Southern Butter Beans cooked in the slow cooker. Serve with fried chicken, fried okra, and cornbread for a very traditional southern dinner.
Fresh, green butter beans. What a southern summertime delight! Served alongside fried chicken with cornbread and sliced tomatoes on the side, butter beans are a perennial favorite at many a southern table.
I've read many opinions about butter beans and Lima beans and whether they 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.
We always had a garden when I was a child, and we always grew butter beans. We shelled and cooked them 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 when 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 benefits from the hours-long cooking time.
Because of the long cooking time needed for butter beans, I cook mine in a slow cooker. They can happily simmer away for the afternoon with little to no attention from me.
In traditional southern cooking, butter beans are seasoned with a bit of fatback 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 1½ 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.
These 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.
This post was originally published in 2009.
Update: Since this post was published, several people have emailed me with comments about the differences between Lima beans and butter beans.
They all 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 come 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. No, I'm really not ignorant nor stupid. Yes, 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?
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Southern Butter Beans
- 4 cups fresh or frozen green butter beans (or substitute baby lima beans - also called "petite" lima beans)
- 2 tablespoons butter substitute such as Butter Buds
- 1 ½ tablespoons chicken bouillon (or 1 cube of Knorr chicken bouillon)
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- Water to cover butter beans by one-inch
- Place butter beans, butter substitute, chicken bouillon and enough water to cover the butter beans by one inch 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.
Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.