Thursday, December 10, 2009

Southern Creamy Butter Beans (Large Lima Beans)

Large lima beans, or butter beans as we refer to them in my part of the Deep South, have a lovely creamy texture, and with this mix of seasonings, are just pure comfort food.

Creamy Butter Beans

Good old-fashioned, creamy butter beans, are a southern favorite for sure! Not to be too confusing, Southerners refer to both large and small lima beans as butterbeans, although there is also butter peas to consider, a smaller pea-shaped cousin, and a pea that is actually a bean and not a pea, akin to other Southern peas, such as lady cream and zipper, and that some Southerners also call butter beans ... but not to be confused with buttered peas which is a whole 'nother thing - just to confuse the rest of the world, as we Southerners love to do.

Whew! You just gotta love The South.

Pictsweet Butter Peas

Here, I'm referring to the larger lima beans, and that is what I call butter beans, because I call the tiny green baby lima beans, well... baby lima beans or small butter beans. I typically use Camellia brand dried beans. They have a lovely creamy texture, and with this mix of seasonings, are just pure comfort food, especially on a cold day.

Camellia Brand Large Lima Beans - my butter bean! See? It's right there on the package y'all - Large Butter Beans.

Like potatoes, beans are a popular meal down south because they are inexpensive - you can read that as cheap frugal for us southerners and we'll happily agree. They are filling, and belly warming on cold days, though we'll also be happy to eat them just about any time of the year. Once you get them on the stove, they don't require a lot of tending to either. Besides that, they are just downright good!

I really love baking a huge bone-in ham because it means that you get to put away that bone and some extra ham just especially for some for beans or a soup on down the line! Serve with a side of cast iron skillet cornbread!

Recipe: Southern Creamy Butter Beans (Large Lima Beans)

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 1 Hour |Cook time: 2 hours | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 pound bag of Camellia brand large lima beans
  • Water to cover plus an inch
  • 1 tablespoon of bacon fat, butter or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup of chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup of chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup of chopped carrot
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper grinder
  • 2 cups of leftover baked, smoked ham, roughly chopped
  • Meaty ham bone, 2 or 3 ham hocks or smoked turkey wings
  • 1 (32-ounce) carton of chicken stock
  • 4-6 cups of water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter, optional
  • 2 tablespoons of dried parsley
  • Pinch of Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama)
  • Couple pinches of kosher salt, or to taste

Rinse and sort beans, place into stockpot with just enough water to cover them, plus about an inch. Bring to a boil, cover and turn off the burner. Let soak covered for one hour, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in the bottom of soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the bacon fat over medium; add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic and sauté just until tender. Add the thyme and pepper and stir; add the ham bone, ham hocks or smoked turkey wings, chicken stock, 4 cups of the water and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let simmer for about 1 hour.

Add the drained beans to the pot. Stir in the butter, parsley, and a pinch of Cajun seasoning. Continue cooking on a low simmer an additional hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until beans are tender and sauce thickens. Add additional chicken stock or water only if needed. When beans are tender, taste and adjust seasonings as desired; cover and hold on very low.

Serve over hot cooked rice with a side of cast iron skillet cornbread.

Cook's Notes: May also simply soak beans in cool water overnight. Older beans take longer to cook so if your beans have been in the pantry for awhile, you may have to cook them longer. Fresh beans cook more quickly. You can substitute bacon if you don't have any leftover ham. Just chop up as much bacon as you want - about a half pound would be good - and saute that in a pan until browned, then toss in the chopped onion, celery, carrots, and garlic right there in with that bacon and bacon fat and cook until tender, adding olive oil only if needed to saute the veggies. Pick up the rest of the recipe from there. For tips on ways to thicken beans, click here.

