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Southern Butter Bean Recipe (Best Lima Beans)

Classic Southern Butter Beans – This tried-and-true Butter Beans with Bacon Recipe makes tender, flavorful lima beans that are perfect to serve as a side with your favorite southern dishes.

butter beans recipe close up final view

Lima Beans vs Butter Beans: What is the Difference?

Nothing! That’s right, the butter beans vs lima beans mystery is that there is no mystery at all. In fact, there is absolutely no difference between lima and butter beans… Because they are the same bean.

Known as Lima Beans, Butter Beans or Butterbeans, depending on where you are, these delicious and protein-rich legumes are simply lovely by any name. Not only are there several different names for butter beans, but there are also nearly endless ways that they can be prepared and incorporated into dishes. Sauteed, added to stews, included in salads – you butter believe lima beans are as versatile as they are tasty!

This classic Butter Beans with bacon recipe is made in the Southern-style with a simple vegetable trinity (that’s carrots, celery, and onion, y’all). These classic ingredients work together to make the beans perfectly silky with still a bit of bite, and so deeply flavorful.

The sweet earthiness from the beans, smoky bacon goodness, and luscious texture make this a fabulous side to compliment just about any savory main dish. I promise your dinner table will feel extra cozy and homey when you include a pot of homemade lima beans!

spoon with lima beans, carrots, and bacon

Ingredients You Need

There are less than a dozen basic ingredients needed to make this lima beans recipe. All of them should be easy to source from your local grocery store, beans included. If you have a bulk section you might find them there, otherwise, they are likely found around other bagged dried beans.

You need:

  • Dried butter beans – aka lima beans
  • Thick-cut baconuncooked and diced
  • Onionsdiced
  • Carrotssliced
  • Celerysliced
  • Garlicminced
  • Seasoningsdried thyme, dried rosemary, bay leaves
  • Chicken baseor bouillon

Plus water to soak the beans, and more water to make the stock.

bowl soaking with dried butterbeans

How to Make Southern Butter Beans

First, soak the beans: Place the dried beans in a large bowl and cover them with cold water. Soak them for 12-24 hours.

Pro Tip: If you are in a hurry, most bags of beans have a “speed-soak” method listed on the package.

When the beans have soaked and you are ready to cook, set a large 6-8 quart saucepot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until brown, about 3-5 minutes. Then add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves. Sauté for 5 minutes to soften the veggies. 

trinity of celery, carrots, onions cooking in a large pot

Drain the beans and pour them into the pot.

adding soaked lima beans to the pot with the trinity

Now add in the chicken base and water. Stir well.

PS – You can use chicken or vegetable broth instead, but the chicken base gives the beans a more robust flavor.

large pot with chicken stock, carrots, beans, bacon, bay leaf and seasonings

Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the butter beans with bacon are soft and silky.

Get the Complete (Printable) Southern Butter Beans (Lima Beans) Recipe Below. Enjoy!

hand spooning butter beans with bacon from a large pot

Taste, then salt and pepper as needed.

spoon with lima beans, bacon, carrots, and aromatics being scooped from a large pot

What to Serve with Southern-Style Lima Beans

Tender, savory butter beans are a classic side dish to serve with comfort foods.

Really love pork? Enjoy bacon-tastic lime beans alongside Coca-Cola Baked Ham, Baked Ham with Honey Mustard & Apples, Grilled Pork Chops with Carolina Southern Sauce, or a platter of Slow Cooker Smoked Pulled Pork.

They’re also delicious as a side with other Southern favorites, like Steak Fingers with Country Gravy, Nashville Hot Chicken, or Burnt Ends Brisket.

final top view of completed butter beans recipe aka lima beans

Frequently Asked Questions

Are cooked lima beans gluten-free?

Yup! Just be sure to check your bouillon (or base) to make sure there’s no sneaky hidden gluten in there.

How can I make this a vegetarian and vegan-friendly Southern butter beans recipe?

This is a super easy dish to adapt to strictly plant-based ingredients. Simply omit the bacon, add in a couple of tablespoons of plant-based butter, and use a vegetable base instead of chicken.

Can this recipe be made ahead?

Absolutely you can make ahead these Southern butter beans! In fact, they tend to taste even more flavorful the next day. Let the beans cool completely after cooking, and keep them in a sealed container in the fridge until ready to reheat and serve.

How long do butter beans last?

Store in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. They also freeze well! Once they have cooled, transfer the lima beans to a sealed freezer-safe zipper bag or container, and keep them in the freezer for up to 6 months. Let them defrost overnight before reheating on the stovetop or in the microwave. You might need to add a splash of water or stock to get them back to the right saucy consistency.

final overhead view of butter beans recipe with bacon and veggies

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Southern Butter Beans Recipe (Best Lima Beans)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Soak Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 40 minutes
Classic Butter Beans with bacon recipe for the most tender, flavorful lima beans that are perfect to serve as a side with your favorite southern dishes!
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried butter beans lima beans
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon diced
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chicken base bouillon or vegetable base
  • 4 cups water

Instructions

  • Soak the beans: Place the dried beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Soak for 12-24 hours. If you are in a hurry, most bags of beans have a “speed-soak” method listed on the package.
  • Set a large 6-8 quart sauce pot over medium heat. Add the bacon. Stir and brown for 3-5 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves. Sauté for 5 minutes to soften.
  • Drain the beans. Then pour the beans into the pot. Add in the chicken base and water. Stir well.
  • Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the butter beans are soft.
  • Taste, then salt and pepper as needed.

Notes

For a vegetarian version, omit the bacon, add in a couple of tablespoons of butter, and use a vegetable base instead of chicken.
Store in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. They also freeze well! Once they have cooled transfer the lima beans to a sealed freezer-safe zipper bag or container, and keep them in the freezer for up to 6 months. Let them defrost overnight before reheating on the stovetop or in the microwave. You might need to add a splash of water or stock to get them back to the right soupy consistency.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cup, Calories: 191kcal, Carbohydrates: 27g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 8mg, Sodium: 304mg, Potassium: 753mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 1832IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 49mg, Iron: 3mg
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Sommer Collier

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4 comments on “Southern Butter Bean Recipe (Best Lima Beans)”

  1. Please don’t call carrots, celery and onions a trinity. The Trinity is from Nawleens cooking, and has always been bell pepper, onions, and celery.

  2. Such an amazing side dish! This is so good! Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Comfort southern food at its finest. I just love this butter bean recipe, and the bacon is such an awesome addition. Tastes even better the next day!

  4. I’m not usually a fan of lima beans, but I am a sucker for anything that is southern is flavor, so this recipe is something that I LOVE!