If you’re wondering just how to cook butter beans, look no further! 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.
There are many vegetables that I love to eat, but which carry bad memories—memories of torture and mistreatment. Possibly even child abuse. Corn is one. We actually had to sit in the yard with buckets of corn and shuck it, pulling those green husks and long silks back until the sweet, yellow ear was revealed.
And all the while, the hot sun beat down on us, causing sweat to run down our backs in rivers.
Then there were peas and butter beans. Have you ever visited a pea patch in Georgia in the summertime? Hot, sticky, dusty, maybe snakes underneath the rows and rows of bushes…definitely potential child abuse there. And then we had to shell them!
Peas were easy enough, but butter beans—ugh. Those flat beans were hard to shell and then just a few beans fell out. It could take hours to get a good bowl full, much less enough to put up for the winter.
But on a cold January day, when Mama placed a platter of fried chicken on the table along with a big bowl of hot butter beans and some creamed corn, well, there was no complaining then.
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 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.
Southern 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. Here’s my butter beans recipe—and my husband regularly declares they are the best he’s ever tasted.
And no, of course he is not biased.
Butter Beans Recipe
I learned how to cook butter beans from my grandmother, and her butter beans recipe is pretty simple:
- Water or chicken broth
- Salt and pepper
- Bacon slices
- Garlic powder
- Butter Beans
Secret Tip for Making the Best Butter Beans:
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
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. I might order one of those non-stick pots from Calphalon myself! That looks really nice!
Bring the water and seasonings to a boil and cook for a minute or two until the seasonings have dissolved.
Then add the butter beans and return to a boil, then turn down to simmer.
I like butter beans to be very tender, so I cook them for about an hour. These are delicious with chicken, pot roast, meatloaf or even as a portion of a vegetable plate with sliced tomatoes and fried okra.
Enjoy this classic Butter Beans recipe—if you make butter beans, tag @southernfoodandfun on Instagram!
If you’ve enjoyed learning how to cook butter beans, you might also like these Southern favorites:
Butter Beans printable recipe below
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How to Cook Butter Beans
Butter beans cooked the old-fashioned way with bacon and just a little sugar.
- 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
Place butterbeans in a large saucepan. Fill pan with enough water to cover the butterbeans by about an inch. 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. Taste and add additional salt and/or sugar if needed. Serve warm.