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"The Message" Smoky Butter Beans Salad

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Enjoy this healthy bowl of smoky butter beans, a perfect Fall side dish.

vegan butter beans recipe

Butter beans or Lima beans as they're known in certain parts are one of the world's healthiest foods. They are a staple crop in Africa and Peru (particularly in the city of Lima after which they're named. When cooked properly, they are smooth and delicious, yet they have a reputation worse than Brussell sprouts.


As a kid, especially during the Fall, we ate butter beans regularly. More often than not they were cooked with smokey bacon or ham. Ms. Washington's BBQ Restaurant in my neighborhood always made their butter beans with smoked neck bones. I was as fond of Ms. Washington's version as I was my MaDear's. Most versions I've had throughout the South have been made similarly. Likewise, most Southern butter bean recipes call for dried butter beans that are cooked long and slow netting rich and creamy beans.



Soak the beans in water overnight. Make sure water covers the beans fully by at least an inch.

In a large pot heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onions, celery, and garlic until tender (2-3 minutes)

Add the paprika, cayenne, herbs, salt, and pepper. Saute for another 5 minutes. Add the red beans, vegetable stock, and bay leaves. Let simmer uncovered on low for about 2 hours. Stir occasionally and add water as necessary.


Most butter beans recipes call for smoked meat like neck bones, ham hocks, or bacon, and this is how I grew up eating them. However, this is a vegan version. I went heavy on the smoked paprika and added dried smoked chilis to replicate the smokiness.

Traditional Southern recipes for butter beans are cooked super long to a creamy consistency. Though cooked around 2 hours this is done before the beans break down into creaminess.

Keeping this dish vegan with its texture intact allows you to enjoy the natural great taste of the beans along with the complimentary seasonings. The beans generally do a great job of taking on the flavors of any aromatics and other ingredients they're cooked with and butter beans are no different.

Feel free to use a store-bought stock, but if you have the time make your own similar to the one I used in this red beans recipe. I used several farmers market vegetables (ears of corn, carrots, celery and onions) for my homemade stock to get that farm to table fresh taste. The resultant broth is smokey, fresh, and herbal adding to a complex delightful taste when combined with the flavors given off by the beans.

Lima beans are very low in fat and contain no cholesterol making them invaluable in a heart-healthy diet. Also, a serving of them contains about 4 percent of the recommended daily value for protein making them ideal for vegans/vegetarians. A full detailed view of all the health benefits of lima beans can be found here.

Serve with other vegan sides or Southern classics like Pork Neck Bones.


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vegan butter beans recipe

Vegan Butter Beans Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Modern Soul Food
Servings: 8 people
Author: Marwin Brown


For Beans

  • 1 ½  pound  dried lima "butter" beans
  • 1 tablespoon  olive oil
  • garlic cloves minced
  • 2 medium onions finely diced
  • 1 large rib celery finely diced
  • tablespoons  smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon  black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon  cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon  salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons  dried herbs mix oregano thyme, and basil
  • Green onions
  • Cherry tomatoes halved

Vegetable Stock

  • 1 large onion quartered
  • carrots peeled and cut in ½
  • 4 ribs celery cut in ½
  • 1 ear of corn cut into quarters
  • sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
  • bay leaves
  • 8 to 10 peppercorns
  • whole cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 gallon  cold water
  • 2 dried morita or chipotle chiles


For Beans

  • In a large bowl, cover beans in water and soak for at least 4 hours or overnight. (Water should cover beans by at least an inch.)
  • In a large pot heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, celery, and garlic until tender.
  • Add the paprika, cayenne, herbs, salt and pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes then add the red beans, vegetable stock and bay leaves.
  • Let simmer uncovered on low for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Stirring occasionally and adding water, if necessary.

Vegetable Stock Instructions

  • Put water in large stockpot. Place vegetables, herbs and spices in a steamer basket directly in the water filled stockpot. Cook on high heat until you begin to see bubbles break through the surface of the liquid. Turn heat down to medium low so that stock maintains low, gentle simmer.
  • Add chiles and let simmer in the pot for 20-30 minutes. Check frequently to make sure chiles don’t breakdown and release seeds into the stock. Remove peppers and discard them.
  • Simmer uncovered for 1-2 hours. Add hot water as needed to keep vegetables submerged. Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into another large stockpot or heatproof container discarding the solids. Cool immediately and place in refrigerator overnight
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