maximum flavor.
  • Replacing some of the bean broth with olive oil makes for an intense grassy and pungent base for an abundance of spices and garlic.

Ful medames, or stewed fava beans, is a staple dish all over the Levant where it is often served for breakfast. Some versions, like the tahini-enriched Cairo-style ful preferred by my Egyptian friend Alex, are mild-mannered and comforting. His father Tarek, however, makes a version that is rich and full-flavored.

Tarek doesn't use much of the canned bean liquid to make his ful; he prefers to drown his beans in olive oil, then adds, in his son's words, "too much garlic, too much lemon, and too much cumin." That over-abundance of olive oil—use a decent one you don't mind using too much of, like the peppery stuff in bulk glass jugs from Lebanon—makes for a ridiculously intense-tasting ful, bolstering the favas' natural grassiness and adding incredible richness to the broth.

A saucepan of fava beans partially submerged in broth and a healthy quantity of olive oil, ready to simmer.

Serious Eats / Max Falkowitz

As long as we're gilding the lily, I like this kind of ful pretty spicy, so in addition to extra cumin I throw in a small handful of chile flakes. (Harissa or shatta would work nicely here, too.) Just don't skimp on the lemon to cut through all the fat and heat.

You can serve this with pita alone if you're in a hurry, but if you have the time, I recommend garnishing bowls with tomato-cucumber salad, labne or a soft cheese, maybe even some balls of falafel.

January 2015

Recipe Facts



Active: 10 mins
Total: 10 mins
Serves: 3 to 4 servings

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  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, freshly toasted

  • 2 teaspoons chile flakes

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans fava beans

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

  • 1 tablespoon tahini

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice from 2 lemons, or more to taste


  1. Put garlic cloves, cumin seeds, chile flakes, and a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle and crush until seeds are cracked and garlic is in small, flimsy chunks. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, mince garlic very fine.

  2. Empty one can of fava beans (with liquid) into a medium saucepan; drain second can and add additional beans, garlic paste, olive oil, and tahini. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until liquid retains some brothiness but turns thick and sauce-like, about 5 minutes.

  3. Add lemon juice and salt to taste. If desired, mash one third of beans with a potato masher for a thicker stew, or mash all beans for a rich dip. Serve with additional olive oil at the table.

Special Equipment

Mortar and pestle (optional)

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
580 Calories
44g Fat
37g Carbs
14g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 580
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 44g 56%
Saturated Fat 6g 30%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 571mg 25%
Total Carbohydrate 37g 13%
Dietary Fiber 10g 35%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 14g
Vitamin C 7mg 34%
Calcium 82mg 6%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 529mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)