Slow Cooker Butter Beans with Ham

Tender baby lima / butter beans cooked and seasoned in the Instant Pot with juicy chunks of ham.
Slow Cooker Butter Beans with Ham

Slow Cooker Butter Beans with Ham

By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime

Let’s start an argument, shall we? Are they butter beans, or are they lima beans?

I’ve heard it said that in the south  the little tender ones are the butter beans and the big mealy ones are the limas. In the northern states they say exactly the opposite. But everybody seems to agree the little ones are the ones you want. So it doesn’t really matter what you call them, as long as they are the right ones!

Kind of like the difference between the USA and Britain. USA cookies are called biscuits across the pond, the the USA biscuits are called scones across the pond. We cannot even agree on what to call thinly fried potatoes- are they chips of crisps?

But we all agree on good food.

Most will say this is a Southern dish-  but goodness knows, we in the midwest make it often enough, and  I am certain others can tell  us they make it in far off exotic lands as well.
Slow Cooker Butter Beans with Ham

I have always loved limes (I  always knew the big yellow ones to be butter beans and always assumed it was the color), but the ones I want are the small tender baby ones. And back then, I tended to like them in the can because they were much softer. If Mom made the frozen ones, they were given a perfunctory heating, and were never as tender.

And this is where the techniques of long slow Southern cooking come into play, as cooking these beans longer- almost to the point of breaking, is where you want them to be. And seasoned  with ham and bacon with a side of corn bread, it’s heaven. Just like a comforting bowl of white beans with ham.

I do like cutting out that little ham bone and dropping it in. I am a bit of OCD about ham bones around the holidays- if someone trims the ham and drops the bone into the trash without saving it for my beloved beans, they risk sudden death. Ha! Just ask my hubby- he’s done it before. But for fun, leave that little bone piece in there and play a game- whoever gets it unbeknownst in their bowl, gets to wash the dishes. Just don’t mention the game until the bowls are served. Am I a stinker or what? (Yes, I learned quite a few pranks from Bugs Bunny as a child!) 😉

In this recipe, I did use the frozen beans, and you can buy the dried ones if you like. Those will require a pre-soak as well  as a bit longer cooking time. When I get around to it, I’ll post the method for that, but will leave it out of here so there is no confusion.  If you need a recipe for it before then, refer  to one of my ham and beans recipes.

Creamy Ham and Beans

Easy Crockpot Ham and Beans

This is also cooked in the Instant Pot on the slow cooker setting,   but that is the same thing now as cooking it in a Crock Pot. Use whichever one you have.

Also, if you are looking for time saving tips for recipes like these, on a day when you have extra time, chop up lots of onion, carrot, celery, or bell peppers, but keep them separate. Freeze the chopped veggies to keep them handy for adding to the pan. Frozen veggies like that just  require a little more time to thaw in  the pan, but since they will be cooked anyway, it’s fine to use them like that. They are probably not want you want for raw salad, obviously, but what a weekday time saver!
Slow Cooker Butter Beans with Ham
Join me tomorrow in celebrating Julia Child’s Birthday (I believe this would have been 105). I will be posting about making fresh mayonnaise. Which I will  also be using to make a quick aioli for my recipe for Bacalaitos (fish fritters) which I will share on Friday for #FishFridayFoodies. I  hope to see you both days! Drop me a line in the comments and say hello!


Slow Cooker Butter Beans with Ham

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Slow Cooker Butter Beans with Ham

  • 5  slices thick bacon, diced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 2 medium carrots,  diced
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2  red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeno, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 (1 pound each) packages frozen baby lima beans
  • 1-1/2 pounds center cut ham steak (with small bone)
  • 3 cups chicken stock, heated to boiling


  1. Chop the bacon and start frying in a nonstick skillet; as it begins to render fat,  add the celery, carrots and onion, cooking until vegetables soften.
  2. Place this in the bottom of the slow cooker, along with the bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme and frozen lima beans (no need to thaw).
  3. Cut the little ham bone out of the center of the ham steak and toss it in; refrigerate the rest of the ham for later.
  4. Heat the stock  to a boil and pour over all (this is to get the frozen beans warmed).
  5. Cover the crock and cook on low for 2-1/2 hours (low).
  6. Chop the ham and toss in and cook one hour more.

From the kitchen of

Slow Cooker Butter Beans with Ham

2 responses

  1. 2 recipes in a row that I have decided to make in the next few days and one to save for the cooler fall weather. I have a couple of ham bones in the freezer. I’m printing this one, placing it in a plastic bag and sticking it to the freezer door.

  2. Very classic dish that is so full such flavor! Looks devine! Yours look perfectly cooked and ready to get into my belly! Thanks for linking it up at our #crocktober link up for celebrate365

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