Good Question: What’s a Butter Bean?

updated Jun 4, 2019
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Dear Kitchen,

I came across a recipe recently that called for “butter beans.” I’m not exactly familiar with butter beans. In the photograph that accompanied the recipe, the butter bean looked pretty much exactly like a lima bean, but was beige instead of green. Are these two beans related? I don’t really care for lima beans so I sort of hope they aren’t.


(To All Good Questions)

Dear Marissa,

Lima beans are more than just related to butter beans, they are the same thing! In the South, lima beans are often called butter beans and in the UK they almost exclusively refer to them as butter beans. It seems like a lot of people don’t like lima beans. I blame those unpleasant school lunch vegetable medleys, although I admit that lima beans can have a sort of starchy flavor that tastes sort of uncooked. Lima beans can be consumed in both their immature stage (fresh and green) as well as their mature (dried and beige). Americans tend to eat them in the immature stage mostly, but if you aren’t a lima lover, you might want to try them cooked from the dry stage, rather than the fresh. You can cook them yourself, which like all dried beans can take a long time of soaking and simmering, or you can get them canned. I find that the texture is creamier and the flavor is rich and buttery. You might surprise yourself and become a convert.