Butter beans, also known as lima beans, are a versatile legume that can be used in a variety of dishes. Their creaminess complements soups, stews, pasta, and even baked goods perfectly, making them irreplaceable in most dishes. You can count on these beans to be both flavorful and nutritious when it comes to taste.
We know what you are thinking; because as popular as they are, it can be quite hard to find them in local stores. However, don’t be disheartened because there are some readily available beans you can use as substitutes for butter beans. All of these alternatives will get you pretty close to the same texture and taste, and they have numerous health benefits in the pocket as well.
8 Best Substitutes For Butter Beans
1. Cannellini Beans
The first choice when it comes to finding a last-minute substitute for butter beans is the cannellini bean. This white kidney bean is low in saturated fat and calories, making it a healthier choice overall. Cannellini beans are also a good protein, fiber, and iron source, perfect for people who are all about nutritious living.
When cooking with cannellini beans, be sure to simmer them for a longer period of time so that they will become softer and easier to mash. One thing that you must keep in mind is the difference in flavor profile, as cannellini beans are significantly milder than butter beans with a prominent nutty and earthy flavor.
How to substitute: For every one cup of butter beans called for in a recipe, replace it with an equal amount of cooked cannellini beans.
If you’re in the mood for some hearty and filling food, navy beans are the way to go. These small white beans have been a staple in American cuisine since the mid-1800s. Their affordable price, long shelf life, and nutritional value make them perfect for people who want to get the most bang for their buck. Navy beans are also very versatile, as you can use them in soups, stews, casseroles, and even baked goods.
When cooking with navy beans, be sure to soak them overnight so that they will cook evenly and not become mushy. The texture of these beans is extremely delicate, so they dissolve quickly when cooked, absorbing the dish’s flavor.
How to substitute: Use navy beans in a 1:1 ratio when substituting with butter beans as they have the same texture and consistency.
3. Borlotti Beans
Also known as cranberry beans, Borlotti beans are a popular choice when it comes to substitutes for butter beans. These large kidney-shaped beans are not only low in saturated fat but also a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins. They’re a relative of kidney beans and pinto beans that come from Colombia but are now primarily grown in Italy.
Borlotti bean is used in many Italian, Portuguese, Turkish, and Greek dishes. They have a delicate nutty flavor with a fuller sweetness level than other white beans, and they add a luxurious taste to whatever you are cooking. Be sure to simmer them until they’re soft so that they will mash easily.
How to substitute: One cup of cooked Borlotti beans can replace one cup of cooked butter beans in any recipe.
4. Great Northern Beans
Great northern beans, as the name suggests, come from the north. These medium-sized white beans are popular in Scandinavian, German, and French cuisines. They have a delicate flavor that is perfect for dishes that need a little bit of sweetness. Great northern beans are also a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins.
Great Northern beans have a very mild flavor and a thin skin, so they tend to absorb the taste of whatever they’re cooked with. They make fantastic additions to stews and soups since they provide a hearty texture.
How to substitute: Replace butter beans with great northern beans in a 1:1 ratio.
5. Pinto Beans
We were speculative about including pinto beans on this list as a butter bean substitute because they have a very different flavor profile. Pinto beans are small brownish-red beans that are popular in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. They’re often used in refried beans, chili, and other hearty dishes.
Pinto beans have a nutty taste with a hint of sweetness compared to butter beans’ rich and buttery flavor profile, but they provide a similar creamy texture when cooked. You can add some spices to pinto beans to give them a more robust flavor.
How to substitute: For every one cup of butter beans, replace it with an equal amount of cooked pinto beans.
6. Red Kidney Beans
Almost every cuisine all over the world has some dish that uses red kidney beans, and for a good reason. Red kidney beans have a strong flavor with a hint of sweetness. They’re often used in stews, chili, curries, and other dishes where their robust flavor can shine through. One reason we think they’ll be the perfect substitute for butter beans is their similar shape and texture.
It is important to cook kidney beans thoroughly in order to minimize the risk of serious illness. The higher levels of lectin in dried kidney beans make them hazardous if not prepared correctly. When using these beans, be sure to soak them for at least 8 hours prior to cooking and boil them on high for at least 10 minutes before lowering the heat.
How to substitute: You can use red kidney beans as a 1:1 replacement for butter beans.
7. Garbanzo Beans
Like cannellini beans, garbanzo beans are also a good source of protein and fiber. They are slightly higher in calories than other beans on this list but are still lower in saturated fat, which is a win-win when you don’t have anything else to work with.
Famous in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, garbanzo beans are often used in hummus, falafel, and other dishes. They have a nutty taste with a hint of bitterness that is unique to them. Garbanzo beans are also known as chickpeas, so they can be used interchangeably if you see either name on a recipe.
How to substitute: Use garbanzo beans as a one-to-one replacement for butter beans.
8. Flageolet Beans
Last but not least are the flageolet beans, a type of kidney bean that is often used in French cuisine. These small pale green beans have a delicate flavor that is similar to that of a green pea. They’re often used in stews and soups as they tend to hold their shape well.
Flageolet beans can be challenging to find in regular supermarkets, but you can usually find them in specialty stores or online. When it comes to nutritional value, you’ll be getting a good amount of protein, fiber, and vitamins with these beans.
How to substitute: One cup of butter beans can be replaced with one cup of cooked flageolet beans.
Now that you know some of the best substitutes for butter beans get cooking! Butter beans are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. With these substitutes, you’ll be able to create your favorite recipes without worrying about what to do with the leftovers.