Butter beans and lima beans are commonly confused as the same thing, but butter beans have a creamy texture, while lima beans have a mealy texture. Butter beans are larger, lighter, and more mature than lima beans.

Butter beans and lima beans come from the Phaseolus lunatus family, but the smaller lima bean comes from the Fordhook variety, while the larger butter bean typically comes from the Henderson or Dixie varieties.

Comparison Chart: Are Butter Beans the Same as Lima Beans?

Butter Beans vs Lima Beans

Butter BeansLima Beans
What is it?A type of legume from the Phaseolus lunatus family.A type of legume from the Phaseolus lunatus family.
What is its texture?A creamy, buttery texture.A meal-like texture.
Where is it most common?Common in South America and the United Kingdom.Common in North America and other regions besides South America and the United Kingdom.
What is the common variety?Dixie or Henderson.Fordhook.
What does it look like?Flattish, big, and white (or pale yellow).Small, kidney-shaped, and pale green.
What is its purpose?Used in soups, stews, and salads.Used in soups, casseroles, and stews.
How healthy is it?A low-glycemic index of 44.A low-glycemic index of 46.

Butter Beans Explained

Butter Beans vs Lima Beans

Butter beans are a healthy choice for people with diabetes who require low-glycemic foods, or health enthusiasts. Butter beans are legumes sourced in Peru and packed with rich proteins and fibers. Butter beans are low-fat and a good source of iron, zinc, and magnesium.

Background

Butter beans come from the same region as lima beans, Peru. Butter beans are more mature than lima beans, and butter beans are cultivated at a later stage than lima beans. North Americans mistakenly call butter beans lima beans, but the beans aren’t the same as one another.

Butter beans were named according to their similarity in taste and texture to butter. Butter beans are popular as dried, canned, and fresh varieties.

Nutritional Information

One 8-ounce cup of butter beans contains the following nutritional information:

  • 216 calories
  • 0.7 grams of fat
  • 39 grams of carbohydrates
  • 3.8 milligrams of sodium
  • 5.5 grams of sugar
  • 13 grams of dietary fiber
  • 15 grams of protein
  • 27% potassium
  • 2.5% calcium
  • 25% iron

Proven Health Benefits

Butter beans contain polyphenols, antioxidants that fight against free radicals in the body and help maintain healthier cells. Polyphenols also help the body maintain better blood glucose levels.

Polyphenols have anti-inflammatory properties to help maintain heart health and prevent blood from clotting. The high fiber in butter beans helps reduce bad cholesterol by binding cholesterol to the lower intestine.

How to Cook With Butter Beans

Butter beans have a range of popular cooking applications. Butter beans become creamy and thick when cooked long at a slow temperature, and the beans are a favorite ingredient in soups, stews, salads, and casseroles.

Butter beans add another layer of texture to soups and make a great side dish if simmered with salted pork. One of the most popular butter bean recipes is succotash, a traditional Indian dish combining butter beans with sweetcorn and okra.

Follow these instructions to make succotash with butter beans:

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup diced green pepper
  • 1 diced white onion
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped and seeded serrano chili peppers
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 cups of sliced okra
  • 1 cup of chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cups of cooked butter beans (use the instructions below to soak and cook the butter beans)
  • 3 cups of fresh corn
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
  • Water as needed

Method for Cooking the Butter Beans:

  1. Add 1 cup of dried butter beans to a medium bowl of water to soak overnight.
  2. The next day, strain the water off the butter beans, then add the beans to a slow cooker or pot with 4 cups of fresh water and one teaspoon of salt.
  3. Simmer the butter beans for three hours at the lowest temperature and add water as needed.
  4. Strain the cooked butter beans and set the beans aside for the succotash recipe instructions.

Method for Succotash: 

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan with a heavy base over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper and stir to coat the ingredients in butter.
  3. Add a dash of salt to the pan and stir for five minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and stir until the garlic aroma fills the kitchen, then add the chilies and stir for another minute.
  5. Add the okra, then reduce the heat.
  6. Add another dash of salt and stir for another four minutes.
  7. Stir in the butter beans, corn, and tomatoes.
  8. Leave the vegetables to cook until soft, stirring occasionally.
  9. Emulsify the butter and moisten the vegetables by adding enough water to cover the vegetables. Stir the vegetables and cook for another two minutes.
  10.  Add black pepper and salt to taste.
  11. Simmer the vegetables on low heat for 30 minutes, and cover the pot.
  12. The liquid in the pot should turn thick, and the vegetables should be tender.
  13. Remove the vegetables from the pot, and sprinkle parsley and pepper to garnish the dish before serving the succotash immediately.

