This butter beans recipe is made with fresh kale and a spicy, tomato sauce. It's a one-pot vegan dinner that's also great for meal prep!
It feels like the right time to get back to the basics in the kitchen, and 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 so I'm way less likely to experience an energy slump later on!
Here's what you'll need to make this butter beans recipe at home.
- Butter beans (also known as lima beans), dried
- Vegetable broth (homemade or store-bought)
- Bay leaves (dry or fresh, optional)
- Tomato paste
- Dry basil
- Dry oregano
- Crushed rosemary
- Smoked paprika
- Cayenne pepper (optional)
- Kale (1 bunch)
- Extra virgin olive oil
What are Butter Beans?
You might know butter beans by another name—lima beans. They're the same exact 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 Soak Dry Beans:
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 there are only a few seconds 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.
This butter beans recipe has three main steps. Cooking the beans, adding the flavorings, and cooking the fresh kale.
- Cook the Butter Beans.
The first (and most time-consuming) step is cooking the dry butter beans.
Once the butter beans have been drained from their soaking liquid, transfer them to a large pot over high heat. Pour in the vegetable broth, water, and a couple of bay leaves (the bay leaves are optional).
Bring the liquid to a boil and then simmer the beans over medium-low heat until they reach your desired level of doneness.
The beans will continue to soften as they cook. Add water as needed to prevent the beans from sticking and cook as long as you need to get them to the texture you like. The beans will get softer as they cook.
2. Add flavorings.
Once the butter beans are cooked, it's time to add in some flavor! Stir in grated garlic, tomato paste, basil, oregano, crushed rosemary, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper.
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.
After the spices are fully incorporated and smell fragrant, stir in the torn pieces of kale and olive oil. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring often, or until the greens are tender and wilted.
You can eat this butter beans recipe all on its own or serve it with quinoa, barley, farro, rice, or pasta. Top the beans and greens with toasted nuts or seeds and nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese (if the recipe doesn't have to be vegan) if desired.
Meal Prep and Storage
I love meal prepping this butter beans recipe for easy lunches and dinners during the week. Store the beans and greens in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week. You can reheat this on the stovetop or in the microwave.
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.
Recipes to Serve With
- Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Citrusy Maple Ginger Glaze
- Baked Apples and Pears with Thyme and Maple
- Vegan Corn Chowder
- Lemon Tahini Apple Slaw
- Make-Ahead Cranberry Orange Kale Salad
One-Pot Butter Beans and Greens
- large pot with a lid
- 1 cup dry butter beans (also known as lima beans), soaked (see note 1)
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup water or as needed
- 2 bay leaves (optional)
- 4 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dry basil
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- 1 teaspoon crushed rosemary
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 3 cups torn kale leaves (1-pound bunch), massaged if desired (see note 2)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Drain butter beans from the soaking liquid and transfer to a large pot over high heat. Pour in vegetable broth, water, and bay leaves ( if using), cover, and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, tilt the lid to vent, and cook the beans for 90 minutes, stirring approximately every 20-30 minutes, or until the beans are tender. There should be some gentle bubbles throughout the cooking process. Adjust the heat as needed. Continue cooking the beans, adding water as needed to prevent them from sticking, until they reach your desired level of doneness. (Cook longer for softer beans.)
- Once the beans are cooked, remove the bay leaves and discard. Reduce the heat to low and stir in garlic, tomato paste, basil, oregano, crushed rosemary, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper (if using). Cook 1 minute, or until the spices are fragrant.
- Stir in kale and olive oil and cook for 5 minutes, or until the kale leaves are soft and wilted. Remove from heat and serve (see note 3) or store for later (see note 4).
- 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.
- To massage kale: add the leaves to a large mixing bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil. Use your hands to massage the leaves for 2-3 minutes, or until the kale is tender.
- Serving Suggestions: Serve with cooked quinoa, barley, farro, rice, or pasta if desired. Garnish with toasted nuts or seeds and nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese (if not vegan) if desired.
- Storage: Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
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Hi- How would you adjust cooking times if making this with frozen lima beans?
Stephanie McKercher, RDN says
Hi Susan, I haven't tested this with frozen lima beans. The biggest change is that you would need less water/broth and you wouldn't need to cook the beans as long (assuming they are pre-cooked frozen lima beans). I'd suggest just covering the beans with broth/water and cooking until they are warmed through. Then continue with steps 3-4 of the recipe. Let me know how it goes if you try it!
Lori A says
Have you used the pressure cooker for this recipe.
Stephanie McKercher, RDN says
Hi Lori, I haven't tried this with a pressure cooker yet, but I'll add the instructions to the post as soon as I'm able to test it. Thanks!
How can I adjust this recipe to use canned butter beans?
Stephanie McKercher, RDN says
Hi Katie, I haven't tested this, but the recipe should also work with canned beans. You'll only need enough broth to prevent the beans from sticking (maybe ~1 cup), and the cooking time in step 1 will be much faster—just a few minutes to heat up the canned beans before adding in the other ingredients. Please let me know how it goes if you try this. Thanks! Stephanie