Side dish

Uncle Albert, Juneteenth and lima beans

Lima beans with bacon DSC 3686

On June 18, 1878, my great-great-great-uncle Albert was sitting on the front porch of his lovely Austin home, Las Ventanas, surveying the bounty of his garden. In a letter to his dear wife, who was visiting kinfolk in Tennessee, he wrote that the honeysuckle and roses were in full bloom and that there was “a good many butter beans on the vines, in fact the vines are loaded.”

Don’t butter beans sound lovely? So creamy, rich and smooth. But unfortunately, growing up I knew them by their less-delicious name, lima beans. And like many people, I was never a fan.

So what exactly is it about this much-loathed legume that make people go, “Blech!” when it’s mentioned? Could it be the word lima? The bean, which hails from South America is named after the capital of Peru. Yet instead of pronouncing it lee-ma, as that city is known, we instead say lie-ma, which sounds like either a disease, “Sorry, I’m not going to be at work this week, I’ve got a nasty bout of lima,” or a crazy old aunt whose name is invoked to discipline unruly children: “If you don’t eat your beans, you’re spending the day with old Aunt Lima!” Or perhaps it’s the texture, which can be both tough and mushy; the taste, which is bland; or the color, which is the sheen of old green linoleum circa 1968.

But beyond all those factors, people do eat them. And surprisingly, even enjoy them. So it’s unpopularity probably boils down to a bad case of PR. Take children’s literature. Alexander, in his woeful tale Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-good, Very Bad Day, suffers many crimes against his happiness, one of which is being forced to eat lima beans. That casts quite an impression on young minds. Or take restaurants. I can’t remember ever seeing lima beans on a restaurant menu, not even at most meat-and-three joints, which serve just about every other vegetable found under the sun. There are countless other examples of this smear campaign against lima beans, I’m sure, but let’s not dwell on the negative. I’m here to tell you that I am a convert: Lima beans aren’t yuck, they’re yum!

Lima beans with bacon | Homesick Texan

The best lima beans are fresh out of the pod, and in some parts of the country, such as Texas, you can find them now. But you can also buy them frozen or dried. And they’re very versatile—for instance, you can boil them with a ham hock, fry them with sausage and peppers, puree them into a hummus, throw them into a stew, sprinkle them into a salad, or bake them with molasses and mustard. And while the bean by itself is indeed sort of unrewarding, this quality is what makes it such a marvelous vehicle for other flavors.

Because they’re in season, it’s no surprise you’ll find them served at Juneteenth celebrations. Juneteenth or Freedom Day commemorates June 19, 1865, the day the Union troops under the leadership of General Gordon Granger stormed Galveston Island to free Texas’s slaves more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. The term Juneteenth (a hybrid of June and nineteenth) didn’t come into being until the 1920’s, but freedom anniversary celebrations have occurred in Texas on June 19 since 1866. And in 1980, the state (in a long overdue act) finally declared it an official holiday. (It’s now a holiday in 13 other states as well.)

Some have called it the African-American Fourth of July, and like that holiday, huge outdoor parties are thrown with live music, dancing, speeches, Miss Juneteenth pageants, baseball games, fireworks, pie-making contests and of course, heaping plates of good food. Barbecued ribs, fried chicken, corn bread, black-eyed peas, collard greens, okra, corn on the cob, fried green tomatoes and sweet potatoes are often served, along with, of course, lima beans.

Lima beans with bacon | Homesick Texan

Just like the present, back in 1878 there was a Juneteenth blow out in Austin, with people traveling to the capital city from all over the state to join in the fun. Uncle Albert wrote to his wife on June 19 about the occasion saying, “Think I will go out this evening to the celebration.” He didn’t mention what he ate, but considering his bounty of butter beans, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were on the menu that day.

So in honor of Juneteenth and Uncle Albert, I offer you lima beans with garlic, rosemary and bacon. Trust me, even if you think you don’t like limas, try these creamy, bacony beans and you just may change your mind. And if you’re still not convinced, think of them as butter beans because really, how could anything with the word butter in it taste bad?

Lima beans with bacon DSC 3686
5 from 1 vote

Lima beans with bacon

Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain


  • 6 slices bacon
  • 3 cups of fresh baby lima beans removed from the pod or 3 cups of frozen baby lima beans
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest


  1. Fry the bacon in a skillet until all the fat is rendered, remove from skillet and crumble. Leave 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the skillet.

  2. Add lima beans, garlic, half the crumbled bacon, basil, rosemary, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup of water to the skillet and lightly season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer covered, while occasionally stirring, for 20 minutes or until the beans are tender.

