Home-Cooked Lima Beans from Dried Beans

A staple in our family, my mama has been cooking lima beans from dried beans for as long as I can remember.  If you’ve never had them like this, you’re in for a treat.  Now, I’ll admit that I haven’t always loved these beans.  When I was younger, lima beans and cornbread for dinner made me turn up my nose. My taste buds were still being formed. 🙂

Not anymore!  I’m good with the lima beans now.  Flavorful and good for you, beans are what’s for dinner tonight.

Lima beans, cornbread and a side of collard greens.  Now that’s good eatin’!

Flavored with a hambone, these beans are very tasty.  Mom used a leftover bone from Honeybaked Hams that she keeps in the freezer.  Whenever she gets a hambone, she saves it for just this purpose. 

Here’s how the lima beans are prepared:

Lima Beans from Scratch

Soak a 1 lb. bag of dried lima beans overnight.  She then starts to simmer them about 2 1/2 hours before serving.  She adds enough water to cover and starts a slow simmer, adding the hambone (or if you don’t have a hambone, any leftover ham will do) in about an hour into cooking.

Let it all simmer down and the beans will make their own broth, the ham flavoring it all.

That’s all there is to it.  Easy, dried lima beans from scratch!  If you’ve never had them, I hope you’ll try them.  They are very filling and satisfying, especially with that crusty golden brown cornbread on the side.  I’ll share that recipe with you too.  Mom’s cornbread is wonderful.

In fact, I’m getting ready to share a Knorr dish with y’all and it will be just in time for Thanksgiving.  Homemade Southern cornbread dressing, so the cornbread recipe will be in there too.

Happy Eating!

- Rhoda


  1. Morning Rhoda,

    I LOVE lima beans!!!! What is the difference between Butter Beans and Limas??? The beans in the photo look very pale and not green like the Limas I prepare…is it the photo?
    Fordhooks are my favorite…so plump and creamy…YUM!!

    I will be trying this recipe..I also freeze my Honeybaked ham bones.
    Thanks for sharing with us…this is such comfort food for the cold weather.

    janet xox

    • Hey, Janet, the difference has to be because they are dried. These are definitely limas & I’m not exactly sure what the diff. between these & butter beans are. A different variety for sure. I love Forkhook limas too, the green ones in the frozen bags. Love them. This is an entirely different bean experience cooking them from dried beans.

  2. Oh, Yum! They look so perfectly creamy. I save our ham bones, too. Although I usually use them in a split pea soup. I’ll have to try your limas. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I grew up eating ham & beans and cornbread… and if it was a special occasion, we added Spanish cabbage as a side dish. A big bowl of cucumbers and onions in vinegar always accompanied the meal.

    My mother, grandmother and great grandmother all served beans on a regular basis. It was a cheap and nutritious way to feed a lot of folks when times were tough.

    These days, it’s a comfort food to me and my brothers and sister… a reminder of our childhood and my mother’s favorite meal.

    • Carol McMillion says:

      My mother always cooked the dried butter beans as described but (as well as I remember…..) she added some canned milk to them making them creamier. Has anyone else (my age is 71) my age ever heard of this? I may have them mixed up with opening a can of butter beans and adding canned milk to them. Please help.

      Thanks for your time and trouble.

      • Miss Carol:
        I am 52 years old and grew up in Florida. Both my mother and Granny added milk- not only to the Limas, but Simmered Yellow Squash as well! She would even add a very tiny bit of sugar if the squash was out-of-season, or just left too long before picking, which would make the squash a little bitter. I remember it(and them) fondly. Hope that helps.

      • That is the way my mom made them too. But I can’t remember if she drained all the water off and then added the cream or if she used some of the water that is on them. I am 76 and not sure just how to cook them.


    • I grew up eating lima beans with ham too. It was a comfort food. I haven’t made them in awhile but today I woke up with a craving for them. Funny thing – I forgot how to cook them. Had to come look it up so thanks for this down home cooking recipe that I remember now all too well!!! 😉


  4. My favorites – corn bread, limas, and greens!! My mother would cook limas with “salt meat” and about an hour before being done she added that old southern staple – butter. She used ham bones when we had them but if not that salt meat would do. I still cook them this way and now my grandsons love them too. Thanks for sharing your recipe,

    • What is “salt meat?”

