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The BEST Homemade Butter Beans

Bacon, onion and brown sugar transform this humble bean into a side dish you'll adore.


This simple yet flavorful dish is sure to become a family favorite. Plus, it’s easy enough for even novice cooks to make.

serving bowl of butterbeans with bacon.

❤️ Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Easy to make with very little prep time. Yes, there’s a long cook time, but they’re just simmering away, minding their own business. Prep time is super minimal. 😊
  • Delicious bacon, onion, and brown sugar flavor. The unique combination of bacon, onion, and brown sugar elevates this dish to something special. It’s a side dish you can make for any occasion.
  • Budget-friendly. Beans are high in protein, filling, and easy on the wallet.

This is an overview of the ingredients. You’ll find the full measurements and instructions in the printable recipe at the bottom of the page.

ingredients on counter

You’ll need the following for this yummy side dish:

  • bacon
  • onion 
  • brown sugar
  • frozen butter beans or baby lima beans
  • butter
  • water
  • salt

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🍴Instructions

Step One: Cook the bacon and onion

pot with bacon and brown sugar.

In a large pot, cook the bacon and onion for 5-7 minutes until the onion is soft. Add the brown sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 minutes (just until the sugar dissolves).

Step Two: Add the beans, butter, and liquid

stockpot with butter, bacon, and beans.

Add the beans and butter to the pot. Stir until the butter melts and coats the beans. Then add water.

Step three: cook

stockpot with liquid.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. The beans are done when they are very tender and the liquid is slightly thickened. The beans should just poke above the liquid in the pot. Add salt and pepper when cooking time is done.

Step Four: serve

sserving bowl next to slotted spoon.

Scoop the beans out of the cooking liquid and transfer to a serving dish.

🥫 Storage instructions

Once cooked, the beans can be stored in an airtight container for up to four days in the refrigerator or for up to three months in the freezer.

If freezing, make sure to cool them completely before transferring them into a freezer-safe bag or container. When ready to eat, simply thaw and reheat on the stovetop over medium heat until warmed through. (You don’t need to freeze the cooking liquid.)

🔍 FAQs

What’s the difference between lima beans and butter beans?

They’re the same thing! Just different names. 🙂


Can I use dried beans?

Yes, you can use dried beans instead of frozen butter beans or baby lima beans. Dried beans require more preparation and will take longer to cook.
To be honest, frozen beans make this recipe a snap and dried beans are a pain. But if you insist….
First, you’ll need to sort through the dried beans, discarding any small stones or debris. Then, you’ll need to soak the beans in cold water overnight or for at least 6-8 hours. Once soaked, drain the water and proceed with the recipe as written. They may take a little longer to cook.

How can I tell when the beans are done?

The best way to know when your beans are done cooking is to check their texture. The beans should be very tender and the liquid in the pot should be slightly thickened. If you take a spoonful of the beans, they should easily break apart with little pressure from your spoon.


Can I make this dish vegan?

Yes! Omit the bacon and use 1 tablespoon of olive oil to cook the onions. You can also replace the butter with a vegan-friendly substitute such as Earth Balance or coconut oil.

👩🏻‍🍳 Expert tips

  • To give the dish a bit of extra flavor, try adding a pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes when you add the salt and pepper.
  • For a heartier dish, add some cooked diced ham or crumbled sausage to the beans at the end for a protein-packed version.

📘 more bean Recipes

🍽 Serve it with

This is the perfect side dish for a classic main course like buttermilk fried chicken.

Don’t forget the biscuits! This recipe is made in a skillet.

Peach and apple pie is a lovely, homey dessert.

scoop of beans close up view.

📖 Here’s the recipe

plate of chicken and butterbeans.
5 from 1 vote

Homemade Butter Beans

Print Recipe
Bacon, onion and brown sugar transform this humble bean into a side dish you'll adore.
Prep Time:5 mins
Cook Time:2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:2 hrs 35 mins
Click here to grab a free seasonal e-cookbook!

Equipment

  • large stockpot

Ingredients

  • 5 bacon slices diced
  • 1 small onion minced
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 pound frozen butter beans or baby lima beans
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 12 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  • Cook the bacon and onion. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, cook the bacon and onion for 5-7 minutes until the onion is soft and most of the fat is rendered. Add the brown sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 minutes (just until the sugar dissolves).
  • Add the beans, butter, and liquid. Add the beans and butter and stir until the butter is melted and coats the beans. Add the water.
  • Simmer. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to low and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. The beans are done when they are very tender, and the liquid is slightly thickened. The beans should just poke above the liquid in the pot. Add salt and pepper when cooking time is done.

Notes

Remember to save the salt and pepper for the end.  Beans cooked too long in salty water will become tough.

Nutrition

Calories: 157kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 513mg | Potassium: 205mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 194IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 1mg
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 157kcal
Author: Katie Shaw
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