11 Ideal Butter Bean Substitutes You Can Use Today

Butter Bean Substitutes

What are the best easy swaps for butter beans? Butter beans which are also known as Lima beans, sieva bean, double bean, or Madagascar bean is a type of legume grown for its edible seeds and beans. Butter bean is a versatile ingredient with lots of health benefits, it is rich in vitamins and minerals. However, when you don’t have these beans at hand, knowing a replacement that gives you the same savory taste can help save your dish.

Butter beans are described as the perfect comfort dish ingredients, they also work in traditional dishes like succotash, Gigantes and, salt pork. It can be used in making light dishes like salads or accouterments such as dips or spreads. An alternative can always be used if you can’t find butter beans, although the recipe will determine which substitute is better.

Another reason why butter beans are quite popular is that they have a unique taste and texture that can be a bit difficult to replicate. This is why it is used in savory dishes, including casseroles, soups, and even salads.

This popular kidney-shaped bean is commonly found in European and American cuisine. They are white to pale green and have lots of varieties as well. If you are looking for butter bean substitutes, there are lots of ingredients that work well whether you are cooking a soup or a savory dish.

Common Butter Bean Varieties

Whether eaten on their own or combined with other ingredients in a recipe, there is a certain flavor profile that butter bean has which is quite difficult to get from other ingredients. Butter beans are a great way to add nutrients to your dish, and they can be enjoyed as dried or simply boiled beans. Before looking at the ideal substitutes, here are common varieties that offer similar flavors.

  1. Baby Butter Beans: This variety of butter beans is smaller in comparison to standard lima beans, and it has a buttery flavor and creamy texture.
  2. Baby Fordhook: This has seeds similar to the regular butter bean but a more delicate flavor. The tiny seeds are firm and sweet
  3. Madagascar Beans: This variety has a similar shape and size to the baby Ford hook beans. It has a pronounced nutty flavor with a purple-specked appearance. It can be eaten fresh or used in soups.
  4. Big Mama Beans: This type of lima bean retains its shape in cooking and doesn’t get too mushy. It tastes nutty and sweet.
  5. Christmas Beans: This is named after the holiday due to the reddish brown and white pattern appearance. It is also known as chestnut lima beans due to the texture, and it does have a rich creamy buttery flavor too.

11 Ideal Butter Bean Substitutes You Can Use Today

Replacing butter beans in your recipe is not impossible, however before you make the swap, make sure you are aware of the taste you are aiming for. To get the best result of the butter bean substitutes, you have to use the same format. To make the replacement easy, look for options that will give your recipe a similar taste and texture. However, here are our recommendations.

1. Borlotti Beans

Borlotti Beans
Image: Tiia Monto // Wikimedia Commons

The boroloti beans are a common type of beans that go by many names, but the most common one is cranberry beans. This type of beans makes an excellent substitute for butter beans, it is related to Pinto and kidney beans. Borlotti beans can be found in red and white color, it has a mild nutty flavor but with a sweetness that can be found in white beans.

One of the benefits of borlotti beans is that it contains high fiber content, and it is known to have a beneficial effect in reducing high cholesterol. Furthermore, it impacts your dish with a rich flavor and can replace butter bean in any recipe including pasta, casserole, and soups.

2. Navy Beans

Navy Beans
Image: Jessica Spengler // Wikimedia Commons

Navy beans are also known as pea means, and they make an awesome alternative to butter beans as well. Navy beans are small oval-shaped beans with a mild flavor and creamy texture which is quite similar to lima beans. This American staple, beans, have been around since the mid-1800s and can be enjoyed as a classic comfort dish or used in adding thickness to soups.

In addition, Navy beans are more affordable, have a low shelf life, and have a dense nutritional value. Navy beans have a soft texture, so they won’t hold their shape for dishes like salad. They are however easier to prepare, and it is a great stand-in for lime beans in spicy dishes.

3. Cannellini Beans

Cannellini Beans
Image: The Modern Proper

Cannellini beans are small to medium-sized beans that are also known as white kidney beans. These are the largest white beans commonly used in Italian cooking. They have a slightly earthy taste that complements many recipes, and they are a great substitute for butter beans as well. These type of beans becomes tender and creamy when cooked and have slightly thicker skin that enables them to hold their shape.

Compared to other white beans, cannellini beans have a soft creamy flesh that works in any recipe, and it is also high in fiber and protein. You can enjoy these beans in stews and soups.

4. Pinto Beans

Pinto Beans
Image: Foodie Crush

Pinto beans are an excellent alternative to butter beans in Mexican dishes. These beans can be enjoyed whole, refried, or simply mashed or mixed with a broth. Also, pinto beans have been cultivated in Mexico and Peru for thousands of years, so it is a sought-after type of beans.

