Tender and creamy old fashioned butter beans are a classic Southern comfort dish served as the main attraction or side dish. Making beans from scratch starting with large lima beans is easier than you think!
What Kind of Beans
Butter beans are lima beans by another name.
There really isn’t a difference. In my mind, lima beans are the small lima beans and butter beans are the big lima beans. In fact, you should probably just look for large dried lima beans at your local grocer.
HOW TO MAKE
They’re about as easy to cook as any other bean. Sort, rinse, soak (or not), and cook.
Butter beans in the south are made so many ways and every family has its own version. I’ve seen them made without meat, with bacon, salt pork, ham hocks, or leftover ham.
I prefer mine plain or with leftover ham.
There is no need to soak your beans prior to starting this recipe, instead, it uses a quick 30-minute soak.
If you want to soak your beans you can, just skip the first 5 steps.
If you want to use bacon simply cook 4 or 5 thick slices of bacon and set aside. Replace some of the butter in the recipe with the bacon grease. Add the cooked bacon to the cooked beans about 15 minutes before serving.
Ham and ham hocks
Add ham hocks to the pot when the beans start to simmer. Remove the ham hocks about 30 minutes before serving to allow the ham hocks to cool. Pick the meat from the ham hocks and add it back to the simmering beans before serving.
Add leftover ham about 60 minutes after the beans start simmering.
Butter is not necessary to make this recipe, but it sure does add some serious flavor.
I will tell you though if you don’t add it you are going to need to add some oil to make your beans creamier.
A guy from New Orleans once gave me his secret to creamy beans. Add fat during cooking.
He was right! I even add oil to my ham and beans now!
You won’t need to add any cream to any recipe them creamy with this one tip.
You don’t need more than a tablespoon or two per pound of beans being cooked. Add it about midway through the cooking time.
Cooked beans should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. They will last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
It’s OK to freeze these, but you need to thaw them before reheating. They are easy to break when trying to remove them from the ice chunk.
Thawed beans can be heated in the microwave or on the stovetop. It may seem thick when first coming out of the refrigerator. Don’t add water just yet. Heat it up a bit before deciding if it needs more water.
Start with a low to medium heat if using the stovetop. Once the liquid starts to get thinner and the butter beans start to separate the heat can be increased.
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Classic Butter Beans
- Sort and rinse the beans. Beans do not need to be soaked.
- Place the beans into a large saucepan with enough water to cover the beans by an inch or two.
- Place the pan of beans over high heat and cook just until boiling.
- Remove the beans from the heat and cover with a lid and allow the beans to sit for at least one hour.
- Drain the beans and rinse again.
- Place the beans back into the pan and cover with water to cover.
- Place the beans back on the stove and bring to a boil. When the beans begin to boil reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Add the remaining ingredients, except ham if using, and stir well to combine.
- Allow the beans to simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally and adding water as necessary.
- If using ham, allow the beans to cook at least an hour before adding the ham.
- When beans are tender, remove from heat and serve with cornbread or over rice for a complete meal.