Fresh, green butter beans. What a southern summer time delight! Served alongside fried chicken with cornbread and sliced tomatoes on the side, butter beans are a perennial favorite at many a southern table.
Now, I’ve read lots of opinions about whether butter beans and Lima beans are the same thing. It appears that they are.
However, they certainly don’t taste anything alike to me. Lima beans, in my opinion, have a horrible mealy quality that I dislike. Butter beans, on the other hand, have a luscious creamy texture. Limas are pale grey to white when cooked and butter beans keep their pretty green color.
When I was growing up, we had a garden most years and we always grew butter beans. We shelled and cooked them from fresh during the summer and froze the excess to enjoy the rest of the year. I still “put up” some butter beans almost every summer, so I have them on hand whenever we want them.
These were frozen last summer and are still just as delicious as they were fresh.
Old-time southern cooking has a bad reputation when it comes to preparing fresh vegetables. We tend to cook our vegetables for a longer time and season them more highly than other regions of the country. I like them both ways.
I like the bright taste of quickly cooked vegetables, but I also enjoy the homestyle taste of longer cooked, well-seasoned vegetables. In my opinion, butter beans are one vegetable that really need the hours long cooking time.
Because of the long cooking time needed for the butter beans, I cook them in a slow cooker. They can happily cook away for the afternoon with little to no attention from me.
In traditional southern cooking, butter beans are seasoned with a bit of fat back or a smoked ham hock. To cut back on the fat, I use chicken bouillon and a butter substitute for my seasonings.
How to Cook Southern Butter Beans:
Place butter beans, butter substitute, chicken bouillon, and water to cover in a small slow cooker. Cook on high for 1 ½ hours.
Turn cooker to low and cook for another 2-3 hours or until butter beans are tender.
Add a small amount of additional water during cooking only if needed.
They cooked all afternoon and are still pretty and green and firm. If you can get your hands on some fresh, green southern butter beans (not Limas!), give this method of cooking a try. It also works very well for field peas.
Update: Since this post was published, several people have emailed me with comments disputing my knowledge of Lima beans and butter beans.
They each insist that the big, white mealy beans are known as butter beans and the small green tender beans are called Lima beans. Well, where I’m from in the south, it’s the exact opposite.
The big, white beans are called Lima beans and the little green ones as I have shown in the blog post are called butter beans. That’s what I’ve heard them called all my life. Everyone that I know calls them the same thing.
Yes, I’m aware that they are related. Butter beans and lima beans are, horticulturally, the same.
Perhaps the post wasn’t written clearly, but the point I was trying to make is how different they seem. Not that they are actually two different unrelated things. Can we let this rest, please?
- 1 quart shelled, fresh or frozen, butter beans
- 2 tblsp. butter substitute (such as Butter Buds)
- 1 1/2 tblsp chicken bouillon
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- Place butter beans, butter substitute, chicken bouillon and water to cover in a small slow cooker.
- Cook on high for 1 1/2 hours.
- Turn cooker to low and cook for another 2-3 hours or until butter beans are tender.
- Add a small amount of additional water during cooking only if needed.
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More recipes for butter beans you may enjoy:
- Southern Butter Beans with Bacon from Southern Bite
- Southern Butter Beans from The Blond Cook
- Southern Lima Butter Beans with Ham Bits from Genius Kitchen
- How to Cook Butter Beans from Southern Food and Fun