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Creamy Butter Beans Recipe

This Creamy Butter Beans Recipe uses dried lima beans and is served Southern-style, cooked in turkey, ham, or salt pork. Pair this old-fashioned dish with classic buttermilk cornbread.

Southern butter lima beans in a bowl with cornbread

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Growing up my family ate beans and cornbread on a regular basis, oftentimes 2 days a week! You could always find a pot of beans on the stove in our house. Now that I’m older I see why! 1 pound of beans is less than a dollar and is enough to feed a standard-sized family.

This is a traditional, budget-friendly meal and is prepared almost identical to my Southern Black Eyed Peas and Instant Pot Red Beans and Rice

broth, lima beans, onions, garlic, and spices in separate bowls

What Are Butter Beans? Butter Beans vs Lima Beans

Butter beans are also known as lima beans (they are labeled lima beans in the grocery store and on the packaging) and are white beans/legumes with a buttery and creamy texture. These beans are well known in the South and Southern cuisine and they actually originate even farther south from Peru, South America.

Butter/lima beans are commonly used in soups, stews, casseroles, in a popular dish succotash, and slow-cooked in a pot with salt pork, ham hocks, or smoked turkey. Alone, butter beans have a mild flavor. They really soak up the flavors that it’s cooked with, hence why many Southerners love to add meat with immense flavor. You can read more about Butter Beans vs Lima Beans here.

How to Season/What Meat Goes With it

I use a smoked turkey wing or turkey leg. Sometimes they are harder to find. I find it in the meat section of my grocery store. You may have to ask around for it or use another option listed below.

Other common options include ham hocks, diced ham, salt pork, and bacon.

smoked turkey leg in a glass bowl

Do You Have to Soak the Beans Overnight?

This recipe uses dried beans. If you want to lower the cooking time you will need to soak them in advance. You have two options. You can soak them overnight in a large bowl filled with water. Or you can boil a large pot of water on the stove. Once the temperature reaches boiling, remove the pot from heat and add the beans. Allow the beans to soak for at least one hour.

Not soaking them in advance will likely add a couple of hours to your cook time.

a wooden spoonful of Southern butter lima beans in a Dutch oven
dried lima beans in a glass bowl

How to Cook Butter Beans

Detailed measurements and full instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  1. Soak the beans in advance.
  2. Place a Dutch oven or soup pot on medium-high heat and add the olive oil.
  3. Add the onions and garlic. Saute.
  4. Add in chicken broth, lima beans, smoked turkey, Creole seasoning, and bay leaf. Stir.
  5. Place the lid on the pot and lower the heat to medium-low.
  6. Cook until tender.
collage of 4 photos with sauteed onions, butter beans, and smoked turkey in a pot

What Kind of Stock/Broth to Use

I like to use chicken broth or stock. You can use either and you can use whatever you like, such as vegetable. You can also use water. I find broth adds more flavor.

Cook Time/How Long Does it Take to Cook

Decide how you like your beans. Do you like them firm, soft, or mushy? Check in on the beans frequently while they cook. They will typically need anywhere from 1 1/2 hours – 3 hours depending on your texture preference. I like to cook mine for under 2 hours. I like for them to be soft, but not mushy.

You can test if they are done by grabbing one bean out of the pot and mashing it with a spoon or fork.

Southern butter lima beans in a Dutch oven

Fresh or Frozen Beans

Fresh beans will need to be shelled. You get about 2 cups of shelled beans for every pound of unshelled beans. Split the bean pod open, pluck the bean out of the shell, and discard the shell.

Fresh butter beans that are already shelled should only be stored for 1 day before using them.

Butter beans should never be eaten raw because they contain high levels of cyanide in their raw form.

Frozen lima beans are usually pre-cooked and don’t require any soaking or initial preparation. Defrost before using.

a spoonful of Southern butter lima beans in a Dutch oven

How to Double the Recipe

You can double the recipe and use the same amount of smoked turkey or opt for one slightly larger. The cook time will remain the same.

How to Make the Dish Vegan or Vegetarian

Omit the smoked turkey. Use vegetable broth. Add in 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika and 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes for flavor.

a spoonful of Southern butter lima beans in a bowl

How Long Will They Last in the Fridge

They will last 3-5 days in the fridge, tightly covered.

