Difference Wiki

Lima Beans vs. Butter Beans: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 15, 2023
Lima beans are green or off-white beans originating from South America, while butter beans, often larger and creamier, refer to mature lima beans or a specific larger variety popular in the Southern U.S.

Key Differences

Lima beans and butter beans, both legumes, often cause confusion due to their similarities. Lima beans, named after the capital city of Peru, are typically green when immature and can have a slightly curved shape. They originate from South America and have become a staple in many cuisines around the world.
Butter beans, on the other hand, are often what people call mature lima beans, especially when they take on a creamy color and larger size. These beans are popular in the Southern United States and have a smooth, buttery texture, which might have led to their namesake.
It's important to note that the term "butter bean" varies regionally. In some areas, butter beans specifically refer to the larger, creamier varieties of lima beans, while in others, it's synonymous with any mature lima bean. This regional variance in naming can cause confusion for those not familiar with the nuances.
Both lima beans and butter beans boast a rich nutrient profile, including fiber, protein, and essential vitamins. They can be used interchangeably in recipes, depending on personal preference and desired texture. However, given their differences, some recipes may specifically call for one over the other.

Comparison Chart

Origin of Name

Named after Lima, Peru.
Named for their buttery texture.


Typically green when immature.
Creamy or pale yellow when mature.


Firmer when young.
Buttery and smoother.


Smaller when immature.
Larger, especially specific varieties.

Usage in Recipes

Often specified for recipes requiring firmer beans.
Preferred for dishes requiring creamier, softer beans.

Lima Beans and Butter Beans Definitions

Lima Beans

A versatile ingredient used in various dishes globally.
Lima beans are a key ingredient in my grandmother's casserole recipe.

Butter Beans

Named due to their buttery texture when cooked.
The butter beans melted in my mouth with their creamy texture.

Lima Beans

Can be found both in fresh and dried forms.
I bought dried lima beans for longer storage.

Butter Beans

Often canned or dried for convenience.
I grabbed a can of butter beans for a quick salad addition.

Lima Beans

A type of legume originating from South America.
Lima beans have been cultivated in Peru for over 7,000 years.

Butter Beans

Refers to mature lima beans or specific larger varieties.
Butter beans are a favorite in Southern U.S. cuisine.

Lima Beans

Often green, slightly curved beans when immature.
I added young lima beans to my vegetable stew for a pop of color.

Butter Beans

Creamy in color with a smooth texture.
The butter beans gave the soup a rich, velvety consistency.

Lima Beans

A nutrient-rich source of protein and fiber.
Incorporating lima beans into your diet can boost overall health.

Butter Beans

Popularly used in dishes requiring softer beans.
Butter beans blend well in purees and dips.


Are lima beans and butter beans the same?

While they come from the same family, butter beans are often mature lima beans or a specific larger variety.

Can I substitute lima beans for butter beans in recipes?

Yes, but the texture and size may slightly vary.

Are lima beans always green?

No, they're green when young but can turn creamy or pale yellow when mature.

Are lima beans good for vegans?

Yes, they're a great plant-based protein source.

Do butter beans have a distinct taste?

They have a mild flavor with a rich, buttery texture.

Which is creamier: lima beans or butter beans?

Butter beans are typically creamier due to their maturity or variety.

Are butter beans only found in the South?

While popular in the Southern U.S., they're available globally.

Which bean is larger in size?

Butter beans, especially certain varieties, are larger.

Are lima beans gluten-free?

Yes, they are naturally gluten-free.

Why are lima beans sometimes called "butter beans"?

Regional naming variations and the buttery texture of mature lima beans contribute to this.

How long can I store cooked lima beans?

Refrigerate in a sealed container for 3-5 days.

Are butter beans and great northern beans the same?

No, they're different types of beans.

What dishes are lima beans commonly used in?

They're used in stews, casseroles, and succotash.

Are lima beans native to the U.S.?

No, they originate from South America.

Can I eat lima beans raw?

No, they should be cooked to eliminate potential toxins.

Do butter beans have a lot of calories?

They're moderately caloric but packed with nutrients.

How do I cook dried butter beans?

Soak them overnight and then boil until tender.

Can I mash butter beans for a dip?

Yes, their creamy texture makes them ideal for dips.

Are there any health concerns with lima beans?

Consume them cooked to avoid potential toxins.

Are butter beans available year-round?

While fresh might be seasonal, canned and dried versions are available year-round.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons