substitute for butter beans

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Are you making a recipe that calls for butter beans? If you are and you’ve just noticed that you have none in your kitchen, then this list of easy ways to substitute for butter beans is sure to come in handy for you!

It outlines 8 easy butter beans substitute options that are very easy to find! Some you may even have in your kitchen right now!

substitute for butter beans


What are butter beans?

Butter beans are large whitish or cream-colored beans that are very popular in the Southern United States and South America. They are from the legume family and are rich, savory, and buttery in flavor and velvety smooth in texture.

What is the difference between lima beans and butter beans?

Butter beans have many other names including butter peas, Chad beans, Gigante beans, Madagascar beans, sieva beans, double beans, wax beans, and the very popular Lima beans named after the capital city of Peru, where it originated from.

Although many people refer to butter beans and lima beans interchangeably in many parts of the world, and lima beans and butter beans are the same species, there is a difference between the two.

Butter beans are a larger variety of lima beans that are flat, cream, or white in color and creamy or buttery when cooked. While lima beans are a smaller, green variety that is sometimes called baby limas with a texture similar to fresh peas when cooked.

For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on mature (whitish, cream) butter beans and finding substitutes for these. 

Uses of butter beans

Butter beans are used in a lot of recipes to add this rich, buttery flavor to a dish. Some popular ways to use butter beans are:

  • Side dish recipes such as chicken, fish, and beef
  • Soups, meat and chicken stews, vegetable stews
  • Casseroles and bake recipes
  • Dips, pies, gratins, chowders, and mash
  • Bean salads and so much more.

Kitchen substitutes chart


Best substitutes for butter beans in cooking

The best butter bean substitute options are Cannellini beans, navy beans, great northern beans, pinto beans, black beans, fava beans, flageolet beans, and garbanzo beans. Each will be discussed in more detail below:

Cannellini beans or white kidney beans

cannellini beans


These beans are easily substituted with butter beans in many recipes.

They’re very similar to butter beans in terms of the look, and, while cannellini beans taste nutty and earthy compared to the rich, buttery flavor of butter beans, they can indeed replace butter beans. Use them in soups, stews, casseroles, salads, and other dishes because both are soft and tender when cooked.

So, if you’re looking for a really good butter bean alternative, cannellini beans are one of the best options.


Navy beans

navy beans


These are another easy substitute to use in place of butter beans in recipes like soups and casseroles.

Navy beans have a flavor that can be described as creamy, slightly nutty, and mild which means they will not overpower any meal. Also, navy beans are soft and velvety when cooked which is very much like cooked butter beans.

So, in a pinch, you can easily use navy beans in place of butter beans and the recipe will stay relatively the same save for a lack of that buttery richness that butter beans always add to a recipe. 


Great Northern beans

Great Northern beans


If you read about these substitutes for great northern beans, you’ll see that butter beans can be used in place of those large white beans. It is no surprise then that another easy swap for butter beans is great Northern beans.

These beans are mild, delicate, and slightly nutty in flavor, compared to rich and buttery butter beans.

However, they do become rather soft when cooked, and, because they have a mild taste and will easily absorb the flavors around them, they can work wonders in soups, stews, and casseroles as a replacement for butter beans.


Pinto beans

Pinto beans


Pinto beans work as a substitute for butter beans in recipes like dips, stews, soups, and casseroles.

Like great northern beans and navy beans, pinto beans are earthy and mild and very absorbent to the other flavors it is cooked with which means they won’t overpower your meal.

Besides that, cooked pinto beans are creamy, soft, and mushy which is somewhat similar to the soft velvety texture of cooked butter beans. 

So, if you’re out of butter beans, but you have pinto on hand, it can work in your recipe. 


Black beans

uncommon substitute for butter beans


Black beans look nothing like butter beans due to the vast color difference. However, based on the texture and flavor of black beans, they are quite easy to substitute in meals that call for butter beans.

Unlike the beans listed above, which are mostly soft and creamy, but a lot less buttery than butter beans. Black beans are a very close match to butter beans in terms of their velvety smoothness when cooked.

Black beans are not a popular substitute for butter beans. However, I’ve used it multiple times to replace butter beans in recipes like soups and stews of course, but also as a side dish replacement and even in some sauces with success.


Fava beans


Fava beans also called faba beans have a very similar texture and flavor to butter beans so they are a very easy substitute to use in cooking.

Mash them up as they’re very easy to mash and use them to replace butter beans in recipes such as dips and spreads.


Flageolet beans 

Flageolet beans is a substitute for butter beans


These are other ways to substitute butter beans in soups, casseroles, dips, or even side dishes. Flageolet beans are small, pale green beans that are very mild in flavor and with a texture that is creamy and tender when cooked. 

Flageolet beans can also replace butter beans in salads or slow-cooked dishes as they stay whole even after cooking. 


Garbanzo beans (or chickpeas)

easy alternative for butter beans


What do chickpeas taste like? Chickpeas or garbanzo beans taste slightly nutty, but has a very neutral flavor, which makes them easy to blend with other ingredients. They can be savory and filling.

Garbanzo beans have a slightly nutty and savory, but mostly mild flavor that makes them easy to add to many different recipes. They also have somewhat of a creamy texture, as well as a somewhat grainy texture similar to cooked potatoes. 

Thus, garbanzo beans are a great alternative to butter beans in dips, mash, salads, stews, stir-fries, and more.

Favorite butter beans recipes

These are some of my favorite butter bean recipes. You should check them out if you’re looking for ideas on what to make with butter beans:

Now that you have 8 easy to find beans that you can use to replace butter beans in many recipes, you never have to fret if you’re out of butter beans at the last minute or you can’t find any in the store.

And, while it is always the best option to use the exact ingredients recommended for a recipe, sometimes you can’t find them, and in many cases, these substitutes for butter beans will work in most recipes that call for butter beans!

Feel free to share in the comments which butter beans substitute you used and in what recipe!


More substitutes 

Are you making a recipe that calls for butter beans? check out this list of easy ways to substitute for butter beans is sure to come in handy for you! It outlines 8 easy butter beans substitute options that are very easy to find! Some you may even have in your kitchen right now!

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