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Butter Bean Stew

Butter bean stew is nourishing, comforting and so easy to make. This hearty vegan butter bean stew is ready in about 20 minutes and is made with simple pantry ingredients you likely have on hand. Perfect for weeknight meals or meal prep, as it freezes well and lasts all week in the fridge.

Silver ladle resting in butter bean stew pot.

Why you will love this recipe

  • Simple and delicious – this butter bean stew is so simple but packed with flavor. Everything cooks together in one pot in about 20 minutes. Some of the stew is blended at the end making it thick and satisfying.
  • Pantry ingredients – you can find just about everything you need to make this butter bean stew in the pantry (or in the fridge). If you don’t have an ingredient on hand, check the substitutions section below to get an idea on how to substitute it.
  • Great for meal prep – You can easily double or triple this recipe to make in advance for meal prep. It’s great for lunches (it reheats well and is even better the next day) and can be easily frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Budget friendly – canned beans and tomatoes are the base of this lima bean stew recipe. These are both pretty budget friendly. You can make this stew even more budget friendly by buying dried beans and cooking them yourself. You can always freeze leftover beans for up to 3 months to use in other recipes (like my butter bean hummus).
Ingredients in white ramekins on a marble countertop.
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Ingredients

  • Onion and garlic – onion and garlic provide the base flavor of the stew and really help to give it a deep savory flavor. Be sure to allow the onions to cook 4-6 minutes to start to brown before adding the garlic. I like to thinly slice the garlic but you can also mince it or put it through a garlic press.
  • Bell peppers – bell peppers add a slight sweetness to the stew. I recommend using red, orange or yellow bell peppers for the best flavor.
  • Tomato paste – tomato paste gives a deep tomato flavor to the dish and intensifies the canned tomato flavor.
  • Spices: Dried basil, dried parsley, garlic powder, salt – these spices help to add flavor to the stew. You could also use about 1 tablespoon italian seasoning in place of the dried basil and parsley if that is easier for you. Garlic powder adds an umami flavor as well as deepening the garlic flavor in the dish. Salt helps to intensify and balance all the flavors in the dish.
  • Diced tomatoes – you can use regular diced tomatoes, fire roasted diced tomatoes or diced tomatoes with basil. They will all work well here. If you don’t love the chunks of diced tomatoes, you can also use crushed tomatoes in your stew.
  • Balsamic vinegar – balsamic vinegar is my go to secret ingredient anytime I’m using canned or jarred tomatoes in a sauce or soup. It helps to deepen the flavor and removes any of that “tinned” taste from the tomatoes.
  • Vegetable broth – vegetable broth helps to add so much flavor and helps make the lima bean stew taste like it’s been simmering on the stove all day long. If you are not vegan or vegetarian, you can use chicken broth or chicken stock or even bone broth here in place of the vegetable broth.
  • Butter beans – butter beans are the same thing as lima beans (different regions call them different names but they are all the same). You can really use any bean you have on hand, white beans, black beans, pinto beans or even lentils, as long as they are cooked.
  • Baby spinach – the spinach helps to add a bright pop of color and more vegetables to the stew.

How to make butter bean stew

Preheat a large pot over medium heat.

Chop the onion, thinly slice the garlic and chop the bell peppers.

Chopped onion, sliced garlic and chopped bell peppers on wood cutting board.

Once the pot is hot, spray with olive oil or avocado oil spray and add the onions. Cook 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the thinly sliced garlic and cook 1 minute.

Before and after cooking onion and garlic in white pot.

Add chopped bell peppers to the onion mixture and cook 4-5 minutes.

Add tomato paste, salt and spices to the pot. Stir well.

Tomato paste and spices added to onion mixture in pot.

Add diced tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, vegetable broth and drained butter beans to the pot. Heat over medium high heat and bring to a boil.

Butter beans and diced tomatoes to the rest of the stew ingredients in a pot.

Once boiling, turn off the heat and blend ¼ to ½ of the stew with an immersion blender (or transfer to a blender and blend carefully).

Immersion blender in white pot filled with butter bean stew.

Add baby spinach and stir well. Stir until wilted and serve hot.

Baby spinach added to pot with the rest of the stew ingredients.

Top tips

  • Blend up about ¼ – ½  of the soup with an immersion blender or blender to thicken the soup naturally. Note: Be careful blending hot liquids – keep the top of the blender open, cover the top of the blender with a dish towel. I don’t recommend using a bullet blender for this as it can explode from the heat.
  • Wait to add the spinach until after blending up some of the soup to keep the color intact (or the soup will take on a green hue).
  • If you don’t have a blender, you can reserve about 1/2 cup of beans and mash them with a fork. Add the mashed beans to the soup to help thicken it.
  • This soup freezes well, make a double batch, and freeze half for later in the month.
  • Make this even more budget friendly by using dried beans that you cook ahead of time. You can store cooked butter beans in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • You may need to add a tablespoon or two of water to the stew when reheating.
  • If you are feeding a crowd, double the recipe. If you have leftovers you can always freeze them for later.
Spoonful of butter bean stew over white bowl.

Other additions

  • Spice: Red pepper flakes, sriracha
  • Veggies: Zucchini, squash, carrots, celery, leeks, sweet potatoes (cut into small cubes, boil for at least 8 minutes or until tender)
  • Volume: Add cooked rice, quinoa or small pasta (like shells or elbows). If you know you will be making leftovers with the stew, keep the cooked rice, quinoa or pasta in a separate container so that it doesn’t absorb all the liquid from the stew when in the fridge.
  • Other flavor: Add a 1/4 cup of pesto or sundried tomatoes in olive oil.
  • Cheese: You can add a vegan or regular parmesan or feta cheese to add a touch of saltiness and creaminess to the stew.

What to serve with vegan butter bean stew?

You can serve this vegan lima bean stew as a main dish with bread and salad or as a filling appetizer for any meal.

Large ladle filled with butter bean stew in white pot.

Common questions

What are butter beans

Butter beans are large white beans that when you bite into them, it’s like butter because they are so soft. Butter beans and lima beans are the same thing, just called by different names based on where you live.

If you live in the UK or Southeast part of the US, you likely refer to these large white beans as butter beans.

If you live anywhere else in the US, you likely call them Lima Beans.

Note: I can find butter beans in the canned bean section of the grocery store, but they are labeled large lima beans in the dried bean section.

What if you don’t have butter beans on hand

If you don’t have butter beans, you can use any cooked bean or lentil (except for red lentils) in place of the butter beans. Some other great options would be cannellini beans, great northern white beans, chickpeas, brown lentils, black beans, kidney beans or pinto beans.

Can you make vegetarian butter bean stew in the crockpot?

Yes, if you need this to cook all day, you can certainly use the crockpot instead of the stove.

  • For the best flavor, I recommend that you take 5 minutes and sauté the onion and garlic before adding all the ingredients (except the spinach) to the crockpot. Cook on low heat for 6 hours or high heat for 2.5 -3 hours.
  • Right before serving, blend ¼ – ½ of the soup with an immersion blender or use the blender (carefully).
  • Add the baby spinach, stir until the spinach is wilted and serve. The soup will be incredibly hot so allow it to cool as needed.
White bowl filled with butter bean stew, with green napkin on the side and crackers in background.

Can you make butter bean stew in the instant pot?

Yes! You can make lima bean stew in the instant pot.

  • Start by turning the instant pot to sauté and when hot, spray the instant pot insert with avocado oil or olive oil. Add the onion and cook 4-6 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Turn off the sauté function.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients except the spinach. Put on the lid and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, allow the pressure to naturally release at least 10 minutes (or you will have soup spitting out at you).
  • Once the pressure is released, take off the lid and blend ¼ to ½ of the butter bean stew with an immersion blender or transfer to a blender and blend carefully.
  • Add the baby spinach, stir until wilted and serve hot (allow to cool as needed, it will be very hot out of the instant pot).

Can you use dried beans?

Cooking the beans yourself is a great way to save money, as dried beans are much more budget friendly than canned beans. If you want to use dried beans, you will need to cook them in advance before using them in the recipe.

I recommend cooking dried butter beans in a pressure cooker so you can cook them from dried, but you can also cook them on the stove (but they need to soak in fresh water for at least 8 hours in advance).

How to cook butter beans in the instant pot

Add 1 pound of dried butter beans and 6 cups of fresh water to the instant pot. Turn on high pressure for 31 minutes. Allow to naturally release pressure. Drain and store in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

How to cook butter beans on the stove

Soak the beans overnight (about 8 hours) in fresh water. Be sure to leave at least 2-3 inches of water above the beans before soaking.

Discard the soaking water. Add the beans and 6 cups of butter beans to a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 10 minutes, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 40-60 minutes (until they are tender and buttery).

Drain and store in the fridge for 5 days or freezer for up to 3 months.

Storing leftover lima bean stew

Fridge – you can store leftover lima bean stew in the fridge in a airtight container for up to 5 days (assuming you are using canned or freshly made beans).

Freezer – freeze leftover butter bean stew in a freezer safe bag or container for up to 3 months. I prefer to freeze the stew in 1 cup portions, this allows me to reheat just 1 portion at a time as needed for a quick lunch or dinner. I recommend using Soupercubes for this.

Defrosting – defrost in the fridge overnight or add the stew to a small pot and reheat over low to medium low heat, covered until hot. You may need to add some extra liquid as it cooks.

Large white bowl filled with butter bean stew, with spoon in the bowl.

