In this easy weeknight recipe, canned butter beans simmer with lemony, spicy, herbaceous, garlicky flavor until tender and delicious. This satisfying vegan dinner is ready in just 15 minutes!
These butter beans fall into a certain food group in my house: the Sunday afternoon fridge raid. Like my braised chickpeas in a creamy pesto sauce, roasted artichoke hearts, and zucchini feta skewers, it typically involves a can, a half-empty fridge, and 20 minutes or less to get food on my table.
For this recipe, I was inspired by the traditional butter beans with cream and ham that are a beloved staple where I live in Atlanta, Georgia. I wanted to give the southern favorite my Mediterranean treatment! And, though I love a rich Southern classic from time to time, this recipe takes a lighter, more boldly flavored approach.
I kept the luxurious velvety quality that makes butter beans so tasty but added layers of spicy, garlicky, fresh, and lemony flavor. This butter beans recipe is also fully vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and Mediterranean diet-friendly. Nutritious, satisfying, a little bit nostalgic but with a totally refreshing twist. Enjoy it as a light vegetarian main dish or side. Either way, I know you’re going to love it!
Table of Contents
Ingredients for this Butter Beans Recipe
This easy butter beans recipe uses Mediterranean pantry essentials, many of which you likely have on-hand. Here’s what you’ll need, along with easy substitution suggestions:
- Olive oil: Olive oil is used to extract the garlic’s flavor and toast the herbs, making them more intense. Use a high quality, extra virgin variety. Any of the hand selected olive oils from our shop work well with this recipe.
- Garlic: A healthy amount of garlic adds a bold flavor to the beans.
- Spices: Red pepper flakes, Urfa pepper, cumin and smoked paprika give these butter beans a Mediterranean twist. Kosher salt and black pepper enhance the flavor. Note: Urfa pepper is a Turkish spice that adds a slightly earthy heat. Learn all about it in our essential guide and try it yourself at our shop. You can substitute with Aleppo pepper, more red chili flakes, or simply leave it out if you’d like.
- Butter beans: Large, creamy beans that are delicious right out of the can but even better with a quick simmer. You can substitute with any large white bean, like cannelini or Great Northern.
- Lemon: Fresh lemon juice lightens the richness of the beans, perfectly complementing the fresh herbs and garlic. Fresh lime juice would also work.
- Green onions: Used like an herb, green onion is mild enough to enjoy raw. They add a fresh sweet and savory flavor that complements the stewed garlic. You can substitute with shallots or chives if you’d like.
- Fresh herbs: Parsley and dill add a Mediterranean spirit and freshness to the butter beans. Any tender, leafy herb like basil or mint would also work.
How to Make this Butter Beans Recipe
This butter beans recipe builds rich yet bright Mediterranean flavor in just 3 steps and 15 minutes! Here’s how to make it:
- Toast the seasonings. Mince 4 garlic cloves. In a large nonstick pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the minced garlic, ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, and ½ teaspoon each of red pepper flakes, Urfa biber (if using) and cumin. Season with a big pinch of salt and pepper and stir just until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute (do not let the garlic brown or the oil will taste bitter).
- Simmer the beans. Add 2 (15-ounce) cans of drained butter beans and 1 cup of vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer until the beans are warm and the broth is just slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, trim and chop 2 green onions. Prepare ⅓ cup each of chopped dill and parsley.
- Finish and serve. Juice in two lemons, then stir in 2 chopped the green onions and fresh herbs. Serve warm.
Bean Swaps and Substitutions
Butter beans are large creamy beans and easy to find throughout the southern United States. It's worth seeking them out, but if you can't find them you can still make this recipe by swapping in smaller white beans. It won't be quite the same, but it will still be delicious. Here are a few of options:
- Cannellini beans would be my first choice if you can't find butter beans. They are smaller than butter beans but bigger than the other swaps I recommend. They are still really creamy and would work well in this recipe.
- Great Northern Beans are not as creamy as cannellini beans but are still a good middle-of-the-road choice. They are a decent size will still provide a great experience.
- Navy beans are the smallest of the white bean swaps and therefore not as creamy as the other options I listed above. I would save these as a last resort, but they will work in a pinch.
What to Serve with Butter Beans
The slightly spicy, lemony broth for these creamy butter beans is the best part—you’ll want something to soak it up.
Serve with store-bought or homemade crusty bread, plain rice, or lemony rice. You can even toss 10-12 ounces of cooked pasta right into the pan with the beans.
For a low-carb option, serve the butter beans more like a soup with a lemon parmesan salad on the side.
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Butter Beans with Garlic, Lemon and Herbs
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon Urfa pepper (optional)
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- 2 (15- ounce) cans butter beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 ½ cups vegetable broth
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 2 green onions, trimmed and chopped (both white and green parts)
- ⅓ cup roughly chopped parsley
- ⅓ cup roughly chopped dill
- Toast the seasonings. Set a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. Once it begins to shimmer, add the red pepper flakes, urfa pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, minced garlic, and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Stir just until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute (do not let the garlic brown or the oil will taste bitter).
- Simmer the beans. Add the drained butter beans and the broth. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer until the beans are warm and the broth is just slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Finish and serve. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice, green onions, and fresh herbs. Serve warm, with your favorite crusty bread, rice, or tossed with cooked plain pasta.
- Everything comes together very quickly, so it’s best to get your broth, spices, and beans ready before you start cooking. That way you won’t risk burning the spices or browning the garlic while you open the can of beans or broth.
- If you’re sensitive to spice, start with just ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes. You can also leave them out all together if you don’t like spicy food.
- Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.