Lima Bean Masala (Indian Butter Bean Curry)

Lima Bean Masala (Indian Butter Bean Curry) Recipe

Lima beans, also known as butter beans, are legumes that are a great source of cholesterol-lowering fiber and protein. They have a wonderful buttery, starchy texture and are quite filling. At our home we make a lima bean curry that is eaten with paratha (flat Indian bread). The gravy used is the standard yogurt and caramelized onion combination flavored with Indian spices.

I used frozen lima beans in this dish. Frozen vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness and are as close to fresh as you can get without growing them yourselves or finding a local supplier. I never use dried lima beans so no soaking is required with these. That means a faster cooking time, which is always nice.


Yields: 10 servings

1 (20-ounce) package frozen baby lima beans (about 2-½ cups), thawed
2 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
1 tablespoon coconut oil (optional)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (see tips)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coriander, freshly ground
1 teaspoon red chili powder
2 tablespoons fresh coconut, shredded
1-½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 jalapeño peppers
4 dried red chiles, as needed
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
2 sprigs cilantro (optional), for garnish


Using a paring knife, create a 2-inch incision in the jalapeño peppers. Set aside.

In a large pan, heat the canola oil. Cook the onions for about 6-8 minutes until soft and nicely golden. Leaving as much oil as possible in the pan, transfer to a platter. Set aside.

In the same pan, add the ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, ground coriander, red chili powder and dried red chiles. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil (if used). Once the ginger garlic paste is fragrant, add the onions and yogurt. Cook for about 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Add the shredded coconut and lima beans. Add 2 to 2-½ cups of water; the water should barely cover the beans. Bring to a boil then lower to a gentle simmer for about 1 hour. Add the jalapeño peppers and 1-½ teaspoons of salt half-way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the beans and they'll be more tender) and keep stirring every now and then so the beans don't stick to the bottom of the pot.

Once the water evaporates, check the softness of the beans (add water  and cook a bit longer if not fully cooked). Transfer one third the amount of cooked lima beans into the bowl of an immersion blender. Coarsely blend the mixture and pour it back into the pot. Depending on how thick you like the gravy, you can blend more lima beans. Add little mounds of ghee into the lima beans. Adjust seasoning and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes over low-heat. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with cilantro.

Serve with basmati rice, naan or paratha (Indian flat bread).

Bon appétit!


If you can't find frozen lima beans, you could use canned ones or soak dried lima beans. You could also make the same dish using fava beans, edamame beans, garbanzo beans or pinto beans.

Ghee is the Indian version of clarified butter. You can find it in jars at Indian stores (I also find it at Costco). But if you don't have ghee, you can use butter instead.

Shredded coconut gives a rich, creamy texture to the gravy. I used fresh coconut. First, I opened the coconut using a cleaver. Be very careful if you do. (I usually lay out some newspaper  underneath a large wooden cutting board) Then, scrape the coconut flesh using a coconut grater.

Fresh Coconut Picture

I just bought a coconut grater in a Korean store. I love it!

Coconut Grater Picture

You've probably noticed I use ginger garlic paste a lot in my cooking. It tastes great and is very healthy for you as well. Just clean the ginger, carefully removing any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife or the edge of a spoon, then finely chop it. Place the chopped ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender and, add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.

For a faster coking time, you could also cook the lima beans in a pressure cooker. It would take only 25 minutes (instead of a long hour). You could also use a slow cooker.

For a vegan version, just omit the ghee and yogurt and increase the amount of onions.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on March 17, 2010.


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