  3. When the beans are done, top with remaining crumbled bacon and lemon zest. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve warm. 

  1. wheresmymind

    Ok ok…you had me at the word BACON!

  2. Who cares what kind of beans they were, you paired them with bacon and that makes them automatically good!

  3. Vladimir


    lima beans and coleslaw
    do not make up for tasty tasty cow

  4. I’ve always loved lima beans (or butter beans as I come from the UK) and had never encountered lima bean hatred until I came to the US. I love their almost creaminess – I much prefer them in veggie chili to red kidney beans. I agree with you, I don’t get it, what did they ever do?!?

  5. I’ve long harboured a suspicious nature towards the loathsome lima bean… but, almost anything is improved with yummy, yummy bacon!

  6. Hey Tex,

    I agree this vegetable gets a bad rap. Unfairly so it seems.

    I would have thought you may have mentioned succotash, as lima beans are an integral part of the dish, are they not ?

    I have never seen fresh lima beans (city slicker), only frozen or canned and the frozen ones are great to work with.

    Maybe this might be the start of a new vegetable foodtrend, much the way edamame have become

  7. Tex? Nice one, Tommy. I like that.

    1878? How fantastic that you’ve got family letters from 1878. As for lima beans, I agree, butter beans are much nicer sounding!

  8. I prefer calling them butter beans, as ‘lima’ in Estonian means ‘slime’ and ‘slime beans’ don’t sound too good.
    Funny enough, I’ve got no troubles with the capital of Peru – I never think of that as anything else but a proper name..

  9. You’re so right about the bad association with the name “lima bean.” Butter bean sounds creamy, smooth, and sweet — and even though I’m not a huge fan, I’m going to give them another try.

  10. Last year I became a brussel sprout fan; last week a beet fan; and now just possibly as a result of this post, a lima bean fan. Cool beans as they say!

  11. Jaye Joseph

    We always called them butter-beans growing up and they’ve always been a favorite of mine. Succotash is one of my favorite “sides”!

  12. I absolutely LOVE lima beans! And succotash is a perennial favorite. This year, I’ll add your dish to my repotoire.

    MMMM. LIMAS!!!!


  13. There’s just something about Lima Beans and Bacon..

    Very enjoyable blog! =)

  14. SteamyKitchen

    succotash is my fav way to have lima beans. so maybe succotash + bacon is next on my list?

  15. My family hails from a plot of land east of Dallas, and my GreatGrandmother ALWAYS served “butter beans” with Sunday lunch alongside plates of “cream” potatoes and chicken fried steak and cornbread. Imagine my surprise when, in college!, I learned that my much beloved “butter bean” was the lima bean everyone else hated and feared!

    Call them whatever you like, they are mamma-slapping good. And this… this recipe I must try before the week’s over. Thanks!


  16. Lisa Fain

    Wheresmymind–Isn’t bacon a magical word?

    Brilynn–Yep, everything’s better with bacon!

    Vladimir–I’m sorry you’re not enjoying the vegetables but I’ll be writing about meat soon.

    Sarah–I really think it’s the word “lima.” Especially the way we pronounce it it just sounds so yucky.

    S’Kat–Nothing’s bad with bacon, and if you call them butter beans, they might even taste better!

    Tommy–Of course! How could I forget succotash? And I bet if the fresh ones were more readily available, they could become as popular as edamame.

    Tea–I come from a family of savers, and my grandparents have all sorts of family letters and documents–I love reading them not only for the history but now I’m also interested in reading about what they were growing/eating.

    Pille–Slime, eh? That’s very unpleasant! Butter beans it is!

    Lydia–They’re wonderful with meat, blue cheese, in stews and pureed–like most legumes they’re quite versatile and very healthy.

    Ronnie–I still haven’t conquered my distaste of beets (they’re next on my list) but give these a try!

    Jaye Joseph–Succotash is wonderful–and such a fun name for a dish.

    N–Yea! A lima bean lover! Enjoy!

    Allen–Thank you!

    Steamy Kitchen–Succotash plus bacon sounds like a winner to me!

    Brin–You’re welcome! And what a classic Texas lunch! I love cream potatoes. And yes, whoever thought to call them butter beans instead of lima beans knew what they were doing.

  17. Had grandparents in Hempstead that grew, among many other things, lomas, so I’ve been eating them forever, and your recipe is pretty much the only way I’ve had them, and they are great!
    And my Juneteenth memories are sitting out in Miller Outdoor Theater in Houston at the JT Blues Festival, listening to Lightnin’, Johnny Clyde Copeland, Gatemouth, and many more.
    Good Stuff with limas too!

