Succotash – Old Fashioned Butter Beans with Fresh Corn


Succotash – Old Fashioned Butter Beans with Fresh Corn


A country dish I remember from my childhood in southern New England is succotash, a combination of baby lima beans or butter beans simmered with fresh corn kernels. It turns out the combination of corn and beans goes back much further, to the indigenous peoples of the New England region. It was adopted into the earliest cuisine of the European colonists, and showed up at many Thanksgiving dinners. Its name derives from a word in the language of the Narragansett people, who once inhabited what’s now Rhode Island. 

I was reminded of succotash recently when writing an article about Brunswick Stew, a Southern dish in which the two succotash vegetables, cooked together, show up prominently. And then I had occasion to actually make succotash after all these decades when I was tasked with cooking butter beans (which are in fact small lima beans) for a family gathering and thought about adding corn off the cob. It was a big hit with several in the family, and gave me a twinge of nostalgia. Though it’s no longer familiar to a lot of people, especially outside New England, succotash is still a good dish.

Here’s a recipe that will serve six as a side vegetable.


1 (12-ounce) bag frozen butter beans or baby lima beans

1/2 cup water, plus more as needed

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 large ears fresh corn on the cob

2 tablespoons butter

Heat a small pot with 1/2 cup water. When it boils, add the frozen beans, salt and pepper. Stir well. When the pot comes a boil again, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer/steam the beans. Stir frequently and add a little water as needed to keep 1/4 inch or so in the bottom of the pot. Cook until beans are tender, 10 minutes or more. 

While the beans are simmering, shuck the corn and remove as much corn silk as possible. With a sharp knife slice off the kernels, holding each cob upright in a shallow bowl to catch the corn as it’s cut off.

When the beans are tender, add the corn kernels and bring back just to a boil, adding a little water if needed to keep 1/4 inch or so in the bottom of the pot. The corn should simmer 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Taste a few kernels to check that the corn is done. Do not over cook.

Remove from the heat. Holding the lid on the pot, tip the pot above the sink to drain off most of the cooking water. Add butter to the beans and corn, mix well, and taste. If salt is needed, mix it in.

Serve now, or after cooling, reheat it in a casserole bowl in the microwave before serving.

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