Creamy Southern Lima Beans: A Hearty and Delicious Side Dish (aka Butter Beans)


    Lima beans, also known as butter beans, pocketbook beans, mule ears, and more, are delicious and versatile legumes. Despite their variety of names, all of these beans belong to the same family. In this article, we'll take a closer look at lima beans, share a few tips on how to cook them, and provide a yummy recipe to try out!

    Pin It!Pin It!Bowl of Southern Lima Beans

    The Many Names of Lima Beans:

      Depending on where you come from, lima beans might be referred to by a whole host of different names. Some call them butter beans, while others call them pocketbook beans or mule ears. Regardless of how you refer to them, the truth is they are all similar varieties of lima beans. Whether they are fresh or dried, green, white or cream-colored, speckled and large to small, lima beans are a healthy and versatile choice for any meal.

      Lima Beans in bag

      Soak or Not to Soak:

        Traditionally, dried beans are soaked before cooking to rehydrate them, but recent science and testing have shown that it doesn't have much impact on flavor or texture and mainly cuts down cook time. It is still acceptable to soak beans but it is no longer necessary. Remember, the way you learned to cook them is still a valid method.

        Bowl of Southern Lima Beans

        Cooking Tips:

          When cooking large dried limas, the trick to getting a thick, rich broth that is super creamy is to stir your beans. Stirring the beans breaks some of them up and adds starch, which thickens the broth and makes for a hearty, thick sauce to coat the beans. These beans are versatile and can be paired with a variety of flavors. You can add onions, garlic, carrots or keep it simple with water, smoked meat, salt and pepper. Any kind of smoked meat like ham hocks, ham bone, smoked turkey wings, smoked pork neck bones or even smoked sausage will give you the flavor that you need.

          Bowl of Southern Lima Beans


            Before cooking your beans, rinse them and remove any foreign particles. Then add the beans to a large pot or Dutch oven, with water, ham hock, and salt. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a low boil and cook for about 20 minutes. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover tightly and cook for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until your beans reach your desired tenderness. Add water as necessary to keep beans covered. If you want intact beans stir your beans less frequently, however, if you want a thick, rich broth then stir them more often. Add pepper and additional salt to taste. If desired, remove the ham hock, shred the meat, and return to the pot.

            Southern Lima Beans Images for PinterestBowl of Southern Lima BeansBowl of Southern Lima Beans

            Serving Suggestions:

              Lima beans are a delicious and hearty side dish that can also serve as the main dish if paired with some starch like rice or cornbread. These beans are commonly served with raw onions, but there are no limits to how you can enjoy them. Get creative and try adding mayonnaise or ketchup according to your preferences.


                In summary, whether you call them lima beans, butter beans, or something else entirely, these legumes are a delicious and nutritious addition to any meal. Give them a try with our simple recipe and enjoy!

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