  18. Hmm, I never thought lima beans were particularly disgusting. The name skeeved me, but I ate them (like anything my parents put before me) and liked them. I like dried lima beans a lot (I think they’re salted or seasoned, they taste wonderful) and I just like lima beans… I know people think I’m odd for what I eat, but wahtever.

    PS Oh I didn’t know butter beans were one and the same. Funny, restaurants now serve butter beans and it’s just a fancy way of saying lima, huh? They looked different thuogh… hmm..

  19. I’ve never been a bean lover. When shelling peas I would prefer to eat them out of the pod. Or seasoned and dried. Never could go for that texture…

    But that sounds like a nice recipe.

    I’ve had fried green tomatoes at the Potatoe Patch, the home of the throwed roll, a very down home restaurant north of Houston on FM 1960 E.

    Yes they throw the rolls, hot out of the oven, served with honey butter, and plate after plate of fried green tomatoes. And all this BEFORE you even look at the menu. *drool*

  20. i had a wonderful medley of butter beans, corn and carrots (a most delicious succotash…serving as a bed for probably the most fabulous tasting halibut i have ever had!!! and i grew up in greece, so…i’ve had some mighty fine seafood in my day!) where did i have this dreamy meal? at “an american place” in st.louis, missouri.

  21. I love lima beans with bacon! I just add lima beans, bacon, salt and pepper but the garlic, lemon juice, basil, and rosemary you added sounds delicious too!

  22. Anything with bacon is good 🙂

  23. Lisa, my favourite way to eat lima beans is mashed, on bruschetta drizzled with some top quality olive oil. Done properly, that captures a season on a plate. Thanks also for the history lesson — it’s always fascinating to discover deeper social meanings about food.

  24. christine (myplateoryours)

    Love those closeup bean pics. I have always been a lima bean fan (except for those dessicated frozen ones) but, interestingly, despite the fact that I had an old Aunt Lila. Very close.

  25. Lisa Fain

    Frank–I miss Miller Outdoor Theater–I saw so many concerts and plays there–such a pleasureable place to spend a summer afternoon and evening. Johnny Clyde Copeland gave me his guitar pick once after a show, I was thrilled!

    Yvo–Where have you seen butter beans on the menu here in NYC? I’ve never seen them. Cool!

    Olivia–You should try it, I bet you’d enjoy it. And how did I miss the Potato Patch? My mom lives off 1960 so I’ll have to check it out next time I’m home–plate after plate of fried green tomatoes sounds heavenly!

    Raquel–Fish and limas make an excellent team–I’ll have to try halibut on a bed of succotash.

    Amy–Yep, my recipe sort of classes up the old standard, plus I have a rosemary plant that was just begging to be harvested.

    Cynthia–No truer words have ever been written. Bacon is the best!

    Rob–I love mashed limas too, it really brings all the flavors together.

    Christine–Thanks! And Lila is a much prettier name than lima. I think Pille nailed it when she said lima means slime in Estonian.

  26. YAYYYYYYY! And it is Potatoe spelled with an e, yes…Dan Quayle style 😉

  27. Here is the info at

    Two Miles East of I-45 at 2020 FM 1960 East, Houston, Texas 77073 – (281) 443-3530
    11:00 AM to 9:00 PM Sunday – Thursday, 11:00AM to 10:00 PM Friday and Saturday

    I hope you go visit your mom soon, I would love to hear about it.

  28. Lima Beans and Bacon sounds great!

    I wonder if Uncle Albert had any Red Soda?

    There was a great story on NPR’s Day to Day yesterday about Junteenth & Red Soda. The reporter (Karen Grigsby Bates) finally got hold of some Big Red – she thought it tasted like carbonated robitussin! Yep, that is what I always though of it.

  29. Oh, I must try this. I’m already a fan of lima beans; always have been, for whatever reason. With bacon and rosemary? Out of control!

  30. TAG! You’re it! 😉 One of the WC/WFD Nesties started this little game 😉 The details are in my blog, if you’d like to join us!
    Have fun 🙂

  31. Congrats on your interview at Culinate! I also voted for you to go to Napa (Tho I wanna go with you! *winks*)


  32. Scribbit

    How did I not know these things were also the same as butter beans?

    Learn something everyday.

  33. Lisa Fain

    Olivia–That’s way uptown! But with the beltway it shouldn’t take too long to get there. Will give you a full report if I make it there next time I’m home.

