Butter Beans with Ham Hock

Get ready for comfort food at its finest! These easy smoky butter beans are simmered with ham hocks and onions for a rich, creamy Southern side dish.

Butter beans are a classic Southern side dish that takes me back to my childhood. In this easy recipe, smoked ham hocks and onions create a rich, flavorful pot of creamy beans. The end result is comfort food at its finest.

What kind of beans are used for this recipe?

Traditional butter beans are lima beans. However, other large white beans like great northern or cannellini could also work.

Can I use a ham steak instead of ham hocks?

Smoked ham hocks are traditional and give the best flavor. You could substitute a ham steak, but the flavor won’t be as deep.

How can I make it vegetarian?

Omit the ham completely. Use smoked paprika instead to give a smoky flavor. You can also add mushrooms, tomatoes or bell peppers for more flavor.

Can I use canned beans?

Yes, you can substitute 5-6 cups cooked canned butter beans, drained and rinsed. Add them in at the end with less cooking time.

How long does it keep?

Properly stored leftovers will keep 4-5 days in the fridge. The beans also freeze well for longer storage.

What sides go well with smoky butter beans?

Cornbread, collard greens, fried okra, coleslaw, potato salad, corn on the cob, biscuits. Really any Southern sides!

What kind of hot sauce is best?

Louisiana-style hot sauces like Tabasco work great. Also try Texas Pete’s or Crystal. Use your favorite vinegary hot sauce.


  • 1 lb dried butter beans, rinsed and picked over
  • 3 smoked ham hocks (about 2 lbs), cut into pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Hot sauce, for serving


  1. Place the ham hocks in a large pot and add enough water to cover by a few inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat is very tender and falling off the bone.
  2. Remove the ham hocks from the pot, reserving the cooking liquid. Pick the meat off the bones and chop it. Discard the bones.
  3. Return the chopped ham to the pot with the cooking liquid. Add the onions, celery, and butter. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the rinsed butter beans and additional water if needed to cover the beans by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the beans are tender.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and serve hot, with hot sauce on the side. Enjoy with cornbread for sopping up the delicious pot likker.

Cook’s Notes:

  • Choose smoked ham hocks for the most flavor.
  • Simmering the ham hocks first builds a rich, smoky broth that gives incredible flavor to the beans.
  • Let the ham hocks cook with the fat on for added richness.
  • The beans will break down and thicken the cooking liquid into a luscious creamy broth.
  • Adjust cooking time for the beans as needed based on freshness. Older beans take longer.
  • Season cautiously at the end, as the ham hocks often provide enough salt.

Soul food recipes like these smoky butter beans with ham hocks take me back to Sunday dinners growing up. I hope this easy recipe helps you create some childhood food memories at your own family table. Let me know in the comments if you give it a try!


Calories: 450kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 75mg | Sodium: 1100mg | Potassium: 960mg | Fiber: 13g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 425IU | Vitamin C: 8.9mg | Calcium: 175mg | Iron: 4.7mg

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