      • Salt meat is salty thick sliced ham or bacon. My dad especially loves that thick sliced salty ham (and I do too, in moderation). I’m pretty sure that is what salt meat is that others are referring to.

      • It’s also known as “salt pork” in the meat section of the supermarket. My Spanish mother in law used salt pork in her homemade pinto beans YUM!!

  5. I will admit to loving those as well. You have to put ketcup on them though. To show my country raisin’, you sop the juice with the cornbread. If you need a spoon to get the last little bit, you get one out of the glass/jar in the middle of the table. Everyone got a fork and knife but spoons were there if you needed one. My husband can’t eat them so eat an extra helping for me. For Janet, the reason for the difference is that these are dried beans.

  6. That is my kind of meal, the kind we have often at our house (minus the ham bone, and still scrumptious!). I hope you will share your mother’s cornbread recipe, too. I am sure it is perfection.

  7. Oh My Goodness!! Didn’t know anyone cooked like this any more!!! I love it!! We have had this on our dinner menu for years!!! Most of the time with ham and on occasion with salt meat!!! YUMMY!!!!!!! 🙂

  8. We had this for dinner night before last! I always save my hambones for cooking lima beans. Even the dog doesn’t get the hambone, and that’s saying something! Looking forward to your recipe for dressing. We have to make it with beef stock at our house because my husband is allergic to chicken!

  9. You might have actually made a convert in the lima bean category. My mom used to jsut serve them boiled and they were the VERY last thing to be eaten.

  10. Becky in 'Bama says:

    I often cook these limas in the cold months of the year. For a change I will add in sliced link smoked sausage and like another commenter, a big dollop of butter at the end. Cornbread and a side of fresh ‘greens’ – what could possibly be any better? *groan* 🙂

  11. My kind of eating.. At home mama always had a table full of different foods each meal. My husband’s mother would put just the limabeans and cornbread on the table. I learned to love the way my MIL cooked. Ham, Limabeans, and cornbread is good enough for anyone! Yumm!!

  12. This is how my mother cooked and her mother before her so I cook like this too. My hubs begs for my cornbread. No Jiffy mix for us. Thanks for showing this good and economical dish that is ages old.

    • Care to share your cornbread with me? Jiffy Mix is a pitiful excuse for cornbread and I can’t make it like my mom, grandmom and all my aunts made it. I long for a really great “Southern” corn pone.

  13. This meal sounds absolutely delicious to me. My mom never cooked like that out here in California. However, I remember my grandmother making lima beans. Couldn’t tell you if they were fresh, frozen or canned, but I remember her adding canned milk and lots of butter. I LOVED them and sure wish I knew how to make them like that.

  14. You go, girl! My kind of Alabama cooking! Delish!

  15. I’ve never cooked with dried lima beans before. In New England, we cook frozen lima beans with corn which is called Succotash…. a Native American dish. We do eat baked beans and franks every Saturday noon, just like my parents did. Our beans are made with molasses and brown sugar. I think that regional food differences are so interesting! Thanks for sharing.

  16. We’ve always called them butter beans as well. To be honest, I’ve always thought that the small little green ones are limas, while the bigger, more “butter” colored and textured ones were butter beans. But I really don’t know for sure. All I know is that I love ’em!

    (And my mama always used to use the pepper-cured country ham in ours. Yummalicious….)

    • Me too. Little green ones are lima beans, white ones are butter beans at my house as well. They are both lima beans (from Lima, Peru) but the butter beans are a different variety. But no matter what you call the beans …gotta have that beautiful cornbread! Cant’ wait for your recipe for that Rhoda! And your dressing!

  17. I love Lima Beans! You made me hungry just talking about them. They taste so good on a cold day! Especially with the cornbread or a biscuit.

  18. Oh my goodness, I am running to the pantry to pull out my dried lima beans right now! What a great cool Autumn day meal! Thanks!

  19. Thanks, I’ve never cooked lima beans before and love them. Now being single I want to make my own Lima beams with ham. Thanks to
    you they are now soaking and I will at ham pieces when I simmer them. Now all I have to do is find a good recipe for corn bread. Be Well! John of Nevada.