    Tori–Hmmmm, he probably didn’t have red soda. I’ll have to listen to that report–Big Red is indeed an acquired taste.

    Trisha–Thanks, I’ll have to check that out.

    Lisa–It is out of control, as are most things with bacon. Enjoy!

    Nika–Sigh, I didn’t win, but thanks for the support!

    Scribbit–I reckon the beans fall into the “a rose by any other name is still a rose” category!

  34. this blog is amazing!
    I love lima beans, they taste like Japanese soybeans but even better. YUMMY, I must try them!

  35. Daniel Koontz

    Hi Homesick Texan!

    Not a comment re this post specifically–I just wanted to say I think your blog is exceptional. Both my wife and I read it regularly (you initially drew me in with your sopapillas recipe by the way).

    Really impressed in particular with your photos and how “warm” they always look. Love it.

    Keep up the great work.

    Daniel Koontz

  36. Anonymous

    Butter beans and limas are two different varieties of the same species.

  37. Lima beans were tainted for me by their inclusion in the monstrosity that is Veg-All.

    I like all those things separately, or mixed in any other formulation, but whenever I saw Veg-All on a plate (or more typically, in a tray), I knew it was a bad sign for the whole meal.

    I like the frozen ones, now, and what bean isn’t better with a little bacon?

  38. Lisa Fain

    Ulla–Thanks! And this recipe would be terrific with edamame I bet!

    Daniel–Thanks for stopping by! I’m so pleased to hear y’all are enjoying the blog!

    Renz–How could I forget about Veg-all–Yuck! And yes, you usually saw it on a tray straight from the school cafeteria lunch line.

    Anon–That’s what my grandmother mentioned to me, but that said, many people do call lima beans butter beans.

  39. A. Pasupathi

    Can’t believe no one else has mentioned this. I think eating lima beans is not “cool” because of the “F” word. No, not that one! Flatulence! If you’re not used to eating lots of legumes that’s what it causes.

  40. Lisa Fain

    A.Pasupathi-Ha! Yes, that other F word is an issue for some people, but I find when you eat fresh vs. dried the F problem is reduced.

  41. Hey Lisa – I went to look it up, and I had them at The Little Owl, but those were definitely not lima beans (unless when they get bigger, they turn white?). Tastewise, they were slightly different, but, well, look at the picture yourself.

    (I double checked on MenuPages and it does indeed say those were butter beans.) So weird!!!

  42. Lisa Fain

    Yvo–Dried limas are big and white, so who knows? There are a bunch of different strains so you will find variations. My grandma’s on the case!

  43. I always thought lime and butter beans were different. The butter beans I’ve always enjoyed were larger and creamer than the limas. But, now I’m not sure. I hope your grandma can help us with this one! Delicious photos, BTW!

  44. Lisa Fain

    Susan–Thanks! She hasn’t gotten back to me, but I believe it’s what I suspected–variations on the same theme with some people using the terms (such as myself!) interchangably.

  45. Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D.

    Juneteenth is America’s 2nd Independence Day.

    Together we will see Juneteenth become a National Holiday in America!

    Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D.
    National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign
    National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF)

  46. pratibha

    ah.. so you call them Lima beans.
    we cook it here too, albeit a bit differently. Boil the beans in plenty of salted water, drain, cool and peel off the skin! ( yes, tedious process normally assigned to us as kids on Sundays and Holidays!)
    A spoonful of Oil, some caraway seeds, pop ’em, add some chilly flakes, add the beans, saute for a couple of minutes, while still on the stove, cover with a deep plate topped with 1/5 cup of water for 2-3 minutes to allow the flavour to blend, remove plate and switch off the stove, add chopped corriander ( also called cilantro) and a few squeezes of lemon, a few ginger juliennes ( to take care of the flatulence!) and a pinch of sugar!
    there are a dozen variations to this recipe – tomatoes, onions, chopped greens.. or as a warm salad with a shaved parmesan for texture.. Yummm!

  47. Anonymous

    From a big fan of both Juneteenth and lima beans, I've got to tell you, my favorite is canned baby limas with WAY too much ground black pepper. The two flavors really complement each other in my book.

  48. hi lisa, we don't seem to have fresh lima beans in Australia, there are some canned ones at a USA grocery store, but canned beans…hmm. What would be most similar to fresh/frozen lima beans, peeled fava beans (broad beans) or edamame? thanks deb

  49. Lisa Fain

    Hi Deb–I'd use fava beans.

  50. thanks so much lisa, i have a crazy desire to make succotash…i think it is all those years of listening to silvester saying 'suffering succotash'! cheers deb

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