Where to Find Butter Beans

Butter beans are available in North America. Stores selling butter beans include:

  • Walmart stocks 16-ounce cans of Bush’s Best Butter Beans for $2.56
  • Woodland Foods stocks 10-pound boxes of dried butter beans for $44.45

Lima Beans Explained

Butter Beans vs Lima Beans

Lima beans are legumes sourced from Peru and are packed with soluble fibers, rich proteins, and micronutrients. Like butter beans, lima beans are a healthy choice and have a low-glycemic index suited to diabetics and health enthusiasts.

Background

Lima beans have been cultivated in Peru for more than 9,000 years. Lima beans were named by the ancient Greeks who named Peru’s capital city Lima. The Incan empire of the Andes region used lima beans as a staple food with quinoa and potatoes.

The second part of the proper name for lima beans, lunatus, translates to “half-moon,” which relates to the kidney shape of the lima bean.

Nutritional Information

The nutritional information of lima beans matches that of butter beans. One 8-ounce cup of lima beans has the following nutritional information:

  • 216 calories
  • 0.7 grams of fat
  • 39 grams of carbohydrates
  • 3.8 milligrams of sodium
  • 5.5 grams of sugar
  • 13 grams of dietary fiber
  • 15 grams of protein
  • 27% potassium
  • 2.5% calcium
  • 25% iron

Proven Health Benefits

Lima beans contain manganese, an antioxidant proven to speed up metabolism. Additionally, lima beans contain trace amounts of copper, proven to boost brain health and boost the immune system. The magnesium in lima beans also helps with energy production.

Lima beans are a healthy legume variety. The soluble fiber in lima beans helps the body digest carbohydrates more slowly and maintain improved blood glucose levels.

How to Cook With Lima Beans

Lima beans are ideal for starchy recipes like stews, soups, and casseroles. Lima beans also work well as a side dish for salty roasts, including pork, beef, and chicken. Additionally, lima beans can be added to salads as a crunchy garnish.

Lima beans work as a thickening agent and replace potatoes in some stews and casseroles as a healthier option. Lima beans should be simmered over low temperatures to release the starchy and mealy textures.

Follow these instructions to make a Greek-style baked lima bean recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dried lima beans
  • 1 medium diced onion
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 15 ounces chopped cherry tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Place the dried lima beans in a pot, and cover with 3 inches of water.
  2. Simmer the lima beans on low heat for 30 to 40 minutes until the beans are soft.
  3. Remove the lima beans from the heat before the beans go mushy.
  4. Drain the beans and set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  6. Heat the oil in the same pot used to cook the beans.
  7. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and let the vegetables sauté for four minutes until the onions are soft but not brown.
  8. Add oregano and thyme and stir to mix.
  9. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and ½ cup of water. Stir and bring to a boil.
  10. Add the lima beans and stir until the ingredients are evenly spread.
  11. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
  12. Spray a large baking dish and pour the vegetables into the dish. Spread the vegetables evenly.
  13. Bake the dish uncovered for 60 to 70 minutes until the top becomes crispy.
  14. Garnish the dish with freshly chopped parsley if desired, and serve.

Where to Find Lima Beans

Lima beans are more prevalent in North America because the name ‘lima beans’ is more familiar. Stores stocking lima beans include:

  • Del Monte 15 ounce canned lima beans are $1.79 at Target
  • Good & Gather 12 ounce frozen baby lima beans are $0.99 at Target
  • Good & Gather one pound dry lima beans are $1.59 at Target
  • Pictsweet Farms 24-ounce baby lima beans are $3.32 at Walmart
  • Del Monte 8.5 ounce canned lima beans are $1.18 at Walmart

Choosing Lima Beans vs Butter Beans

Butter Beans vs Lima Beans

Butter beans are creamier and more mature than lima beans, whereas lima beans are mealy and smaller. Butter beans work better than lima beans in creamy soups and stews with mushroom sauces or moist vegetables, like peas, green beans, zucchini, and broccoli.

Lima beans work better than butter beans in mealy-type stews and soups with vegetables that aren’t moist, like leafy vegetables, potatoes, carrots, corn, and onions.

Butter beans can be substituted with cannellini or borlotti beans because the texture and flavor notes of these beans match closely. Lima beans can be substituted with fava, red kidney, or white kidney beans because these beans match closely in texture and flavor notes.

Author

Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.

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