Cooks' Question: Is there a difference between lima beans and butter beans?

kpurvis@charlotteobserver.comNovember 12, 2013 

Q: What’s the difference between lima beans and butter beans?

A: Many people think that they are the same, from the family Phaseolus lunatus, the botanical name for the common lima bean. The difference would be the size, with larger ones commonly called limas and smaller, whiter ones called butter beans.

However, other sources do claim a difference between varieties. A common lima bean is usually a Fordhook, which produces a bean that is larger and a little darker green. The Dixie or Henderson variety produces a bean that is smaller and paler.

Since butter beans got their name because of their creamy texture when cooked, that’s a good way to think of the difference. The larger Fordhooks tend to be dryer and a little more mealy.

There’s also a Dixie butter pea, which is smaller and rounder.

Email questions about cooking and food to Kathleen Purvis at

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