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Side shot of two bowls of butter beans with ham and cornbread
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5 from 7 votes

Southern Lima Beans with Ham

This classic Southern Lima Bean recipe is a delicious side dish or budget-friendly entrée. The rich, smoky butter beans are flavored with a ham hock and slowly simmered until tender!
Course Dinner, Lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine Southern
Keyword dried lima beans, how to cook lima beans, lima bean recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 10 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings 8 cups
Calories 285kcal
Author Blair Lonergan


  • 1 lb. large dried lima beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 smoked ham hock, meat scored (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Garnish: hot sauce; chopped fresh herbs
  • Optional, for serving: cornbread


  • Rinse and sort the beans. Set aside.
  • In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly.
  • Add the rinsed beans, ham hock, bay leaf, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat slightly just so that it’s at a low boil, and cook for 20 minutes. Reduce heat again just so that the liquid is simmering. Cover and cook for about 1 ½ hours, or until beans are tender. Check the beans after 1 hour, because they may be soft enough at that point if you like your beans a bit more firm. If you prefer the beans really soft and broken down, you may prefer to extend the cooking time to 2 hours. While the beans are cooking, check to occasionally make sure that the beans are covered with water (adding more water, if necessary). Discard bay leaf, remove ham hock from the pot, and shred or chop the meat. Return chopped meat to the pot with the beans. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Garnish individual servings with hot sauce and herbs; serve with cornbread.


  • Stir the pot occasionally while the lima beans are cooking. This will help to break down the beans, distribute the starches, and make the broth nice and creamy!
  • Smoked ham hocks can be quite salty, so if you prefer a less-salty pot of beans, I recommend omitting the salt. You can always add more at the end, if necessary, but you might find that the ham hock adds enough salty flavor on its own.
  • Adjust the total cooking time to suit you preferences. An hour might be sufficient if you like more in-tact, sturdy beans, while the full 2 hours might be necessary for a really broken-down, creamy pot. That's the beauty of using a Dutch oven (rather than a slow cooker or Instant pot) -- you have full control and can easily take them off of the heat when necessary.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs (such as chopped parsley or thyme), a dash of hot sauce, a dash of vinegar, or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a bright finishing touch.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 285kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 210mg | Potassium: 1091mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 22IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 67mg | Iron: 5mg