With their bubble-like shape, pale color, and delicate taste, white lima beans are consumed all over the world at different stages of maturity. Plus, their buttery texture has made them famous in many different types of traditional dishes. This gave rise to many different names for the same wonderful bean—which sometimes gets confusing!
Keep reading to learn all about white lima beans—where they come from, how to use them, and more!
White lima beans are essentially a paler and flatter version of green beans, with bigger beans within their pods. Lima beans’ color can be anywhere from beige to pale green. They have a delicate and creamy flavor, and a waxy texture to the touch.
Because of their unique appearance, you may have heard white lima beans called wax beans, double beans, Madagascar beans, Gigante beans, chad beans, baby lima beans, and butter beans. Do all these names refer to the same exact bean? Not always.
White Lima Beans vs. Lima Beans vs. Butter Beans
While there is no hard and fast rule for these colloquial terms, we can rely on some general definitions.
White lima beans are the mature legume of the Phaseolus lunatus plant. Mature lima beans have a pale, creamy color, and are obviously bigger than younger lima beans. Thus, they are called white lima beans and are often referred to as butter beans, especially in the US.
“Regular” lima beans are just a younger version of the same legume of the Phaseolus lunatus plant. At this earlier stage of growth, they still have the green coloring that they’ll at their fully mature state.
Thus, lima beans are younger white lima beans. But what about baby lima beans? Baby lima beans are actually a dwarf variety of lima beans, which we know are the same exact legume as the white lima bean.
At the end of the day, all lima beans come from the same plant. Their size, color, and names indicate different geographical locations, stages of maturity, and more.
Because of all the ambiguity talk to your local grocer if you have any confusion about the type of bean you’re about to purchase!
Lima beans have a surprisingly ancient history! According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, experts believed lima beans were first domesticated by the Incan Empire nine thousand years ago. They were a staple food, and quickly spread to the rest of the world through trade.
The word “lima” comes from the name of the Peruvian capital, Lima. In the previous section we went over a lot of different names for this legume, but there is one we haven’t mentioned yet!
That would be the bean’s true name, “lunatus,” which means half-moon and emphasizes the bean’s crescent shape.
The good news is that white beans are a great source of many nutrients!
According to healthline.com, one cup of cooked white lima beans has:
- around 200 calories
- .5 grams of fat
- 12 grams of protein
- 9 grams of fiber
White lima beans are a great source of magnesium, vitamin B, protein (which differentiates them from most other legumes), and iron.
So what do all these great nutrients in white lima beans mean for your health?
Research suggests that white lima beans can have the following effects:
- healthy blood sugar levels
- lower chance of blood pressure
- lower overall inflammation
- lower oxidative stress
- reduced cholesterol
- lower chance of heart disease
- lower food cravings
- healthy weight loss
What are you waiting for? Keep reading to discover all the ways to use this healthy lima bean!
Eating White Lima Beans
The great thing about white lima beans is that you can eat them in many different ways: in many diverse recipes, at different stages of maturity, and either canned, frozen, or dried! Talk about a versatile ingredient!
As I mentioned earlier, lima beans generally refer to the younger bean, whereas white lima beans are the older, mature form of the legume. Both are delicious!
Here are some ideas for how to incorporate white lima beans into your meals:
- In soups and stews: similarly to other kinds of beans, white lima beans can be cooked down to a creamy consistency, which helps to add texture to brothy recipes.
- In salads: it’s super easy to sprinkle a couple of cooked, plain lima beans into your salad to add some more texture to your leafy bite!
- In casseroles: white lima beans are superstar ingredients when it comes to baked entrees!
- As a side dish with salt port: Trust me. Add butter and dark leafy greens—you won’t regret it!
- With ceviche: this is a beloved combination in South America.
Now let’s look at a couple of popular recipes that include lima beans.
- Succotash is a Native American traditional dish that, besides lima beans, includes other veggies like peppers and okra.
- Lemon-Garlic Lima Beans: this recipe might take a little longer than I’d like, but it makes for a great side dish!
- Brunswick Stew: this makes for a great sweater-weather meal.
It would be irresponsible of me to talk about these beans and not mention a couple of rare health hazards related to white lima beans.
Keep in mind that some people have serious legume allergies. White lima beans are a legume, and so if you are one of these people, you should steer clear of them.
Uncooked lima beans are known to contain linamarin, which can be toxic to humans if consumed in high levels. But the good news is that by cooking the white lima beans, you almost completely eliminate an already low risk!
Growing Lima Beans
Lima beans are easy plants to grow if you live in an area with a mild climate! Plant the seeds when the danger of frost has completely passed, and the soil is a warm 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want to get a headstart, you can also plant them indoors before the last frost.
Whatever you choose to do, position your young lima beans to receive eight hours of direct sunlight every day. Water them well, but never let the water get soggy. You’ll have your first harvest of lima beans before you know it!
Now You Know All About White Lima Beans!
I hope this post has inspired you to include white lima beans in your next hearty meal. Excited for more bean content? Then visit our Beans, Peas, and Lentils page where you can learn all about beans and their close relatives!
- About the Author
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Margherita Bassi is a freelance writer, journalist, and editor. She grew up between the US and Europe, and nurtured her love for nature and the outdoors in both countries.
In the US, she went on dozens of RV trips with her family, scouted out the best restaurants in every city she visited, and learned how to grow herbs and veggies of all kinds by watching her mother.
In Europe, she experimented with gardening in small spaces, like the small balcony of her apartment in France. With an MA in International New Media Journalism, Margherita is also a skilled researcher in a wide range of topics, and has extensive experience interviewing both individuals and experts.