  20. my family always added butter and some black pepper at the end…love ’em!

    • I have always called them butter beans because they were dried. I washed them good and soaked them. Put them on to boil with butter till soft and the water turned a ilky color. added some salt and pepper and that was all I did. Never used ham in them. so good for you because of fiber.

  21. 2 cups fresh ground white corn meal 1 cup self rising flour 1tsp.salt 1/4 tsp baking powder 1 cup buttermilk mix all ingredients together to thin batter add buttermilk. if you like bread moist in the middle make batter thinner bake @ 500 deg. about 20 minutes. no sugar please !!!!

  22. I am making some limas right now. I lightly fried some leftover uncooked bacon in the bottom of my pot.. They smell good already and I have only been cooking them about 10 minutes. This really makes me think of my Granny, she passed away 8 years ago. How I miss her cooking that I took for granted when I was little!

  23. karen kee says:

    omg i didn’t think people really eat beans like this any more. i love beans i love them with every thing three times a day people give me their bags of beans to cook for them because they have no idea how to cook them. i am called the bean lady because of my love of beans.my great grandmother cooked them all the time she was a native american her succotash was my favorite are there any new beans out there that you think i have’t tried please reply.

    • ArgotMay says:

      Karen, have you tried adzuki beans? Please tell me all about beans. : ) Ever eaten soybeans? Only 1% of them are organic. Don’t eat the other ones. Ever had the Anasazi beans? What are your fav. green beans to eat raw? I’m in zone 6a/hot/dry. I have irrigation, though.

    • judy carlson says:

      Cuban Black Beans are unbelievably delicious. Mom was a Boston gal so we did have brown bread and Boston baked and dad was a Navy man from the Midwest-always had navy beans boiled up with a bay leaf or ham-either way-LOVE beans!

  24. Wow, its been awhile since I’ve heard this discussion. Being from the AR/TN area, the dried beans were usually called butter beans, later I heard the term dried Lima beans. In our family, it seems to be the same unlike the fresh green Lima bean (I love the Fordhook). We also cooked the fresh or dried speckled butter bean. I suspect the terms are used interchangeably most places unless you are a farmer or scientist. For the dried, our process was much the same for most dried beans with the exception of the butter beans. Butter beans are a little more tender than most other dried beans so I do not soak (neither overnight or quick soak). Also, since they are more tender, I never cook at a boil but simply let them simmer. Yes, we added either ham bone, salt pork, or smoked ham hocks. Depending upon how large a batch I am cooking, I check the beans after one hour of simmering. I also salt them at this time instead of salting at the beginning of cooking.
    RE: Cornbread. We always used yellow corn meal but that seems to be just a family preference (and mostly what was grown in that area). CAUTION: Do not mistake corn meal for “corn meal mix” . They are not the same. My mother and grandmother had converted their recipe to self-rising cornmeal which, in the yellow, has become more difficult to find but you can convert the plain cornmeal to the self-rising easily. I do that and keep it in an separate jar. It’s worked great. Like most family cooks, neither my mother or grandmother ever used a recipe. I had the biscuits done pat but couldn’t quite get the cornbread to turn out right. So, my mother kind of deconstructed it and wrote the recipe for me. I will post it in a comment later since I can’t seem to lay my hands on it right now. But I’m with Rhoda, a good plate of beans, cornbread, and turnip greens (or collard) and its food for the gods. It’s good for you, too.

  25. I still make these. But I add French fries and slice an onion to eat with the beans. Chow chow is also good with the beans.

  26. My MIL use to make these on Sundays! I have tried to replicate this recipe for years to help make my late MIL part of my children’s history. MIL called them butter beans (made with small dried lima beans) So I call them Grandma Helen’s Butter Beans.

    I have hunted and hunted for the recipe; those I found either had too many ingredients or too much pot liquor. This recipe, so simple, so basic, looks to be the one. Thank you!

    My MIL kept her cast iron skillet beautifully seasoned and was a master at rendering the purest fat to save in a coffee cup for cooking.

    I was introduced to Southern cooking by my late great MIL, Helen P. Austin.

