This quick butter beans recipe is ready in less than half an hour with a few pantry staples! Cozy, filling, and infinitely customizable: Perfect for busy weeknights!
A pot of easy, brothy butter beans is my weeknight secret weapon, and these pesto beans are almost impossibly simple: Just throw a few things together in a skillet, toast up some crusty homemade bread on the side, and boom! You're in business.
This quick recipe is very loose, and it's ready in just a few minutes with minimal prep. Grab some canned butter beans to keep things easy (although you can certainly cook your own beans if you want to!) and customize these beans with any extra veggies or proteins you have on hand (we'll show you how!)
A Few Notes on Ingredients
Scroll to the recipe card below for a full ingredients list with exact quantities.
This butter beans recipe boils down to a few major components:
- Canned butter beans (drained and rinsed!) Look for large, white butter beans at the store (no butter beans? Keep reading for some easy substitutions!)
- Your favorite pesto! Grab a jar of basil pesto at the store to keep things simple, or swap in your favorite homemade variety (this recipe is great with our arugula pesto or garlic scape pesto).
- A sliced shallot sautéed in a bit of butter (or olive oil, if you prefer) helps ground the flavors of this dish, but you can skip it if you're especially short on time. You can also substitute a white or yellow onion or a dash of onion powder for the shallot here.
- Broth. This is a truly excellent place to use homemade parmesan broth if you have it! If not, use veggie, chicken or turkey broth (note: you can use stock or broth in this recipe).
- Finishing touches. We'll finish this dish off with a splash of lemon juice and a sprinkle of shaved parmesan. Don't forget to taste and add salt and pepper (or more lemon juice) as needed! You can also throw some fresh basil or parsley on top of these beans if you have it on hand. Add a poached or fried egg for some extra protein!
Riffs and Substitutions
- Add some veggies. Grilled corn, cherry tomatoes, grilled zucchini, or bell peppers give this dish a summery spin; it's also good with sautéed mushrooms (similar to our 30 minute pesto pasta!) or any leftover roasted veggies (like parsnips, lemon roasted broccoli, or butternut squash!) you have on hand.
- Stir a few large handfuls of roughly chopped spinach or kale into this butter bean recipe for a pop of green.
- Add garlic when you sauté the shallot for some extra flavor, or add a pinch of red pepper flakes to this dish for a bit of spice! For more texture, top these beans with a handful of toasted pine nuts or chopped walnuts.
- Swap the butter beans for cannellini beans or Great Northern beans if you like! You can also use garbanzo beans (chick peas) in a pinch, but they won't have the same creamy texture.
How to Make These Butter Beans
- Sauté shallot in a bit of melted butter until it's soft. (Add garlic, extra veggies, or extra spices here too if you like!)
- Add drained butter beans to pan and stir everything together.
- Pour a bit of broth into the skillet and bring everything to a simmer; cook until the beans are heated through.
- Stir pesto and lemon juice into the beans along with a bit of salt and pepper, then serve with your favorite sides and toppings!
A Note About Serving Sizes
We recommend pairing these beans with some small batch crusty bread or a quick lemon arugula side salad to make a full meal! With some toasted bread and/or a salad on the side, one can of butter beans is usually plenty for two people.
Pro Tip: For larger portions or to scale this recipe up for more people, hit the handy 2x or 3x buttons in the recipe card below!
How to Stretch This Recipe for More Servings
- Add carbs! Serve these butter beans over rice, quinoa, farro, or your favorite pasta (this recipe is great with any noodles, but it is exceptional with the Porcini Trumpets or Whole Grain Reginetti pastas from Sfoglini).
- Add extra veggies! This is a great blank canvas recipe, and a perfect place to use up any leftover roasted or grilled veggies you have in the fridge. If you add a lot of mix-ins, you may also want to add an extra splash of broth to keep things nice and saucy.
- Add protein. Meal prepped shredded chicken or leftover grilled chicken, a few canned anchovies, grilled shrimp (or our white wine baked shrimp!), and cooked Italian sausage are all good in this recipe. We also love adding a poached egg or fried egg on top of these butter beans!
