10 Fantastic Substitutes for Butter Beans

image of beans are the same as butter beans

What can you substitute butter beans in your recipes when you are out? That is a question we often hear from our readers. And now, we want to take a moment to offer up a few great answers.

Did you know butter beans are lima beans but in a larger size? Yup, it’s true; these beans get their name because they create a buttery texture once you cook them.

So, when trying to substitute this ingredient for something similar, look for these options. They all offer something that will give your recipe the taste and texture you want.

  • Cannellini Beans
  • Navy Beans.
  • Pinto Beans
  • Borlotti Beans
  • Red Kidney Beans
  • Soybeans
  • Chickpeas
  • Fava Beans
  • Great Northern Beans
  • White Kidney Beans

Cannellini Beans Are the Best Replacement

image of Cannellini Beans

People often compare cannellini beans to kidney beans because of their similar shape. This legume is popular in Central and Southern Italy. It is a popular item in Tuscany in pasta, soups, and salads.

Like butter beans, Cannellini beans turn smooth and creamy when cooked. Another likeness is in the earthy, nutty flavor. These similarities make them a fantastic substitute for any recipe calling for butter beans.

What to use them in:

  • Soups
  • Pasta
  • Tuna fish

Try this great recipe that calls for Cannellini Beans: Minestrone Soup.

Navy Beans Are a Great Source of Protein

image of Navy Beans

Navy beans are another white bean that is the perfect alternative to butterbeans. These beans are commonplace when making baked beans. And they, like butter beans, offer various nutritional benefits. (*)

These pea sized beans are a great source of fiber, protein, and other nutrients. They are also full of antioxidants which fight inflammation and various common illnesses.

Navy beans are creamy and have a soft texture. However, they don’t pack as much of a nutty flavor. Therefore, we suggest only using it in dishes with a bit of spice. 

What to use them in:

  • Baked beans
  • Chowder
  • Bean Dips

Try this Great recipe that calls for navy beans: Hearty Navy Bean Soup

Pinto Beans are Perfect Alternative for Mexican Inspired Dishes

Pinto beans are legumes most commonly found in Brazil. These are popular options in refried beans and other Mexican inspired dishes. But frequently enjoyed whole, refried, and mashed or can be mixed into a broth.

The pinto bean has minimal flavor and turns to mush quickly after boiling. For these reasons, it is best to use them in dishes with bold flavors and other ingredients. You should also watch for recipes that don’t require legumes to keep their shape.

What to use them in:

  • Refried beans
  • Bean Burritos
  • Bean spreads

Try this great recipe that calls for beans: Slow Cooker Pinto Beans

Borlotti Beans Are a Great Option

The borlotti bean is part of the kidney bean family. This legume sports unique pink speckles that turn brown after you cook it. These beans come from Columbia, known as the cranberry bean.

This bean makes a decent substitute for butter beans. Like the butter beans, it gets nice and creamy when boiled. Borlotti beans are sweeter than most other types. You can use them as a butter bean alternative in recipes that will fair well.

Use them in:

  • Chile
  • Pasta
  • Salad

Try this great recipe that calls for borlotti beans: Fresh Stewed Borlotti Beans

Red Kidney Beans add a Bit of Bulk

On the outside, you might think red kidney beans are nothing like butter beans. And you would be right. Red kidney beans are heartier, sweeter, and firmer than butter beans.

If we set these differences aside, the beans can still work well in just about any butter bean recipe. Red kidney beans have little flavor and will only add substance to your dish. Doing this allows other ingredients to showcase their flavor profile while making their presents known.

Use them in:

  • Curry
  • Stew
  • Salad

Try this great recipe that calls for Red Kidney beans: Coconut Kidney Bean Curry

Soybeans Are a Healthier Option

Soybeans can also fill in for butter beans in many delicious recipes. These are especially popular in the vegan and vegetarian world.

The reason so many people eat soybeans is because of how healthy they are. Nutritionists consider the soybean to be the healthiest legume available. Why? Well, because they have a massive load of proteins. Double the amount of other beans, to be exact. 

