This easy butter beans recipe is perfect for light meatless dinners, meal prep, or as a protein-packed side dish. Everything is made in just one skillet and it needs very little prep.
Beans tend to be one of those foods you either love or loathe. However, this butter bean recipe is sure to turn even the most devoted bean skeptic into a true bean believer!
I was inspired to experiment with butter beans after wanting to change up my family’s usual dinner sides of great northern beans or baked beans with ground beef.
In this recipe, creamy butter beans are the star of the show. They’re simmered in a tasty veggie broth with aromatic vegetables and classic Italian seasonings, soaking in the most comforting and nourishing flavors you can imagine. Pair it with your favorite protein or some crusty bread for a well-rounded meal.
Table of Contents
- Simple yet flavorful. Everything is made in one pot, and it needs very little hands-on time.
- Nourishing and vegan. The short list of nourishing whole foods packs this naturally vegan recipe with plant-based protein and fiber to keep you full for hours.
- Budget-friendly. I purposely kept the ingredients in this butter bean recipe budget-friendly to give you a break! Best of all, it makes enough for your weekly meal prep or to feed the whole family.
Beans, aromatics, and some flavorful veg make up everything to make this dish. Here is what you’ll need:
- Olive oil. To sauté the aromatics.
- Aromatics. A blend of onion, carrot, green bell pepper, and garlic cloves takes this simple dish from good to great!
- Butter beans. For this recipe, I used fresh butter beans, which are a variety of lima beans. Dried lima beans also work well, but they need to be soaked overnight. You technically can use canned butter beans, but only add them at the end of the cooking process, or else they will disintegrate into the broth.
- Italian seasoning. I used store-bought Italian seasoning to keep this recipe easy. Feel free to make your own with dried oregano, basil, rosemary, marjoram, and thyme.
- Salt and pepper. To taste.
- Vegetable broth. The beans simmer in the broth, helping them soften and absorb flavor.
Find the printable recipe with measurements below.
How to cook butter beans
Step 1 – Sauté the aromatics. Sauté the onions in a hot oiled skillet until translucent. Next, add the carrots and green bell pepper and cook until they start to soften. Finally, add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Step 2 – Add beans and spices. Stir the beans, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper into the skillet.
Step 3 – Simmer. Pour in the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer until the beans are fork-tender.
Step 4 – Season to taste, then serve. Give the beans a taste, adjust the seasonings if needed, and enjoy!
What to serve with this dish
The mild and creamy nature of butter beans makes them super versatile. I like to serve them alongside crusty bread to soak up the flavorful broth or as a side dish for meat dishes, such as grilled chicken thighs, 3-2-1 ribs, or sirloin tip roast. You can also serve these beans with basmati rice or quinoa, or in a pre-made Mediterranean bowl to absorb their delicious flavors.
Recipe tips and variations
- Fresh vs. dried beans. I tested this recipe with young, fresh butter beans, which, in my opinion, have the best taste and texture. You can use dried butter beans as well but they need to be soaked overnight.
- Rinse them well. Regardless of whether you use fresh or dried beans, rinse them under cold water to remove any debris before cooking.
- Don’t overcook the beans. Beans become mushy when they’re overcooked, so keep an eye on your skillet! You’re aiming for a tender yet slightly firm texture.
- Play with the flavors. I like to give this bean dish a refreshing hit of acidity with a splash of lemon juice, white wine vinegar, or white wine.
- Turn it into a salad. After cooking the beans, feel free to toss them with cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh oregano for a refreshing Mediterranean-inspired bean salad. Or, swap the chickpeas in my Jennifer Aniston salad for them.
- Meat is welcome. Swap the vegetable broth for chicken broth or add pre-cooked smoked meat, like pastrami, turkey pastrami, bacon, pancetta, prosciutto, or smoked ham, during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
- Finish with fresh herbs. Take this dish up a notch with a garnish of freshly chopped parsley or chives!
To store: Let the leftover butter beans cool to room temperature before storing them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
To freeze: Once cool, transfer the beans to a freezer-safe container and freeze for 3 to 4 months.
Reheating: Gently reheat the beans in the microwave or a skillet over medium-low heat with a splash of vegetable broth.
Frequently asked questions
No, you don’t have to soak fresh butter beans before cooking. However, briefly blanching them in boiling water can tenderize the beans while maintaining their vibrant color. After blanching, give the beans a good rinse, and they’re ready to be enjoyed.
Any type of bean with a similar texture and flavor will work here, like great Northern beans, cannellini beans, or navy beans. Chickpeas also work well, despite their slightly nuttier taste.
More healthy recipes with beans
- Tuscan White Bean Soup – An Italian-inspired classic!
- Vegan Chili – Beans pack this plant-based chili with fiber and protein.
- Chana Masala – Savor tender chickpeas simmered in an aromatic, Indian-inspired tomato sauce.
- Crispy Roasted Chickpeas – A healthy way to satisfy that savory snack tooth!
Classic Butter Beans Recipe
- In a large skillet or saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until it becomes translucent. Add the diced carrot and green bell pepper and sauté for a few minutes until the vegetables soften. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the butter beans, followed by the Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine the ingredients. Pour in the vegetable broth and bring the mixture to a simmer.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet with a lid, and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the fresh butter beans are tender.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, then serve.
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