Crockpot: Rinse, drain and sort through beans. Add the unsoaked beans to a 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Saute veggies and meats and add with all of the remaining ingredients except butter, parsley, Cajun seasoning and rice. Cover the beans with 5 to 7 cups of very hot water, or use a combination of water and broth if desired - you’ll need more or less depending on whether you’ve soaked your beans and whether you are using a large ham bone. You want to cover the beans by about an inch or so. Cover and cook on high for 7 to 8 hours, 10 to 12 hours on low, or until the beans are tender. Before serving, stir in butter, parsley, Cajun seasoning and salt; taste and adjust seasonings as needed.


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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on December 10, 2009
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  1. Is there much of a difference between large and baby lima beans? The December Angel Food box has 1 lb of babies. I am wondering if this recipe would work with them...

  2. I just realized that looks really bad. The december angel food box has 1 lb of BABY LIMA BEANS. ;)

  3. LOL Kristin, I knew what you meant about the babies! I haven't looked at the AFM menu yet, but actually if they are dried baby lima beans then, yes, you can use this exact recipe. I actually have a pound of those in the cabinet that I'm gonna experiment with (maybe) at some point.

    If they are the frozen baby lima beans, then those only need about 10 minutes or so to cook. I usually boil them, drain them and season them with just butter, salt and pepper myself.

    You can saute some onion in advance, with bacon or ham or even smoked sausage pieces, then set that aside. Cook the beans in just enough water to barely cover. Drain them, season with the onion, meat and s & p. Pretty good that way too. Hope that helps!

  4. My husband would love this! We make a lot of soups and stews over the winter, and this would be perfect. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I have three pounds of green lima beans in the freezer. None of us like them plain. I read your response about dried vs frozen, made a ham tonight, perfect time, thanks Mary.

  6. Mary, I made these this past week and I have to tell you:


    My stomach is growling for more.

  7. I have never been able to get my beans to turn out right, so I gave up on them. But I LOVE them, so I will try your recipe.

  8. Paige, just be sure to give yourself plenty of time so they can stew down and thicken. Enjoy!

  9. Do you know if this would freeze well? I love making a big old pot of ham & beans, but I'm the only one in my family who'll eat them. I'm thinking of freezing individual portions for a quick lunch now and then.

  10. I have to make these butter beans - reading the name of the recipe reminded me of my grandmother from years ago. She grew up in Virginia and this was one of her favorites. Thanks for all of your great work! Cynthia

  11. Hi Jessica! We usually finish our beans off, but they should freeze just fine. Just put them in an airtight container or in zippered freezer bags. Should be good for at least 6 months. Hope this doesn't sound silly but don't freeze them with the rice mixed in. Although I think it would freeze okay I'm not sure if the texture on the rice would be weird frozen in the beans. I do freeze rice on it's own though so you could do that. For rice you just defrost, put a little water in the rice, seal and microwave. Freshens it right up!

  12. You're so welcome Cynthia - hope you enjoy them.

  13. Quick question, if i am using the crock pot recipe, do i use the 5 cups hot water and the chicken stock, or just the water? Thanks! NK

  14. Hi Nicki! Thanks, I need to clarify that in the recipe. You'll need to add between 5 to 6 cups of liquid total - so that can be hot water or a combination of the water and broth.

  15. Well Mary i made me some Butter Beans (aka Large Limas) and have also googled your brand. They are awesome, and I too am the only one who will eat them so i will freeze some when they cool down. BUt the flavor is awesome thank you.

  16. Love, love, love this recipe. It has wonderful flavor and great texture. However, we always referred to these as Lima beans. Granny's on both sides and on the in-law side have always called the baby limas "butter beans". When I asked why, one granny said it was because when the young tender beans are cooked just right, they have a creamy buttery consistency without the grainy feel that the larger ones have. Granny on the in-law side used baby speckled lima beans that she grew (where can I buy those now???) and they were THE BEST butter beans ever. Btw, I'm cooking the above recipe again today :)

    1. Yeah, as with many southern recipes it really depends on what you grew up with. I buy the large speckled butter beans in the freezer section so check there. I've tried to grow them but I just don't have enough sunny spots to grow the amount I need. Enjoy the beans!

