Skip to Content

Butter Beans Recipe

This Butter Beans recipe is an old family favorite made just the way Granny made them. Butter beans are easy to cook with bacon, butter, and the secret—a touch of sugar! Try this butter beans recipe today and you’ll have an easy side dish that goes with almost anything. 

Cooked butter beans recipe in a dish with bacon.

You won’t find a meat-and-three in the South that doesn’t have butter beans on the menu because this vegetable is a favorite around here, especially in rural areas.

If someone’s serving a big platter of fried chicken, then most likely mashed potatoes, creamed corn, butter beans, and biscuits will be on the table too!

What are Butter Beans?

We get asked that question a lot in the South: What are butter beans? Butter beans are one of those distinctly Southern vegetables that seems to have different names and different varieties everywhere you go.

Are they butter beans or lima beans? The ones I grew up eating grow up poles and are small and green and were called butter beans. But they are so similar to the small lima beans that they are pretty much interchangeable. And butter beans can be cooked fresh or frozen.

Then there are dried butter beans, which are larger and lighter in color, almost tan. Those never appealed to me, but my family eats them year round.

Butter Beans Recipe

Like most Southern recipes, there are as many ways to cook butter beans as there are streets named Peachtree in Atlanta. However, a common denominator for most beans and greens is the addition of pork for flavor.

When I was growing up, the Southern butter beans recipe usually included fatback but nowadays people tend to use bacon.

Because it’s healthier, right?

I buy frozen butter beans during the fall and winter months, but use fresh when they are in season during the summer.

I learned how to cook butter beans from my grandmother, and her butter beans recipe is pretty simple: put water in a pot, add bacon, season with salt and pepper, add a little garlic powder, bring to a boil and add the beans. Throw in some butter toward the end.

Secret Ingredient

Sugar is the magic ingredient! Granny would add a little sugar to the water, not enough to make the butter beans too sweet, but enough to taste and add just a little more flavor to what could otherwise be a pretty bland bean.

How to Cook Butter Beans

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

  1. Start by adding water, salt, pepper, bacon, butter, sugar, and garlic powder to a large saucepan. I use Kirkland brand cookware from Costco, but this pot by Cuisinart would work well, as would this one from Calphalon.
  2. Bring the water and seasonings to a boil and cook for a minute or two until the seasonings have dissolved.
  3. Then add the butter beans and return to a boil, then turn down to simmer.
  4. I like butter beans to be very tender, so I cook them for about an hour.

**Cook’s Tip: Taste the butter beans while they are cooking so you can add additional seasonings if necessary. 

Southern butter beans cooking in a pot with bacon.

Serving Suggestions

Butter Beans are delicious with chicken, pot roast, meatloaf or even as a portion of a vegetable plate with sliced tomatoes and fried okra.

Butter beans in a dish with bacon cooked.

More Tips

  1. Use fresh butter beans if they are in season. If not, frozen will work just fine.
  2. If your grocery store doesn’t carry actual butter beans you can substitute baby lima beans.
  3. Season generously with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and don’t forget to add a little sugar. Taste frequently.
  4. Cook the butter beans until they are very tender.

Don’t Miss These Southern Favorites:

Southern Squash Casserole

Lemon Icebox Pie

If you’ve tried this recipe, please rate the recipe and leave a comment below!

You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

And please join the Southern Food and Fun Facebook group to get all the Southern Food and Fun recipes.

A white bowl filled with cooked butter beans and bacon.

Butter Beans Recipe

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Butter beans cooked the old-fashioned way with bacon and just a little sugar.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. butterbeans
  • 2 slices thick cut bacon
  • 2-4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place butterbeans in a large saucepan. Fill pan with enough water to cover the butterbeans by about an inch. 
  2. Add bacon, sugar, garlic powder, butter, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Turn down to a simmer and cook 45 minutes or until very tender. 
  3. Taste and add additional salt and/or sugar if needed. Serve warm.

Notes

Tips for Making the Best Butter Beans

  1. Use fresh butter beans if they are in season. If not, frozen will work just fine.
  2. If your grocery store doesn't carry actual butter beans you can substitute baby lima beans.
  3. Season generously with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and don't forget to add a little sugar. Taste frequently. 
  4. Cook the butter beans until they are very tender. 
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 6 servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 228Saturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 481mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 4gSugar: 9gProtein: 6g

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag me!

Update Notes: This Butter Beans recipe was originally published May 4, 2011, and on May 19, 2020, was updated with one or more of the following: step-by-step photos, video, updated recipe, new tips. 

This post is part of my favorite Southern Foods at Home collection.

A brick-lined alley with tables and chairs in downtown Aiken, SC.
Previous
Visiting Aiken, South Carolina
Pesto Chicken with Roasted Vegetables is a low-carb, nutritious, one pan dinner that everyone loves. You can use homemade or store-bought pesto and almost any mixture of vegetables.
Next
Pesto Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Viola Travers

Tuesday 1st of September 2020

Asking for a friend living in Atlanta USA Where to purchase dried butter beans online or supermarkets in her area.And can pass it on. Thank you.

Lucy Brewer

Monday 14th of September 2020

Note - this recipe does not call for dried butter beans. Only fresh or frozen.

Terri

Monday 31st of December 2018

Lucy, you rock! I’m in Georgia too, and here on New Year’s Eve I was determined to find a recipe for butterbeans, as opposed to the time-honored black-eyed peas tradition, for the New Year’s good luck meal, bc I like butterbeans better and um because I forgot to get some black eyes at the grocery store, and didn’t want to make a grocery run ? ... this recipe has all the good stuff my Mama used and, thanks to you, it will be my new normal New Year’s Day good luck goodie!!

Thursday 22nd of June 2017

Best southern recipe for butterbeans.

starr91

Friday 23rd of May 2014

My finance' followed your recipe late one Thursday night.... And I must say I was impressed.... Not to mention because he isn't the best cook... But he could have fooled me that night... ;)

Shawn

Wednesday 4th of May 2011

My husband would be so delighted if he were to come home to a plate of butterbeans, sliced tomatoes, & fried okra! I think you've given me next Monday's menu.

I've shucked a whole lotta corn and always dreaded finding big green caterpillars...yikes!

shares