Freezer Tips

These will freeze for up to 9 months. This is a great hack. Be sure to store them tightly sealed. I like to leave them in the broth so that when I defrost they are loaded with flavor.

a spoonful of Southern butter lima beans in a bowl with cornbread

Pair With Cornbread

Homemade Southern Cornbread
Cornbread Muffins
Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread
Honey Cornbread

Air Fryer Cornbread
Southern Cornbread Dressing
Pumpkin Cornbread
Cornbread Casserole
Sweet Potato Cornbread

Pair With These Side Dishes

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese
Southern Collard Greens
Southern Sweet Potato Casserole
Southern Mustard Greens

Southern Green Beans
Southern Coleslaw Recipe
Southern Baked Beans
Southern Potato Salad

Easy Spaghetti Salad
Southern Green Beans

Creamy Butter Beans Recipe

This Creamy Butter Beans Recipe uses dried lima beans and is served Southern-style, cooked in turkey, ham, or salt pork. Pair this old-fashioned dish with classic buttermilk cornbread.
Save this recipe here.
Course dinner, lunch
Cuisine American, Southern
Keyword classic butter beans, Southern butter beans, Southern lima beans
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours
Servings 10 sevings
Calories 167kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 3 garlic cloves Minced.
  • 5-6 cups chicken broth Use enough to fully cover the beans.
  • 1 pound bag dried lima beans Rinsed
  • 1 smoked turkey leg About 1 pound to 1 1/2 pounds, fully cooked, You can find turkey legs and wings at most grocers. See notes for substitutions.
  • 1 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf

Instructions

  • Fill a Dutch oven or soup pot with water (enough to cover the lima beans) and place it on the stove to boil. Once the water has boiled, remove it from the heat and add the lima beans. Allow the beans to soak for 1 hour.
  • Place a Dutch oven or soup pot on medium-high heat and add the olive oil.
  • When hot, add the onions and garlic. Saute until translucent and fragrant.
  • Add in the chicken broth, lima beans, smoked turkey, Creole seasoning, and bay leaf. Stir.
  • Place the lid on the pot and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook for 1 1/2-3 hours until the beans are soft. You can test if they are done by grabbing one bean out of the pot and mashing it with a spoon or fork.
  • Open up the pot and remove the bay leaf and smoked turkey. If you like meat in your beans, use 2 forks and shred the turkey and return it to the pot. Taste repeatedly and add salt and pepper to taste if needed.
  • Cool before serving. I like to use a slotted spoon to serve.

Notes

  • Not soaking the beans in advance will likely add a couple of hours to your cook time.
  • Rinse the beans first to remove any surface dirt.
  • Decide how you like your beans. Do you like them firm, soft, or mushy? Check in on the beans frequently while they cook. They will typically need anywhere from 1 1/2 hours – 3 hours depending on your texture preference. I like to cook mine for 2 hours. I like for them to be soft, but not mushy.
  • You can of course still use ham hocks, a leftover ham bone, salt pork, country ham, or even bacon. If you are planning to use bacon I recommend that you cook the bacon first and omit the olive oil used in this recipe. Cook the onions in the bacon fat.
  • You can double the recipe and use the same amount of smoked turkey or opt for one slightly larger. The cook time will remain the same. 
  • You can substitute Creole seasoning for whatever flavor or spice blend you like.
  • Fresh beans will need to be shelled. You get about 2 cups of shelled beans for every pound of unshelled beans. Split the bean pod open, pluck the bean out of the shell, and discard the shell. Butter beans should never be eaten raw because they contain high levels of cyanide in their raw form.
  • Frozen lima beans are usually pre-cooked and don’t require any soaking or initial preparation. Defrost before using.
  • Canned beans don’t take long to cook. You may want to cook your smoked turkey in broth for a couple of hours separately, and then add the canned beans to that pot.
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Nutrition (displayed with net carbs)

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 167kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 3g
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Nutrition DataMacros are provided as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. This information is calculated using MyFitnessPal.com. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
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