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Butter Beans Southern-Style

A recipe for Butter Beans cooked southern-style with salt pork. The beans are slow-simmered and create a creamy-like sauce without adding any cream or milk.

Butter Beans | Magnolia Days

Butter Beans Southern-Style Recipe

It was a typical family dinner at my in-law’s house. A big southern feast filled the table. Two main dishes were not uncommon.

The sides were plentiful including creamed corn, green beans, macaroni and cheese, mashed sweet potatoes, and fried okra.

One thing was new to me and it was butter beans. I don’t remember ever having it as a kid.

One bite was all it took. Since then it is something I’ve looked forward to my mother-in-law cooking over the years.

There are two types of southern butter beans. One is made with fresh baby or small green lima beans and has a butter sauce.

The other is made with large dried beige limas and is slow-simmered for hours. The second creates a creamy-like sauce without adding cream or milk.

It’s obvious I’m sharing the recipe for the latter. To be honest, it’s all I knew were butter beans until I did some research and discovered the other one.

I suppose it all depends on what you relate to the name.

Butter Beans | Magnolia Days

Creaminess comes from the cooking process. Slow-simmering with only enough water to keep the beans covered creates a thick “sauce.”

If you add too much water it will be thin and not have the right consistency. It means checking them about every 20 minutes and adding a little water if needed.

That does take more effort however the end result is worth it.

It’s also important not to stir unless necessary. Stirring will break the beans apart and turn a lot of them into mush. The most I do is gently nudge them around with a wooden spoon once or twice.

The recipe came from my mother-in-law. I had a couple of discussions with her to get all the details.

She calls what is used to simmer with the beans “streak o’ lean.” It’s also called fatback or salt pork.

I stated salt pork in the ingredients since that is what it is typically labeled as in the grocery store. I buy it sliced however you can buy it whole and cut slices.

Have you cooked a family recipe lately? This was the first time I made butter beans because I always relied on getting them at my mother-in-law’s house.

It is important to learn directly from the ones who make the dishes so wonderfully. I encourage you to do the same with your family and have a lot of fun in the process.

Fun Facts About Butter Beans

  • Is there another name for butter beans?  Butter beans are one type of lima beans.
  • What’s the difference between lima beans and butter beans?  There’s no difference between lima beans and butter beans, because butter beans are a type of lima bean.
  • What are butter beans good for?  Butter beans can be used just like any other bean—for slow cooking, as a side dish, as hummus, or in a mixture with other beans.
  • Can you buy canned butter beans?  Yes, you can buy canned butter beans, but they shouldn’t be used in a slow-cooked recipe or they will fall apart.
  • What’s the history of butter beans?  Butter beans, or lima beans, originated in Peru as a food reserved for the elite.

What to Serve with Lima Beans

Butter Beans | Magnolia Days
4.45 from 85 votes

Butter Beans Southern-Style

A recipe for Butter Beans cooked southern-style with salt pork. The beans are slow-simmered and create a creamy-like sauce without adding any cream or milk.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American Southern
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours
Author Renee


  • 6 ounces salt pork 6 thick slices
  • 1 pound large lima beans
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper


  1. Rinse and drain beans.
  2. Put salt pork slices in the bottom of a large 7 to 8 quart pot. Pour the beans on top.
  3. Cover the beans with about a half-inch of water.
  4. Bring to a slow boil and reduce the heat to simmer. Do not let get to a full rolling boil.
  5. Cover the pot loosely. Check every 20 to 25 minutes and add more water just to cover the beans.
  6. After 1 to 1 1/2 hours, add 1 teaspoon of salt.
  7. Continue to simmer, adding more water as needed, until beans are soft, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  8. Remove and discard salt pork slices.
  9. Add pepper and gently stir. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Recipe Notes

Note: Stirring the beans during the cooking process can cause them to break apart. Stir gently and only as needed.

What Else Can You Make with Butter Beans?

Recipe Rating


Wednesday 18th of May 2022

My granny from Alabama made butter bean dumplings. She cooked the beans until tender and creamy, then rolling out a can of biscuits ( not the flaky ones ) she then cut them in strips and slowly added them to the beans. Cooked until the dumplings were done. These were my favorite meal she made.

David Stanley

Thursday 7th of April 2022

Don't you dare discard the salt pork, it is delicious. I don't have a "clogged artery" problem. My mother who passed away at 98 and myself eat it and have no problems.

Debbie Smith

Thursday 17th of February 2022

I just cooked a pot of butter beans with a ham bone, so amazing. I am surprised no one recommends letting the beans sit overnight in water or lettting them come to a boil and then turning off the heat and letting them sit for an hour, definitely speeds up the cooking process. Also, If I added too much water, I take a cup of beans and blend them in a food processor and add it back to the pot, (or some folks just smash the beans up on the side of the pot with a wooden spoon). One more tip, we LOVE these cooked with 1/2 lb sliced Conecuh sausage made in Conecuh, AL.


Wednesday 19th of January 2022

Do you have to soak them (overnight or quick soak)?

Katie Moseman

Thursday 20th of January 2022

You don't have to. But if you decide you want to soak them, keep in mind that they will cook faster.

Judy Braga

Tuesday 30th of November 2021

My family uses both streak of lean and far back. Streak of lean has a strip of meat through it, like bacon. Salted pork/fat back is pure fat with skin.