Are you looking to recreate the comforting flavors of classic Southern cuisine in your own kitchen? Look no further than this simple and delicious recipe for Classic Southern Butter Beans. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or just starting out, this step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of preparing rich and creamy butter beans that are sure to be a hit at any gathering. From selecting the right ingredients to slow-cooking them to perfection, you’ll soon be savoring all the warm and hearty goodness this dish has to offer. So grab your apron, put on your chef’s hat, and let’s get cooking!


To make classic Southern butter beans, you will need the following ingredients:

Butter beans

Butter beans are the star of this dish. These creamy and tender legumes are also known as lima beans.

Salt and Pepper

Salt and pepper are essential for seasoning the butter beans and enhancing their flavors.


Bacon adds a smoky and savory taste to the butter beans. It adds depth and richness to the overall dish.


Onions are used to provide a subtle sweetness and aroma to the butter beans. They add a layer of flavor that complements the other ingredients.


Garlic is another aromatic addition that brings a delightful taste to the butter beans. It adds a mild yet distinct flavor to the dish.

Chicken broth

Chicken broth serves as the cooking liquid for the butter beans. It infuses them with a rich and savory taste.


Butter adds a luxurious creaminess and richness to the dish. It enhances the flavor of the beans and makes them even more indulgent.

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A touch of sugar is added to balance the flavors and enhance the natural sweetness of the butter beans.


Before cooking your classic Southern butter beans, there are several important steps to follow:

Soaking the beans

It is recommended to soak the butter beans overnight to ensure they cook evenly and reduce their cooking time. Place the beans in a large bowl, cover them with water, and let them soak overnight.

Cooking the bacon

In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon until it becomes crispy and golden brown. Remove the bacon from the pot and set it aside. Leave some of the bacon drippings in the pot for sautéing the onion and garlic.

Sautéing the onion and garlic

Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the pot with the bacon drippings. Sauté them until they become fragrant and translucent. This step adds flavor and complexity to the dish.

Adding the beans and broth

Drain and rinse the soaked butter beans, then add them to the pot with the sautéed onion and garlic. Pour in enough chicken broth to cover the beans by about an inch.

Simmering the beans

Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and let the butter beans simmer for about 1 to 1.5 hours, or until they become tender. Stir them occasionally to prevent sticking.

Adding butter and sugar

Once the beans are cooked to your desired tenderness, stir in the butter and sugar. The butter enhances the creaminess of the dish, while the sugar balances the flavors.

Seasoning with salt and pepper

Taste the butter beans and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper according to your preference. Remember to start with a small amount and add more if needed.


Here are some useful tips to keep in mind when making classic Southern butter beans:

Choosing the right beans

When selecting butter beans, look for ones that are plump, firm, and without any signs of discoloration or mold. Fresh beans will ensure a better texture and taste.

Soaking overnight vs. quick soak method

While soaking the beans overnight is recommended, you can also opt for the quick soak method if you’re short on time. Simply bring the beans to a boil, cover them, and let them sit for an hour before proceeding with the recipe.

Using smoked bacon for added flavor

To add an extra layer of smoky flavor, opt for smoked bacon. The smokiness pairs well with the creamy butter beans and elevates the overall taste of the dish.

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Adjusting the cooking time

Cooking times may vary depending on the size and freshness of the beans. Be sure to taste them periodically while they simmer to ensure they reach the desired tenderness.

Adding other seasonings and herbs

Feel free to experiment with additional seasonings and herbs to customize the flavor of your butter beans. Some popular options include thyme, rosemary, paprika, or even a dash of hot sauce for some heat.

Serving Suggestions

Classic Southern butter beans can be enjoyed in various ways. Here are some serving suggestions:


Serve the butter beans as a delightful side dish alongside other Southern favorites such as fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread, or mashed potatoes.

Main dishes

You can also turn butter beans into the star of the show by incorporating them into main dishes. They can be served over rice, mixed with sausage, or even used as a filling in a hearty casserole.

Side dishes

Butter beans are a versatile side dish that pairs well with a variety of main courses. They complement grilled meats, roasted chicken, or even seafood dishes.

Storing and Reheating

If you have leftovers, here are some tips on storing and reheating your classic Southern butter beans:

Refrigerating leftovers

Allow the butter beans to cool to room temperature, then transfer them to an airtight container or a sealable plastic bag. Refrigerate them for up to 3-4 days.