We recommend pairing these brothy pesto butter beans with a few quick side dishes for a full, hearty meal! Some of our favorites:
- Plenty of crusty bread! Grab a loaf of sourdough from your favorite bakery or throw a loaf of our favorite Easy Crusty Bread in the oven. This recipe is also great with a hunk of roasted garlic rosemary bread or asiago bread on the side.
- Add a poached egg or over-easy egg for extra protein!
- Roasted lemon broccoli or other veggies
- Easy Spinach Apple Salad
A Few FAQs
In the United States, we often use these terms interchangeably, and the preferred name varies by region. Butter beans and lima beans are both members of the Phaseolus lunatus plant species (source). However, Lima beans and butter beans may be packaged at varying levels of maturity: Canned beans labeled "lima beans" are often a slightly smaller size with a light green color (this is because they're harvested earlier, making them a "younger" bean), while "butter beans" (also called large limas or gigante beans) are typically bigger, with a creamy white color and a softer texture.
Use canned Cannellini Beans or Great Northern Beans instead of the butter beans here if you like. You can also use Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas) in a pinch, but they don't have the same creamy, cozy texture. We used the Wegmans brand canned Butter Beans in these photographs!
These butter beans are best eaten right after they're baked! If you do have leftovers, let them cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the oven, zap them in the microwave, or warm in a skillet over medium heat (if the beans look a bit dry, add a splash of broth or water as you heat them up).
You need to cook the beans first (don't just swap dried beans for the canned beans here). But yes, you can swap cooked, previously dried beans for the canned beans here. Learn more: How to cook beans.
More Butter Bean Recipe Ideas
We love using a can of butter beans as a blank canvas for easy dinners! For more inspo, be sure to check out our full collection of butter beans recipes.
Did you make this recipe? Leave a comment and star rating below to let us know how it turned out!Print
These easy pesto butter beans are ready in a snap - perfect for busy weeknights!
For the Pesto Butter Beans:
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 15-ounce can butter beans, rinsed and drained
- ⅔ cup broth or stock (we love using parmesan broth here, but chicken or veggie stock work too!)
- 2 Tablespoons basil pesto
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
Optional Toppings and Extras:
- Shaved or shredded parmesan cheese
- Fresh basil leaves
- Toasted Crusty bread or sourdough slices, for dipping
- Poached or fried eggs
- Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned.
- Add butter beans to skillet. Stir to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes to start warming them up.
- Stir in the broth, then bring mixture to a simmer and cook another 3-4 minutes until beans are heated through. Pro Tip: Toast your bread slices while the beans are simmering.
- Stir pesto and lemon juice into beans along with salt and pepper.
- Ladle beans into serving bowls. Top with parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and a few turns of cracked black pepper. Serve immediately with a side of toasted crusty bread.
This recipe needs some side dishes! We recommend serving these butter beans with some toasted sourdough or crusty homemade bread (perfect for sopping up any extra sauce!) and adding a quick side salad for a full, hearty meal. The beans alone won't be filling enough for two adults, but with some bread and a salad on the side (we love this 5 minute arugula lemon salad), you get two nice-sized portions. You can also serve these beans over rice, pasta, or farro for a heartier meal.
Additions and Substitutions. Add extra veggies (garlic, spinach, kale, broccoli, peas, corn, cauliflower, or tomatoes are all great here) or protein (chicken, Italian sausage, bacon, or shrimp go well with this recipe) to make these beans a bit heartier and stretch them a bit further. Add more broth for a thinner sauce. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes for extra spice. Dial the lemon juice up or down depending on your preferences and the flavor of your pesto!
What kind of beans should I use? We used Wegmans Butter Beans in these photos. You can also use Cannellini beans or Great Northern beans instead of butter beans if you like (you can also use chick peas/garbanzo beans here, but they won't be as creamy).
Pesto varies by recipe and by brand: Adjust the amount of pesto here to suit your tastes! If your pesto is especially oily, it may separate a bit as you stir it into the beans (we notice this happen with certain brands of store-bought pesto - it doesn't look as pretty, but still tastes great, especially when you serve with plenty of bread!)
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 325
- Sugar: 3.6 g
- Sodium: 1762.7 mg
- Fat: 15.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 34.6 g
- Protein: 13.2 g
- Cholesterol: 17.7 mg
Keywords: weeknight, quick, beans