Grandma (Gertrude’s) Southern Butter Beans

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When I think of my grandmother’s recipes the very first recipe I think of (and one of my favorite) is my grandmother’s butter beans.  My grandparents would grow butter beans in their garden each year and every year my grandmother would freeze bushels of butter beans for us to enjoy all year long. 

One of my favorite childhood memories includes these stupendous butter beans.  Each summer we would gather at my grandparent’s house to pick butter beans.  If you have never worked in a garden this is a very tedious and back breaking activity.  This was my least favorite part of butter beans picking the beans out of the garden.  But my grandmother has one condition surrounding her butter beans – “if you don’t pick and shell the beans you will not be able to eat the beans”. 

I am sure my grandmother would not deprive any of grandchildren from eating her beans but us kids really were not sure about that. We were sure her threat was real, so we all joined the butter bean picking and shelling band wagon.  We would sit on my grandmother’s front porch and shell beans for hours.  That is one of my favorite memories of shelling butter beans, just spending hours on the front porch with my grandmother. I look back now and wonder if maybe my grandmother’s ploy was just to spend more time with her grandchildren. You would leave the porch hot, sweaty, with very green fingers but truly content knowing that you would going to enjoy butter beans all year long. 

One fact for sure about eating at my grandmother’s house was that you were almost guaranteed to have butter beans and you were always going to have white rice with eat with your butter beans.  After I grew up and became a mother, my girls Holly and Amanda, also became obsessed with my grandmother’s butter beans.  All through their childhood butter beans became a family favorite.  Even to this day, nothing excites my girls more than knowing butter beans and rice are on the menu. 

Last night in preparation for this post, we were all able to eat a big bowl of butter beans and rice and you would have thought we were eating lobster and caviar.  I always cook my butter beans with two ham hocks because my family are also big fans of ham hocks.  One of my sons-in-law, David, absolutely loves ham hock so I always make two ham hocks so that he can have his very own ham hock.  The smoked ham hocks add a very smoky flavor to the beans and adds an high intensity of flavor.   I always cook about five pounds of butter beans at a time for leftovers and for freezing.  I purchase my beans from the farmers market in the summer when they are in season but you can also use frozen butter beans.  If you can’t find butter beans, you can substitute with baby Lima beans.   I bring the big bag of beans home and wash them very good and then throw them in a pot.  I add salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and two cups of chicken stock.  The chicken stock is also a flavor enhancer.  I then fill the big pot with water so that the beans are fully covered and floating.  I add the ham hock and put the beans on the stove to cook.  I then bring the pot to a full boil and after it comes to a boil, I reduce the temperature to low to bring the beans to a slow simmer.  I cook the beans for two to three hours until soft.  One thing for sure, fresh butter beans are not a quick recipe so I always fix them on a day when I am home most of the day.  However, the benefits of slow cooking the beans are perfectly soft and delicious butter beans.  I think the butter beans are actually better the next day after they are cooked, and they make the absolute best leftover meal.   As a matter of fact I am going to have those leftovers with tonight’s supper.

Tips:  There are so many other ways to cook these beans.  Sometimes if I don’t have a ham hock, I will fry about six pieces of bacon and add the bacon and bacon drippings to the pot.  Some people add butter that that is great also.  It is about preference.  However you like your beans. 

Grandma (Gertrude’s) Southern Butter Beans

Recipe by Cooking with Aunt PamCourse: Beans, SidesCuisine: American, Butter beans, ham hocksDifficulty: Easy
Prep time


Cooking time



Southern butter beans

  • Five pounds of fresh butter beans

  • Two ham hocks (or you can use ham pieces of you prefer)

  • Two cups of chicken stock

  • Two tablespoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder

  • Two tablespoons of onion power

  • Two tablespoons of Kosher salt

  • One tablespoons of fresh cracked pepper

  • Enough water to fully cover beans and bring them to a float


  • Start by adding beans, ham hocks, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and chicken stock to pot.  Cover beans and seasonings with water until beans are fully covered and floating. 
  • Bring the pot to a full boil until the seasonings are fully dissolved, then reduce heat to low to bring beans to simmer.
  • Cook the beans on a slow simmer for about two to three hours until tender. Sometimes longer if needed.
  • Grab a bowl and enjoy.  We prefer to add white rice to our bowl of beans but that is also your preference.

Fresh Butter Beans are Best Cooked with Ham Hocks


  1. Belinda Butler

    I never could shell as many as I liked to eat!!! 😊One of my Favorites!!!

  2. Tricia Cappiello

    I am looking forward to you sharing your grandmother’s recipes. I too grew up with garden picked/shelled butter beans. Nothing and I repeat nothing like home growing and cooking!
    Good Luck with your new venture! You will be blessed! ♥️


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