Freezing butter beans

To freeze butter beans, place them in a freezer-safe container or a zip-top bag. Make sure to remove any excess air to prevent freezer burn. They can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Reheating methods

To reheat your butter beans, you can simply microwave them until heated through or warm them on the stovetop over low heat. Add a splash of chicken broth to prevent them from drying out.


There are several variations you can explore to customize your classic Southern butter beans:

Vegetarian version

To make a vegetarian version of this dish, omit the bacon and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. You can still achieve a rich flavor profile by adding additional herbs and seasonings.

Adding other vegetables

For added texture and flavor, consider incorporating other vegetables into your butter beans. Sliced bell peppers, chopped tomatoes, or even corn kernels can elevate the dish and provide a colorful touch.

Spicy butter beans

If you enjoy a bit of heat, spice up your butter beans by adding cayenne pepper, chili flakes, or jalapeños. These additions will give the dish a delightful kick and add some excitement to your taste buds.

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Creamy butter beans

To make your butter beans even creamier, you can mix in a bit of heavy cream or sour cream towards the end of the cooking process. This will create a luscious and velvety texture that is hard to resist.

Health Benefits

Classic Southern butter beans not only taste amazing but also offer some health benefits:

Nutritional value

Butter beans are packed with essential nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They provide a good source of folate, magnesium, and iron.

High in fiber

Butter beans are an excellent source of dietary fiber. Fiber helps promote a healthy digestive system, regulates blood sugar levels, and supports heart health.

Promotes healthy digestion

The fiber content in butter beans helps maintain regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. They contribute to a healthy digestive system and aid in proper nutrient absorption.

Good source of protein

Butter beans are a plant-based protein source, making them an excellent alternative for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet. Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues in the body.

Cultural Significance

Classic Southern butter beans hold a special place in Southern cuisine and have a rich cultural significance:

Traditional Southern dish

Butter beans have been a staple in Southern cooking for generations. They are often enjoyed as part of traditional family gatherings and holiday meals.

Part of Southern cuisine

Southern cuisine is renowned for its soulful and comforting flavors. Butter beans are representative of the region’s farming heritage and the use of simple, locally sourced ingredients.

Historical context

Butter beans have a historical context rooted in the South’s agricultural history. They were commonly grown in Southern gardens as a reliable and versatile crop.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these common mistakes when making classic Southern butter beans to ensure a successful and flavorful dish:

Undercooking or overcooking the beans

Achieving the perfect texture is crucial when cooking butter beans. Undercooking them will result in a hard and unpleasant texture, while overcooking can lead to mushiness. Regularly taste the beans as they simmer and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Not seasoning properly

Proper seasoning is essential for enhancing the flavors of the butter beans. Be sure to taste and adjust the salt and pepper levels as needed. Seasoning throughout the cooking process ensures a well-balanced dish.

Skipping the bacon for flavor

Bacon adds a signature taste to classic Southern butter beans. Skipping it can result in a milder and less flavorful dish. If you prefer a vegetarian version, compensate with additional seasonings and herbs.

Not adjusting for dietary restrictions

If you have any dietary restrictions, such as being vegetarian or following a low-sodium diet, make sure to adapt the recipe accordingly. Use vegetable broth or omit certain ingredients to accommodate your needs.


Here are some frequently asked questions about classic Southern butter beans:

What are butter beans?

Butter beans, also known as lima beans, are large and creamy legumes. They have a mild flavor and a buttery texture, hence the name “butter beans.”

Can I use canned beans instead?

While fresh beans are recommended for the best taste and texture, canned butter beans can be used as a time-saving alternative. Just keep in mind that canned beans may have a softer texture.

How long do butter beans last?

Properly stored cooked butter beans can last in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. If frozen, they can be safely kept for up to 3 months.

Can I freeze butter beans without cooking?

Yes, you can freeze raw butter beans. Simply blanch them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then cool them quickly in ice water before freezing. This helps maintain their quality during storage.

Jenny Jones

By Jenny Jones

Jenny Jones is a passionate culinary enthusiast hailing from the heart of the South. Born and raised in a small town known for its rich culinary traditions, she developed an unwavering love for Southern cooking from an early age.