Substitutions

  • Onion and garlic – you can use white, yellow, or red onions in this recipe. You could also use 2-3 shallots in place of the onion. If you don’t have fresh onion on hand, you can add 2-3 tablespoons of dried minced onion as well. If you don’ have garlic on hand, you can use more garlic powder, 1 tablespoon dried garlic granules or freeze-dried garlic (this is a great alternative). You can also simply omit the onion and garlic if you cannot tolerate it and use 2-3 tablespoons of dried chives to the spice blend.
  • Bell peppers – if you don’t have bell peppers on hand, you can use any of the other veggies listed above or substitute them with thinly sliced carrots for a similar sweetness.
  • Tomato paste – tomato paste helps to intensify the tomato flavor. You could omit it or add tablespoon of unsweetened ketchup or regular ketchup.
  • Spices – you can use italian seasoning in place of the dried basil and parsley. You can simply omit the garlic powder or use onion powder in place.
  • Diced tomatoes – if you don’t have diced tomatoes on hand, you can use crushed tomatoes or even whole tomatoes that you dice yourself. I would not recommend using fresh tomatoes unless you have time to cook the stew longer to help develop the flavor more.
  • Balsamic vinegar – balsamic vinegar helps to cut through the canned tomato flavor and also adds brightness to the stew. You could also use lemon juice or a splash of apple cider vinegar.
  • Vegetable broth – vegetable broth really helps the stew taste like it’s been cooking all day. You can use vegetable broth, stock, vegetable bouillon (and water), chicken broth, chicken stock or bone broth in place of the vegetable broth.
  • Butter beans (lima beans) – use any cooked bean in place of the butter beans. White beans like cannellini beans, great northern white beans or navy beans would be my go-to substitute but you can also use green lentils, chickpeas, black bean, pinto beans or kidney beans.
  • Baby spinach – you can also use arugula, kale (chopped) or frozen spinach here.

If you love this recipe, you should try

White Bean Soup

Tuscan White Bean Soup

Mexican Cauliflower White Bean Soup

Vegan Gnocchi Soup

Mediterranean Vegetable Soup

Vegan Pasta Fagioli

★ Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating below!
White bowl filled with butter bean stew, with green napkin on the side.

Butter Bean Stew

Butter bean stew is easy, flavorful and so filling. This vegan butter bean stew is so simple and ready in about 20 minutes. Naturally gluten free and dairy free, this lima bean stew is great for weeknight meals , lunch or meal prep.
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Course: dinner, Lunch, Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: butter bean stew, lima bean stew, vegan butter bean stew
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 20 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat a large pot over medium to medium high heat.
  • While pot is preheating, chop the onions, slice the garlic and chop the bell peppers.
  • Once the pot is preheated, add the onions and cook 4-6 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
  • After garlic cooks 1 minute, add bell peppers and cook 3-4 minutes.
  • Add tomato paste, salt and spices to the onion and bell pepper mixture. Cook 30 seconds.
  • Add the diced tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, vegetable broth and drained butter beans to the pot. Turn heat to high and cover. Bring to a boil.
  • After the stew has come to a boil, turn off the heat. Use an immersion blender and blend 1/4 to 1/2 of the stew.
  • Add the baby spinach to the butter bean stew and stir until wilted. Serve hot.

Notes

Top tips
  • Blend up about ¼ – ½  of the soup with an immersion blender or blender to thicken the soup naturally. Note: Be careful blending hot liquids – keep the top of the blender open, cover the top of the blender with a dish towel. I don’t recommend using a bullet blender for this as it can explode from the heat.
  • Wait to add the spinach until after blending up some of the soup to keep the color intact (or the soup will take on a green hue).
  • If you don’t have a blender, you can reserve about 1/2 cup of beans and mash them with a fork. Add the mashed beans to the soup to help thicken it.
  • This soup freezes well, make a double batch, and freeze half for later in the month.
  • Make this even more budget friendly by using dried beans that you cook ahead of time. You can store cooked butter beans in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • You may need to add a tablespoon or two of water to the stew when reheating.
  • If you are feeding a crowd, double the recipe. If you have leftovers you can always freeze them for later.
Other additions
  • Spice: Red pepper flakes, sriracha
  • Veggies: Zucchini, squash, carrots, celery, leeks, sweet potatoes (cut into small cubes, boil for at least 8 minutes or until tender)
  • Volume: Add cooked rice, quinoa or small pasta (like shells or elbows). If you know you will be making leftovers with the stew, keep the cooked rice, quinoa or pasta in a separate container so that it doesn’t absorb all the liquid from the stew when in the fridge.
  • Other flavor: Add a 1/4 cup of pesto or sundried tomatoes in olive oil.
  • Cheese: You can add a vegan or regular parmesan or feta cheese to add a touch of saltiness and creaminess to the stew.
Storing leftover lima bean stew
  • Fridge – you can store leftover lima bean stew in the fridge in a airtight container for up to 5 days (assuming you are using canned or freshly made beans).
  • Freezer – freeze leftover butter bean stew in a freezer safe bag or container for up to 3 months. I prefer to freeze the stew in 1 cup portions, this allows me to reheat just 1 portion at a time as needed for a quick lunch or dinner. I recommend using Soupercubes for this.
    • Defrosting – defrost in the fridge overnight or add the stew to a small pot and reheat over low to medium low heat, covered until hot. You may need to add some extra liquid as it cooks.
See how I calculate food cost.

Nutrition Information

Nutrition Facts
Amount per Serving
Calories
228
Fat
 
2
g
Carbohydrates
 
42
g
Fiber
 
12
g
Sugar
 
12
g
Protein
 
15
g
Where does nutrition info come from? Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy, sourced from the USDA Food Database.
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