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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
4.47 from 90 votes
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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.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American Southern
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours
Author Renee

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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




Ro

Sunday 4th of September 2022

Thank you for posting your recipe and your subsequent tips and advice. Greatly appreciated!

cynthia

Wednesday 20th of July 2022

M grandma grew speckled butterbeans in her garden. She made hot water cornbread to go with the beans. I can still see her working the garden in her sunbonnet. Native Texan

Angie

Tuesday 24th of May 2022

We love butter beans here in Alabama. I cook mine in chicken stock with a tablespoon of Crisco, tablespoon of bacon grease, garlic powder & onion powder. After about an hour & 1/2, I add salt and then right before they are done, I add a stick of butter. I serve it w/ cornbread, rice and Mac n cheese. My family loves this meal, including the little one. Thanks for sharing your recipes with us. I’m always looking for new dishes to add to the weekly menu.

Charlotte

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.