  17. Grew up on butter beans & ham hocks in South TX. Live in TN now & this is too far from Mason Dixie line for these hillbillies to cook them or like them. I love them they are so creamy & the texture is umm I am getting hungry. Never knew about all the spices you use. Especially the bay leaves. I will try your recipe. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Replies
    1. Congratulations Karla! I was like that with my pregnancy - I craved meals & meat & potatoes, things like that. Never sweets or odd things. I wanted meat & 3 LOL!!

  19. My great-grandmother who was born and raised in Virginia used to make beans like this all the time. She passed away 6 years ago at the age of 103 and lately, I've been missing her cooking. I just made these and I feel like I'm that little girl sitting at her dining room table eating a big bowl of beans with some cornbread...Thank you!

    1. Oh my goodness Tykisha, you brought a little tear to my eye with that memory. Thank you so much & Happy New Year!!

  20. Me, not from the south: I hate lima beans! At least the tiny, frozen, green ones my mom used to give me! But I got some dried limas in my csa box this week, googled "recipes" for limas, and got this recipe. OMG: outrageously delish!!! LOVED! Took the time to stew it slowly, and it was perfecto! Thanks for sharing a little "slappin my mama!"

  21. My Mamaw always called them "Jo dodders" I'm not sure why but that's what her and my papaw call everything that's big.

    1. How cute, but I admit... that's the first I've ever heard of that name!

  22. P.S. They are simmering as we speak on this beautiful Sunday mornin.

  23. how do i make cooked lime bean thicker?

    1. Generally speaking, if beans haven't thickened up in the time given in the recipe, you probably just need to give it a little bit longer on the simmering time. Beans should be simmering at a low bubble and sometimes that will take longer for them to cook depending on a wide variety of reasons, even the age of the beans and how long they were sitting on the grocery store shelf or in your pantry as older beans tend to take longer to cook.

      You can speed that thickening up in a number of ways though. Remove about a 1/2 cup to 1 cup of the cooked beans and mash them up. Stir them into the pot. You can also make a cornstarch slurry - add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in a cup with just a splash of water to make the cornstarch liquid, then stir that into the beans, bring to a boil, boil for about 1 minute then return to a low simmer. You may also stir in some instant potatoes. Just add in 1/8 cup, let the beans bubble a bit, if not thick enough add in another 1/8 cup. Also, once beans are stored in the fridge they will thicken quite a bit, so making them a day before is another good option, though then you may have to dilute them with some liquid because they will absorb quite a lot of it overnight. I usually stir in some broth before I store beans for that very reason!

      Hope that helps!

    2. Going to make these with the Christmas ham in honor of my very southern Dad. Sorry I didn't like thise growing up Daddy, but your little girl finally gets it.

      Merry Christmas, and thanks for this recipe. I know it's going to be delicious.

  24. I was born and raised in south Louisiana, with a Grandmother who was a great country cook - but THESE blew even hers out of the water! I used the leftover ham and bone of a Honeybaked Ham I had for Thanksgiving, and they were to die for! Served with white rice, of course... Thanks :)

    1. Oh my goodness, well thank YOU for making my day!! I'm so glad that you enjoyed the beans & really do appreciate you taking the time to stop back by and let me know. Thanks so much!!

  25. Hi, I am making this now and just added I need to cover the pot? Thanks!

    1. I do not cover the pot and remember, low simmer!! It takes awhile this way but they will be more creamy when you let them have the time that they need!

  26. Just made these using the crock pot instructions using the low setting. Very tasty! One note: fortunately I checked them at about 5 hrs. They were done.

    1. So glad y'all enjoyed them & thanks for the feedback on temp. It's so hard to judge that these days because every crockpot runs differently and many run so hot these days. The one I am using fortunately seems to run accurately and not too hot. Was that 5 hours on high? I'll be happy to make the adjustment in the recipe.


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