Lima Beans vs Fava Beans: Unraveling the Distinctions

Lima Beans vs. Fava Beans: Exploring the differences

When it comes to legumes, lima beans and fava beans are two varieties that often confuse people because of their similarities. However, these beans have distinct differences in taste, appearance, texture, and culinary uses. In this article, we will explore the differences between lima and fava beans, highlighting their origins, flavor profiles, nutritional benefits, and culinary uses.

What are lima beans?

Lima beans, also known as butter beans, have a long history dating back to around 2000 BC. They take their name from the city of Lima in Peru, where they have been grown for centuries. Lima beans come in several varieties, with baby lima beans being favored for their milder flavor profile.

What are fava beans?

Fava beans, also known as broad beans, have been around since 6000 BC and are native to North Africa. They are a seasonal crop grown in various parts of the world. Fava beans have a unique appearance, characterized by flat green pods covered with a tough, clear skin that is removed before consumption. These beans require more effort to clean, making them relatively more expensive than other types of beans.


While lima beans and fava beans may look similar at first glance, there are differences. Fresh fava beans are typically green, while lima beans can come in a variety of colors, including white, brown, and even with purple or red streaks. Lima beans are known for their wide and flat pods, while fava beans have bumpy pods. To tell the difference, look closely at the seeds. In lima beans, the point where the seed joins the pod is in the center, while in fava beans, it is at the top corner of the bean.


Lima beans have a starchy nature and offer a milder flavor profile. While some people find them slightly nutty and sweet, others feel they lack the traditional beany flavor. Properly cooked lima beans retain their mild flavor, but overcooking can result in a harsh and unappetizing flavor. Fava beans, on the other hand, have a richer flavor and are often described as nutty and sweet, with some people even detecting cheesy undertones.


Lima and fava beans also differ in texture. Fava beans are firmer and do not crumble after cooking. Lima beans, in addition to being starchy, have a softer texture. Those who find fresh lima beans too starchy and soft may prefer the dried variety as they become more buttery when cooked.

Nutritional Benefits

Both lima and fava beans are legumes that offer a wealth of nutritional benefits. They are excellent sources of protein, iron, magnesium, vitamin B-6, and calcium. They are also rich in potassium, a vital nutrient responsible for regulating fluid balance and nerve signaling. Lima beans, in particular, contain twice as much potassium as fava beans, making them a good choice for those looking to incorporate potassium-rich foods into their diets.

Culinary uses

Lima and fava beans can be used in a variety of culinary applications. Lima beans are versatile and can be added to stews, salads, or blended into a creamy dip. Creamed lima beans, prepared by adding cream and butter, offer a delicious creamy texture. Fava beans are also widely used in cooking and can be added to soups, stews, falafel, and savory pastes. Fresh fava beans can be boiled, sautéed, roasted, or fried and are a great addition to salads.

Storage and Availability

When it comes to storage, lima and fava beans follow similar rules. Fresh beans should be refrigerated in their pods and used within a few days. Dried beans can be stored for up to a year in an airtight container away from light, heat, and moisture. Fresh lima beans are best harvested in August and September, while fresh fava beans are best harvested in the spring. Dried and frozen varieties of both beans are available year-round.

Replacing Lima and Fava Beans

Lima and fava beans can be substituted for each other, but it’s important to consider the differences in flavor. Fava beans have a stronger flavor than lima beans, which can overpower other ingredients in a recipe. Lima beans, on the other hand, can provide a milder flavor. If you are looking for alternatives, other types of beans such as kidney beans, black beans, or chickpeas can be used as substitutes, depending on the specific recipe and desired flavor.

Bottom line

Although lima beans and fava beans share some similarities, they have distinct characteristics that set them apart. From their origin and appearance to their flavor, texture, and culinary uses, each bean offers a unique experience. Whether you prefer the milder and starchier nature of lima beans or the richer and nuttier flavor of fava beans, both varieties offer nutritional benefits and can be incorporated into a variety of delicious dishes. Experimenting with these beans in your cooking can bring exciting flavors and textures to your meals.
1. Foods Guy – Lima Beans vs. Fava Beans – What’s the Difference?


Are lima beans and fava beans the same thing?

No, lima beans and fava beans are two different types of beans with different flavors, textures, and appearances.

What is the main difference between lima beans and fava beans?

The main difference is in their flavor profiles. Lima beans have a milder and starchier flavor, while fava beans have a richer and nuttier flavor with a hint of cheese.

Can I substitute lima beans for fava beans in a recipe?

Yes, you can substitute lima beans for fava beans and vice versa. However, keep in mind that fava beans have a stronger flavor, which may affect the overall flavor of the dish.

How do I prepare lima and fava beans for cooking?

Both lima and fava beans need to be peeled before cooking. In addition, fava beans require an extra step to remove the tough skin before eating.

What are the nutritional benefits of lima and fava beans?

Both beans are rich in protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, and other important nutrients. Lima beans are particularly high in potassium, while fava beans provide a good dose of folate and vitamin K.

What are some popular ways to use lima and fava beans in cooking?

Lima beans can be added to stews, salads, or made into creamy dips. Fava beans are often used in soups, stews, falafel, and pastes. They can also be boiled, sautéed, roasted, or fried and are a great addition to salads.