Now, I’ll admit I grew up calling these large limas or dried limas and called their smaller green to cream colored fresh counter parts butter beans (like these). And I’m not alone. I surveyed y’all on Facebook and saw that quite a few follow my naming nomenclature, while others were the opposite. Many of you call these large dried beans butter beans. And with more than 1,000 replies at last check, y’all are pretty passionate about what you call ’em.
Here’s what I know for sure… Call them whatever you will. Just don’t call me late to supper when these babies are on the menu.
My recipe for cooking them is simple, straightforward, and only calls for a handful of ingredients, but it’s the method that really matters. Let’s jump in…
Now, my mom taught me that with all dried beans, they need to be soaked before cooking – whether using the overnight or the quick soak method. Now, since I know she’s reading this (Hi, Mom!), I’ll fall short of saying she’s wrong, but I will say that we now know better. Yep, modern science and testing have revealed that soaking beans really doesn’t do much other than cut down on the cook time (which isn’t a huge difference anyway).
Since it’s how I learned to cook, I’m a strong proponent of the philosophy that the way your mom or grandma did it is the right way. So if you want to soak your beans, by gosh you need to soak those beans. But the truth is that if you don’t have time to soak, (or just don’t want to) you’re going to come out with some super delicious beans either way.
Now for me, these large dried limas should be swimming in a thick, rich broth that’s super creamy. It’s the way mom made them and after a few tests, the trick to getting them that way is super simple. You have to stir them.
You see those beans right above here? Those beans were cooked using the exact same method and ingredients, but I only stirred them twice. The result is mainly whole beans and a relatively thin, clear broth.
Now these down here below were stirred quite a bit more. The stirring broke some of the beans up and the starch from those beans thickened the broth and made for a hearty, thick sauce to coat the beans. This is how Mom made them.
Either way is delicious, it’s just all in how you like them.
Now while some recipes calls for onion, garlic, even carrots, Mom made her beans with just water, smoked meat, salt, and pepper. Often she would also include a pinch of ground ginger as many claim it helps with the uh… um, “after effects” of eating a bowl full of beans, but there’s no scientific evidence of that being true.
Outside of the beans themselves, most of the flavor comes from the salt and the smoked meat. I keep ham hocks frozen for this because I think they add the most flavor to dishes like this, but a ham bone, smoked turkey wings, smoked pork neck bones, or even smoked sausage can be used to get that smoky flavor.
Regardless of what you call them and whether you stir them or not, these beans are a hearty, delicious side (or even main dish) that’s perfect alongside some piping hot cornbread. In my family, beans like this have always been served with some raw onion. I’ve heard others say they add mayonnaise or even ketchup to them. No matter what goes with them, I know you’re going to love them! Y’all enjoy!
Southern Lima Beans (Butter Beans)
- 1 pound large dried lima beans
- 1 large smoked ham hock*
- 9 cups water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Rinse the beans and check for any foreign particles.
- Add the beans to a large pot or dutch oven. Add the ham hock, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a low boil, and cook for about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover tightly and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the beans are tender to your liking. Add water to keep the beans just covered. Stir less frequently to allow the beans to stay intact, or stir more often to create a thick, rich broth. Be sure to see the blog post for details. Add the pepper and additional salt to taste. If desired, remove the hock, shred the meat, and return it to the pot.
Slow Cooker Method:
- Place beans, water, ham hock, salt and pepper in a 6 quart slow cooker and cover. Cook on high for 5 hours (or low for 7 to 8 hours) or until the beans are tender to your liking. Stir well and adjust seasoning to your taste. If needed, add hot water to the beans to keep them covered as to not drop the temperature as they cook. If desired, remove the hock, shred the meat, and return it to the slow cooker.
If nutritional values are provided, they are an estimate and will vary depending on the brands used. 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.