Perfect for Thanksgiving or a typical Sunday supper, these Southern Butter Beans with Bacon are a star side dish packed with bacon flavor and easy to make!
Here’s one of my favorite vegetables… the butter bean. This delicious and easy recipe combines bacon flavor with easy-to-make butter beans for the perfect side dish at any meal, whether it be a holiday gathering, potluck, or a simple supper at home.
The cooking method I use here combines the smoky flavor of bacon, savory taste of onion, and chicken broth – which gives it that extra boost of flavor. I’m always looking for easy ways to add flavor and cooking these beans in plain water would be a missed opportunity.
So, trust me when I say that the chicken broth listed in the ingredients is one thing you don’t want to skip out on. Dare I say it’s the secret ingredient that sets these butter beans apart from any other?! Enjoy!
What is the difference between butter beans and lima beans?
Apparently, classifying what is and isn’t a butter bean is about as controversial in the South as whether or not you put sugar in your cornbread – and there are some pretty strong opinions out there about that!
For me, butter beans are the fresh variety of small white and green lima beans. For many folks, the term “butter bean” refers to the large dried limas that are rehydrated and cooked. I call those dried limas. And anything of the green variety in between, I’ve always just called limas.
As a kid, my grandfather grew them in the garden, but these days I grab them at the farmers market when they’re in season and frozen when they aren’t. And I find that frozen works just as well. I typically buy them labeled as butter beans, but baby limas is also a common term used to label them. Even the folks at PictSweet call some of these butter beans.
The truth is, they’re all limas of some sort. Seriously! And, the best part is this recipe works for just about all of those fresh or frozen limas – regardless of what you call them.
Now, maybe you call dried limas butter beans. If so, don’t worry. I’ve got that recipe too. Lots of folks use the term “butter beans” to describe both the fresh and the large dried limas. But again, they’re all lima beans of some sort.
Can I use bacon bits in place of bacon strips?
I’m going to have to say no here. And, that’s just a “no” you’re going to have to trust me on. Most bacon bits aren’t real bacon and can’t replace real bacon in most any butter bean recipe but that’s especially true with these Southern butter beans.
And even the real bacon bits or pieces in the little pouches, while I love them for the convenience, won’t work here. Bacon provides smoky flavor and essential bacon grease that bacon bits just don’t match.
Using bacon strips preserves the dish’s traditional, authentic, Southern taste. Not to mention my recipe specifically calls for you to save the bacon grease and add back in 2 tablespoons. You won’t have any grease to work with if you use bacon bits. So, there you have it! Use the real deal in this recipe.
Southern Butter Beans with Bacon
- 6 slices bacon coarsely chopped
- 1 small onion chopped
- 1 (28-ounce) bag frozen butter beans (about 5 cups)
- 4 cups chicken broth (32-ounces)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy.
- Drain away all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease, then return the pan to the heat. Add the chopped onion, and cook in the bacon grease until the onion is translucent, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the beans, broth, salt, and pepper.
- Bring the broth to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook about 45 to 60 minutes or until tender.
* If nutritional values are provided, they are an estimate and will vary depending on the brands used. The values do not include optional ingredients or when ingredients are added to taste. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, I recommend grabbing your favorite brands and plugging those ingredients into an online nutritional calculator.