How to Cook Speckled Butter Beans

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Speckled butter beans are a dinner staple throughout the southern United States. The creamier, nuttier cousin of the much lamented lima bean, they are the perfect match for a piping hot pan of corn bread and a steaming bowl of rice. The recipe below gives one version only of the standard dish. There are any number of regional variations and personal preferences, so feel free to explore.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 ham hock
  • 1 qt. of water
  • 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil
  • 6 cups of fresh or frozen butter beans (approximately 2 lbs.)
  • 2 tbsp. of butter
  • Salt

Place 1 ham hock in a heavy dutch oven or soup kettle. Add 1 qt. of water and place the pan over medium heat until the water comes to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and add 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and 6 cups (approximately 2 lbs) of fresh or frozen speckled butter beans. If you're using frozen speckled butter beans, stir them gently with a wooden spoon after placing them in the water, to separate any clumps.

Simmer over low heat, partially covered for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Add a bit more water as the beans cook to keep them from sticking. If it seems they are in danger of drying out, add ¼ cup of hot water and stir. Beans are done when the skins are soft and the inside of the bean is creamy.

Remove the ham hock and add 2 tbsp. of butter. Stir until the butter is melted and then season to taste. Serve immediately with rice and cornbread.

Refrigerate and re-heat leftovers for up to 4 days.

Tips & Warnings

  • For creamier beans, add 2 tablespoons of whole cream or half and half when you add the butter. It isn't healthy, but it sure tastes good. To make the butter beans a main course, add ¼ pound of cubed ham to the final product, returning the pot to the heat just long enough to warm through. Speckled butter beans can also be prepared in a microwave. Simply place the beans in a microwave safe bowl and add 6 cups of hot water. Cover the bowl and microwave on high for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the wattage of your microwave, until the water is boiling. Then reduce the power to 50 percent and cook an additional 15 minutes.
  • If you're starting with dried speckled butter beans, be sure to soak them overnight before using them in a recipe. Increase the water to 2 quarts and adjust the cooking time to 60 to 90 minutes.
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