Add this vegan one-pot butter beans recipe to your weeknight rotation! Nutritious lima beans, hearty kale, and a flavorful tomato sauce round out the meal.
With everything that's been going on lately, it feels like the right time to get back to the basics in the kitchen. For me, "basic" usually means some type of beans and greens combination.
It's a classic pantry meal, especially if you're stocked with plant-based ingredients. Plus, there's a healthy mix of all of the nutrients you need to make an energizing and satisfying lunch or dinner.
Enjoy it right away or meal prep a batch for later. Have it for a meal or split it into smaller servings for a side dish. (Maybe double the recipe so you can have it both ways. You won't regret it.)
I especially love this butter beans recipe as a WFH lunch. I've been working from home for a few years now and I've learned that eating a balanced, energizing lunch is essential for a productive day. This butter beans recipe is balanced with fiber, carbs, protein, and fat to provide quick energy without slumps later on.
What are Butter Beans?
You might know butter beans by another name—lima beans. They're both the same thing!
The butter beans in this recipe are dry and beige in color. Look for butter beans or lima beans near other types of dry pulses at the grocery store.
How to Make This One-Pot Butter Beans Recipe:
I have a special kind of love for one-pot and one-pan recipes. They're simple to cook and easy to clean up after. This butter beans recipe has three main steps.
1) Cook the Butter Beans
Before you begin, soak the dry beans in a bowl of water overnight (or for at least 8 hours or so).
Then, grab a stockpot and pour in the butter beans, vegetable broth, and a couple of bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the beans are tender. It should take somewhere between 60 to 90 minutes, depending on how soft you want the beans to be.
If the beans are still hard once all of the liquid is absorbed, stir in a cup of water. Cook longer, adding water as needed. The beans will continue to soften as they cook.
2) Add Spices and Flavorings
Once you're satisfied with the beans' texture, it's time to add in some FLAVOR. I use garlic, tomato paste, basil, oregano, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper to spice up this butter beans recipe. Feel free to play with the spices based on whatever you have on hand in your kitchen. There are so many options here!
3) Stir in the Greens
Once the spices are fully incorporated into the mixture, stir in the torn pieces of kale and cook until the greens are wilted.
As always, taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
How and Why to Soak Dry Beans
Why soak dry butter beans before you cook them? Soaking helps dry beans cook faster and it can also make them easier to digest (though this may not be true for everyone). It can also improve the beans' appearance once cooked.
Soaking requires a little forethought, but it only takes a minute of active work. Just pour dry beans into a large bowl and fill with water. Cover the bowl with a clean towel or beeswax wrap (plastic wrap works, too) and set it aside overnight, or for about 8 hours. Then drain the liquid, give the beans a quick rinse, and you're good to go.
What if There's No Time to Soak?
You can still make this butter beans recipe without soaking in advance. When using unsoaked beans, I like to cook them in my Instant Pot.
Rinse the dry beans and add them to the pressure cooker with vegetable broth. Cover, lock and set the Instant Pot to manual high pressure for 20 minutes. Once cooked, allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, and then quick-release any of the remaining pressure. (For more details on how to use the Instant Pot, check out their how-to videos.)
In general, unsoaked beans will take about twice as long to cook as their pre-soaked counterparts.
Once the butter beans are cooked, switch the Instant Pot to sauté and stir in the rest of the ingredients.
Potential Ingredient Substitutions
If you don't have lima/butter beans:
Substitute with any type of dry bean or pulse. I like these flavors with chickpeas or white kidney beans (also known as cannellini beans). For a quick-cook version, try it with lentils. (You'll just need to adjust the cooking time depending on the type of pulse you choose.)
If you don't have vegetable broth:
Cook the beans in water with about a teaspoon of salt. Add in more herbs and spices for flavor if desired. (Try a little rosemary, thyme, or sage.)
If you don't have kale:
Swap in another hearty green, such as collards, chard, or spinach. Frozen greens work great here, too.
A Few More Options for Serving this Butter Beans Recipe
I like my butter beans and greens with quinoa with toasted sunflower seeds, plus some cheesy nutritional yeast and cracked black pepper for a little extra spice.
Beans and greens are such a foundational, staple meal. There are endless variations for how you could serve it.
- Skip the quinoa and toppings for a simplified version that's still filling and flavorful.
- Instead of quinoa, try butter beans and greens with any cooked grain, such as farro, barley, rice, or freekeh.
- Instead of nutritional yeast, feel free to top with parmesan and/or romano cheeses, as long as you're okay with including dairy.
- Instead of toasted sunflower seeds, try walnuts, pumpkin seeds, or slivered almonds. Anything nutty and crunchy is sure to be a good addition.
Can you Make this Butter Beans Recipe in Advance? What's the Best Way to Store it?
I love meal prepping this butter beans recipe for easy lunches during the week. Store beans and greens in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 7 days.
- 1 cup dry butter beans (also known as lima beans), soaked (see note)
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 2 bay leaves (optional)
- 1 cup water or as needed
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dry basil
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 3 cups torn kale (1 bunch)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cooked quinoa (see note), or any cooked grain
- Sunflower seeds, toasted if desired (see note)
- Nutritional yeast
- Cracked black pepper
- Stir soaked butter beans, vegetable broth, and bay leaves in a stock pot over high heat. Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and cook for 1 hour 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the beans are tender. If the beans are still hard once all of the liquid is absorbed, stir in a cup of water and cook for an additional 5 minutes. (Cook longer, adding water as needed, for beans with a softer texture.)
- Once the beans are cooked, stir in garlic, tomato paste, basil, oregano, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper (if using). Once the spices are fully incorporated into the mixture, stir in kale and cook for 5 minutes, or until wilted. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve over cooked quinoa with toasted sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, and cracked black pepper if desired.
- Store in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 1 week.
How to soak dry beans: Pour dry beans into a large bowl and fill the bowl with water. Cover and set aside for at least 8 hours. Once soaked, drain the liquid and rinse.
How to cook quinoa: Add dry quinoa to a pot of boiling water and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Drain excess liquid and fluff with a fork. Alternatively, look for bags of precooked quinoa in the grain aisle or frozen section and follow the preparation instructions on the package.
How to toast sunflower seeds: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread sunflower seeds in a single layer on a lined baking sheet. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 5 minutes, or until golden brown.
Want More One-Pot and One-Pan Recipes?
Here are a few to try:
- Vegan Turmeric Soup
- One-Pan Crispy Eggplant Caprese
- One-Pot Asparagus Chard Ramen
- Instant Pot Black Bean Soup
- Vegan Lemon Oatmeal
Did you try this butter beans recipe?
Rate the recipe and leave a comment below or tag me (@GratefulGrazer) if you share on Instagram. I'd love to hear how it went!