Pinto beans have minimal flavor and the texture is a little different compared to butter beans, but they are great in recipes with bold flavor. Pinto has a slightly powdery texture and will turn mushy quickly after boiling, so they are usually used in Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes such as burritos or refried beans.

5. Great Northern Beans

Great Northern Beans
Image: Know Your Produce

Great Northern beans are also known as Large white beans, it is smaller than cannellini beans but larger than navy beans. Great Northern Beans have a mild nutty flavor and firm, thin texture, so they can easily take on the flavor of anything they are cooked with. They are pretty popular in America, and they are found to be the perfect alternative for butter beans.

Great Northern beans are not as strong as butter beans but they are known for their creamier texture and the fact that they give your recipe a more tasty and robust flavor. They can be used in casseroles, salads, and soups.

6. Red Kidney Beans

Red Kidney Beans
Image: Ajay Suresh // Wikimedia Commons

Red Kidney beans are quite popular and due to their color and texture, you might think they are nothing like butter beans and you will be right. Red Kidney beans are sweeter than lima beans, they have a meaty texture and they are firmer. Not only are they sweeter, but they are healthier too.

Red kidney beans will add substance to your dish but very little flavor, but not to worry, it allows other ingredients to show off their flavor profile too. Make sure to soak it very well before cooking and boil it on high for at least 10 minutes. They can be used in recipes like curry, stew, and salad.

7. Chickpeas

Image: AlixSaz // Wikimedia Commons

Chickpeas, which are also known as ”garbanzo beans” are legumes that have been enjoyed in many dishes for thousands of years. This type of bean originates from the Middle East and later spreads to Europe and India. It is the star of the falafel, hummus, and chana masala dish. Garbanzo beans have a firm texture and although it can be enjoyed by itself, you can also replace butter beans with it in various recipes.

You can enjoy chickpeas straight from the can or use it in your soup. Chickpeas won’t exactly replace butter beans in all kinds of recipes as it has a strong nutty flavor and gritty texture. Also, you shouldn’t have any issue with them losing texture.

8. Fava Beans

Fava Beans
Image: Tuinboon_zaden // Wikimedia Commons

Fava beans are known as the broad beans, and they happen to be a unique kind of legume. Fava beans come inside a pod which is also safe to eat, but you can do without it. Fava beans can be used as a substitute for butter beans, it works in dips, spreads, and casseroles. You simply have to peel the skin off these beans after cooking them, as this part can be quite tough to eat.

In addition, fava beans have a buttery texture and a slightly sweet flavor that works well with many recipes. These beans can be used in Mediterranean dishes, purees, and curries.

9. Lentils

Image: Medical News Today

In a recipe that calls for protein-rich ingredients, lentil beans make the perfect substitute for butter beans. Lentils are common edible legumes with a slightly nutty flavor and a firm texture. Lentils can be a great addition to a nutrient-rich diet, some of their key benefits include protein, fiber, and key vitamins.

Some of the best ways to enjoy lentils include; string into pasta as a thicker, folding it into omelets, adding them to your dinner salad, or adding them to your soups or stews.

10. Soybeans

Image: David E Mead // Wikimedia Commons

Another healthy alternative you can go for aside lentils is soybeans. Soybean can fill in for butter beans in many recipes, it is considered to be the healthiest legume available. Soybeans are a staple in many vegan and vegetarian recipes as it consists of a huge amount of protein. Cooked soybeans can be used sparingly with grains or vegetables.

However, soybeans are very low on the flavor profile, it has a grassy or beany flavor. When it is included in other recipes, the flavor is not a problem. It has a granular to flaky texture, you can choose to peel or not peel the texture.

11. Black Beans

Black beans for baking
Source: Jessica

Black beans are lively and full of flavor combined with a creamy and rich flavor. This type of legume can easily replace butter beans in many hearty recipes such as taco or chili. Black beans are also packed with protein, and they have a comparable but firm, creamy texture.

Black beans have a slight nutty flavor, and they can also take on the flavor of whatever they are cooked with. This legume comes in handy when you need to spice any dish and switch things up in your recipe in a delightful way.

Final Thoughts

Butter beans do not exactly taste like butter, rather they have a smooth, creamy texture and a mild buttery flavor. So, keep this in mind when choosing a substitute. Overall, keep in mind that using a substitute can be a matter of trial and error, and you might have to make some adjustments till you get it right.

The best replacement for butter beans should have a nutty, firm texture and a mild nutty flavor for it to work with the chosen recipe. Do not hesitate to experiment and add a bit of creativity to go along with it.

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