When replacing butter beans with soybeans, always remove the skins after you cook them.  You should never eat this portion of the legume. Keep in mind soybeans are very low on the flavor profile. Use these when cooking a dish that doesn’t require the flavor or the bean. 

What to use them in:

  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Curries

Try this great recipe that calls for Soybeans KONGJANG:(Sweet and savory Korean Simmered Soybeans 

Chickpeas Taste Great in Salad

Chickpeas or “garbanzo beans” are a popular round, yellow legume that comes from the Middle East. People have enjoyed these legumes in many dishes for thousands of years. And they are believed to be one of the oldest types.

Many people enjoy chickpeas by themselves, usually from a can. However, it is also a great way to replace butter beans in various recipes.

These beans have a strong nutty flavor with a gritty texture. This detail makes them a great candidate for any recipe that needs the bean to keep its consistency. And you shouldn’t have any issues with them losing their shape when cooking.

What to use them in:

  • Soups
  • Salad
  • Stews

Try this great recipe that calls for chickpeas: Pasta with Broccolini, Preserved Lemon, and Chickpeas

Fava Beans are Fabulous Alternatives to Butter Beans

The fava bean is a unique legume that comes inside a pod. Even though this pod is edible, you can use it without it. 

The fava bean is an excellent substitute for butter beans in nearly any recipe. These beans have the same texture, taste, and color. The only difference is that some people will tell you they taste a slight cheesy undertone in fava beans.

Aside from the similarities, these beans are also a great option as they have less starch than the others. 

It is also essential to note that you should peel the skins off the bean after cooking it. This portion of the fava bean is tough to chew.

Use them in

  • Mediterranean dishes
  • purees
  • Curries

Try this great recipe that calls for fava beans: Herb Fava Beans with Pasta.

Great Northern Beans are a Popular Option

Great northern beans offer a similar appearance and taste to butter beans. Yet the nutty undertones are not quite as strong in the ladder option. Nevertheless, these are a great choice in recipes looking for large, soft legumes.

Great northern beans have tough skin but become soft once you cook them. This option absorbs the flavor of other, more robust tasting ingredients. 

These beans are also known for their creamer texture that offers a fantastic experience with every bite. For these reasons, great northern beans are one of the top substitutes for butter beans. 

Use them in:

  • Soups
  • Casseroles
  • Salad

Try this great recipe that calls for great northern beans: Creamy Northern Bean With Ham.

White Kidney Beans (Are They Better than Red?)

Yep, we already discussed kidney beans. However, we only mentioned the red. White kidney beans have a much closer resemblance to butter beans. And even though these are excellent options to consider.

White kidney beans are also milder than red, thus making them a simpler replacement. This legume has a mild earthy taste that only adds to the overall dish’s flavor profile.

Once you cook them, the white kidney bean will become creamy and thick like the butter bean. Yet, they can be a little harder to chew if not left to boil long enough.

Use them in:

  • Soups
  • Dips
  • Curries

Try this great recipe that calls for white kidney beans: White Kidney Bean and Spinach Soup.


What do Butter Beans Taste Like?

Even though they are called butter beans, that is not what they taste like. These legumes have an earthy, nutty flavor profile. The name comes from the buttery texture it makes once boiled.

Are Butter Beans and Lima Beans the Same?

Yes. Butter beans are essentially the smaller version of the lima bean. Or lima beans are the larger version of butter beans (depending on who you ask.)

What is the Best Substitute for Butter Beans in Salads?

Many people enjoy chickpeas on top of their salad. But you can also use kidney beans and borlotti beans for the same great taste.

Can You Eat Un-Cooked Butter Beans?

You should never eat any type of raw bean. Uncooked beans, like butter beans, have a high amount of cyanide. This toxin is dangerous when consumed and can cause serious health issues. 

What Can You do With Butter Beans?

You will often use butter beans in savory dishes. They are rarely found in sweet recipes, although it isn’t impossible.

These beans provide a smooth, creamy addition to any meal. And they make a tasty side dish or are eaten as a stand alone item. When pairing this bean, you will get the best flavor profile with

  • Meat
  • Vegetables
  • Fish
  • Seafood

Up Next: The Best Common Vegetable Substitutes

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