What’s More Southern Than Fresh Butter Beans?

— Written By and last updated by
en Español

El inglés es el idioma de control de esta página. En la medida en que haya algún conflicto entre la traducción al inglés y la traducción, el inglés prevalece.

Al hacer clic en el enlace de traducción se activa un servicio de traducción gratuito para convertir la página al español. Al igual que con cualquier traducción por Internet, la conversión no es sensible al contexto y puede que no traduzca el texto en su significado original. NC State Extension no garantiza la exactitud del texto traducido. Por favor, tenga en cuenta que algunas aplicaciones y/o servicios pueden no funcionar como se espera cuando se traducen.

English is the controlling language of this page. To the extent there is any conflict between the English text and the translation, English controls.

Clicking on the translation link activates a free translation service to convert the page to Spanish. As with any Internet translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not translate the text to its original meaning. NC State Extension does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text. Please note that some applications and/or services may not function as expected when translated.

Collapse ▲

In the South, we call them butter beans, but you may also know them as immature lima beans. Who doesn’t love a “mess” of fresh butter beans? It’s the season for this bold little taste of the south!!

Like other beans, the butter bean is a well-rounded source of nutrition, rich in protein, fiber, iron and B vitamins. The butter bean is low in calories, a ½-cup serving, contains 100 calories. Butter beans are considered a low-energy-dense food, which means it has a low-calorie content compared to its serving size. Including more low-energy-dense foods in your diet helps control hunger.

Butter beans are considered one of the healthiest choices for your “good” carbs. Carbs are an essential component of your diet, providing your body with energy. A ½-cup serving of butter beans contains 17 grams of carbs and 4 grams of dietary fiber. Additionally, getting more fiber-rich foods in your diet, like butter beans, can help lower your risk of heart disease and promote a healthier weight.

Butter beans are such a good source of protein that they are considered a protein food like meat and chicken. And as a very low-fat source of protein, butter beans make a healthy alternative to fatty meats that are high in the cholesterol-raising saturated fat. A ½-cup serving of butter beans contains 5 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat.

Butter beans are super easy to cook up, and can be used in a variety of fresh summer recipes.

Basic Butterbeans


  • 2 pounds baby lima beans, fresh in the shell
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse ground pepper


Shell the beans and wash thoroughly. Put 2 cups water and the salt in a medium saucepan and add the beans. Cook the beans until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain the liquid and add the butter. Sprinkle lightly with the black pepper before serving. Serves 3.

Pan Fried Butter Beans and Greens


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (15-oz) can butter beans, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1½ cups kale, tough stems discarded, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving


Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the crushed red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring often. Add the beans in a single layer, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, and cook until they are lightly browned on the undersides, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the beans and cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, kale, salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook until the kale begins to wilt, about 2 minutes. Mix in the lemon juice and cook for 1 minute longer, stirring until everything is evenly coated. Top with plenty of Parmesan and enjoy.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Old Fashioned Butter Bean Soup


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups cooked butter beans
  • 1 lb. smoked ham, diced
  • 1 cup milk, warm
  • Salt and pepper


In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium high heat until hot. Add onions, carrots, celery, salt and pepper and sauté until tender. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. While stock is boiling add frozen butter beans and bring down to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, covered. While butter beans are cooking put smoked ham in a sauté pan until just brown on edges and set aside. After butter beans are cooked thoroughly, puree in blender or immersion blender. Once pureed add warmed milk and blend well. Add smoked ham and serve.

Serves 5.

Butter Bean and Sausage Soup


  • ½ pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed (to cut calories use chicken sausage)
  • ½ pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (to cut calories use chicken sausage)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 cups of diced fresh tomatoes, or 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, UN-drained
  • 2 cups cooked butter beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups of cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Shredded cheese for serving (I like Monterey Jack)


  1. In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat cook the sausage until browned and cooked through; about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate.
  2. While the sausage cooks, in a large stockpot over medium heat add the onion, and sauté until opaque and the edges start to brown; about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant; 30-60 seconds.
  3. Add the chicken stock, diced tomatoes, butter beans, black beans, and carrots. Increase heat to high and bring to a low boil; add the sausage, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
    Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with shredded cheese (optional).

Butter Bean Burgers


  • 1 (15 ounce) can butter beans, drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper
  • 6 saltine crackers, crushed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil


  1. In a medium bowl, mash butter beans. Mix in onion, jalapeno pepper, crushed crackers, egg, cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Divide into 4 equal parts, and shape into patties.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; use more or less oil to reach ¼-inch in depth. Fry patties until golden, about 5 minutes on each side.

Serves 4.

Cheddar Butter Bean Bites


  • 2 cups cooked butter beans
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. of whole grain mustard
  • 1 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese, grated
  • Salt and Pepper to season


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mash all together thoroughly. Form into 8 equal sized mini patties
  2. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and spray over the top with some spray oil.
  3. Bake in the oven for approximately 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Great dipped into soup or chili or as a side to any dish.

Serves 2.

Greek Butter Bean Salad with Basil Vinaigrette


  • 3-4 cups of cooked butter beans
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
  • ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
  • ½ cup Feta cubes (about ½-inch square)
  • ⅓ cup Basil Vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil (optional)

Basil Vinaigrette

  • 3 parts of low sugar vinaigrette dressing (I use Newman’s Own Olive Oil and Vinegar)
  • 1 part basil puree


  1. To make the basil puree, add 1 cup of fresh basil leaves, washed and dried well, into the bowl of food processor. Turn processor on and pour ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil through feed tube. Process until basil is in very small pieces and completely integrated into olive oil. You should still be able to see some basil pieces but they will be very small.
  2. To make the salad, Drain beans into a colander placed in the sink, rinse well with cold water (until no more foam appears) and then let drain a minute or two. Then blot dry with paper towels and put the beans in a medium-sized salad bowl. Add about half the Basil Vinaigrette and mix into beans, then let them marinate while you prep other ingredients.
  3. Drain sun-dried tomatoes to remove the oil, then coarsely chop them. Cut Kalamata olives in half. Cut feta in cubes ½-inch square.
  4. Mix together the marinated beans, sun-dried tomatoes, and kalamata olives. Add the rest of the dressing, or as much as you need to moisten the ingredients. Then gently mix in the feta cubes and the additional chopped basil if using. The salad can be served right away or marinated in the fridge for a few hours. The salad will keep in the fridge for several days, but you might want to mix in a little extra dressing to refresh the flavors.