  27. I am a Chicago boy who was blessed to meet and marry a Georgia peach from Savannah. Boy, could she cook, and I have learned to love southern cooking. She’s 75 years old now, and has dementia, so her cooking and housekeeping days are over. I am not a cook, butI longed for baby limas, served over brown rice with chopped raw onion on top, ham, greens, and corn bread. I don’t know how she prepared them, and she can’t remember, so thank you for this recipe. It’s exactly the way I remember her doing it. Now I need to check out the rest of your site for the cornbread recipe.

  28. Are beans covered while simmering or not? Do you rinse again after soaking overnight and add new water. Why leave this info out? Leaves one purely guessing.

  29. This was my first time cooking the dried lima beans. I didnt know the dried beans were different than the Fordhook lima beans. Now i cooked mine in the crock pot with broth and stock (chicken). Added butter, pepper, let cook slowly while off to church. Four hrs later return to a dry mushy substance -almost dried out so i Added more broth. Stirred. Turn off pot, since still hot The beans were okay. I love them over rice with cornbread as well. but they were more on the dry side than i expected. Are they normally a drier texture than the green fordham beans? Any ideas how to revive this pot before hubby tries them? Also emptied the entire bag — 2 lbs. I figured i cd always freeze them. But wondered if i did not have enough liquid. I did not add any water. Just the broth & the stock.

    • Hi, Elvera, I am not sure what to tell you. THis recipe is what my mom has done for years and she never does it in the crockpot. I’m wondering if that is what dried them out so much.

  30. Great recipe, I love baby lima beans and butter beans, they look delicious! 🙂 I did a post last night on how I make my butter beans! check it out.

    Michael 😉

  31. I grew up with a Mother who didn’t cook!! I am 78.5 years old now and vegan!! What do you put with the dried lima’s that is not meat or bones??

    • Hi, Fern, my mom always uses meat to season, so I’m not sure what to tell you. Maybe there are some spice mixes that you could add that would flavor.

    • Bay leaf.

      • Chopped minced fresh garlic, or jar garlic, basil chopped or dried, chopped onions, green pepper. Bay leaf, chopped celery, dried red pepper, or any pepper of your choice, seasoned salt. Sometimes I use all the ingredients especially if I don’t use meat. I have also added a teaspoon or two of Mrs Dash original seasoning.

  32. This is such a treat. My daddy used to make these a lot when we were little, and I always loved their creamy texture and smoky flavor. I don’t like ham, so I made these with bacon and they were delicious.

    For the vegan poster: You can always add a bit of smoked torula yeast (available in health food stores) for that smoky meaty flavor and use veggie broth for your liquid. I use that all the time in my split pea soup and my family loves it.

  33. just thought I’d recommend you try smoked turkey tails instead of ham. Interesting and quite meaty! Also good with cornbread. I prefer the sweet variety of cornbread.

  34. It sounds great but it would be even nicer if you had an actual recipe for others to go by. See even in dry beans you have 4 different types of Lima Beans. You never said what other ingredients you placed in yours. The picture isn’t clear enough to determine if you use large or small white Lima beans. Could you please do that?

  35. My Mom made Ham and Lima beans with the dried Lima Beans and a Ham butt!! I just love them!!

  36. I cook limas and cook them for hours and still hard as a rock, but I add creamed corn from the can and succotash chew the limas until my teeth crack, ugh!

    • Freda Wampler says:

      Did you soak the beans overnight? If you did and the bean are still hard it could be that the dried beans you have were too old. The longer the dried beans are stored, the longer they take to cook.

  37. I made some last night. I add one whole sliced onion, a half cup of celery, some chopped garlic, a smoked ham hock, and salt and pepper. I like to simmer them until creamy and then pull the ham hock out to shred the meat into it.

  38. There are quite a few species of Lima Beans (from Peru, hence, Lima). They range from tiny to huge, and from dark green to bright purple to brown and speckled. The “Butter Beans” from the US south are usually big and white.

    What they are called has nothing to do with whether they are dried.

    For a quick meal, Americas Test Kitchen said the “Goya” brand, in a can, were really good. You might try these to see if you like them.

    I ate them at Grannies’ house, and they are delicious. Next time I will add a bit of real butter, like somone suggested.

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