Italian Butter Beans

If you are looking for a simple, yet flavor-packed dish that is exquisite in its simplicity, then look no further than this recipe for Italian Butter Beans.  Great as a side dish, but Italian Butter Beans also make for a protein-rich vegan meal.

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Bowl of vegetarian Italian Butter Beans - butter beans stewed in a zesty tomato sauce and garnished with fresh basil.

This dish has layers of flavor from slowly sauteeing the fresh onions, bell pepper, garlic, and cherry tomatoes.  This allows their natural sugars to caramelize and add sweetness to the sauce.

The wine and herbs add a richness and robust flavor, while the bit of butter mellows out the acidity of the tomatoes.


Butter beans, also known as lima beans, are flat, kidney-shaped beans ranging in color from light green to off-white.  They can range in size as well.  

The beans have a buttery texture and mild flavor.  Southern US and Europe call the legume ‘butter bean’, while the rest of the globe uses ‘lima bean’.  The beans can be dry, canned, or frozen.

For this recipe, we are using canned butter beans to make the recipe easier, but also to utilize the canned beans rich, tender consistency.

Bowl of vegetarian Italian Butter Beans - butter beans stewed in a zesty tomato sauce and garnished with fresh basil.


  • To keep the recipe vegan, eliminate the butter.  You could use a teaspoon of sugar or coconut oil if the sauce is to acidic.
  • Tuck a small piece of Parmesan cheese rind into the pot when you add the canned tomatoes to add a mild cheesy flavor without overpowering the delicate flavor of the beans.
  • If you’re a fan of Italian cheese, add your favorite grated or shaved cheese to the top before serving.
  • Up the nutritional content by stirring in kale or spinach to simmer with the tomatoes.
  • Mild Italian sausage is delicious with the beans.  You can crumble ½ pound of bulk sausage, hot or mild, into the Dutch oven.  Cook until no longer pink.  Then use the fat in the pan to saute the vegetables instead of the olive oil.

More Italian recipes to try:

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Bowl of vegetarian Italian Butter Beans - butter beans stewed in a zesty tomato sauce and garnished with fresh basil.


  • Author: Millie Brinkley
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


These Italian Butter Beans are a tasty side dish or a vegetarian meal.  Creamy beans are simmered in a vegetable-rich tomato sauce.



1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, finely minced

1 red bell pepper, finely minced

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1015 cherry tomatoes, halved

½ cup dry red wine

28-ounce can tomato puree

34 fresh sage leaves

2 tablespoons Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon salt

2 (15-ounce) cans butter beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon butter

Fresh basil, torn as a garnish


In a small Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Saute the onion, red bell pepper, and garlic until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are soft – 6-10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the halved cherry tomatoes to the pot, stir, and cook until the tomatoes soften.  Break up the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon.  Saute, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until most of their juices have evaporated.

Pour in the red wine, tomatoes, sage leaves, Italian seasoning, and salt.  Stir well to combine.

Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the mixture for 25 minutes. Stir the pot occasionally.

Add the beans.  Stir well, cover, and simmer for another 25 minutes.

Remove from the heat, fish out the sage leaves.

Add the butter and stir until melted and incorporated into the sauce

Ladle the beans and sauce into serving bowls.

Garnish with torn basil leaves.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 70 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Simmer
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Italian butter beans, bean recipes, Italian food, tomato sauce, vegetarian meals, side dish, side dish recipes

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