Fava Beans vs. Lima Beans: What’s the Difference?

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fava beans lima beans

What’s the difference between fava beans and lima beans? Many people are puzzled by this question, and they assume that they are just two different types of beans. However, what makes them different, empowering the everyday shopper to choose the proper selection, is what remains a mystery.

This article will explore the critical distinctions between fava beans and lima beans. We will examine size, texture, nutrition, cooking uses, cost, and physical appearance. So, continue reading to discover what makes each of these varieties unique. We guarantee that by the end of this post, you will be able to clearly distinguish fava beans from lima beans like a produce pro!

What are Fava Beans?

Fava beans, a legume also known as broad beans, are a member of the Fabaceae family. The word “fava” comes from the Latin word for broad bean, “faba.” It is believed to have originated in Asia Minor and the Mediterranean region as early as 6800 BC.

They are large, flat beans that are typically green or yellow in color. They are encased in tough leathery skin, so remove them from their pods before eating! Sinking your teeth into that thick rubbery skin is not pleasant. Fava beans can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried. They have a sweet, grassy-yet-nutty flavor. Moreover, when cooked down, they develop a pronounced starchy quality making them a prime addition to soups and stews.

Fava beans are a versatile ingredient, grown in approximately 50 countries (including China, Ethiopia, Australia, Italy, Egypt, Morroco, and France, among others). They are therefore incorporated in a variety of cuisines, mainly because of their optimal growing conditions. They are typically grown in cold temperatures with rich, loamy soil for three months and harvested in the spring. The seeds of their evergreen finger-like casings are used in dishes from all over the world.

In Italy, fava beans are often used in minestrone or as a topping for pizzas and pasta. They are commonly incorporated into stews such as “Koukia Yahnista” or mixed into salads in Greece. Alternatively, fava beans are often stir-fried with vegetables or made into a savory soup in Chinese cuisine.

What are Lima Beans?

Lima beans (also called butter beans for their luxuriously buttery texture) are a type of legume native to Central and South America. Ever think to yourself, lima bean sounds remarkably like Lima, the city? Well, you are one smart cookie, and this realization is not a coincidence. The name “lima” comes from the capital city of Peru, where these beans were first cultivated.

They belong to the Fabaceae family, including fava beans, lentils, and peanuts. Lima beans are harvested between October and December. Today, they are grown in moist, well-drained soil in mild temperatures in different parts of the world, including the United States, Mexico, and Peru.

Fresh or dried lima beans are popularly integrated into South American and Caribbean soups and stews as they add texture, depth, and flavor.

Differences between Fava Beans and Lima Beans

Texture

Fava beans and lima beans may seem like pretty similar vegetables. After all, they’re both beans, and they’re both green. But when you take a closer look, you’ll notice some key differences between the two.

For one thing, fava beans have a much smoother texture than lima beans, thanks to their thinner skin, which breaks down more quickly when cooked. Lima beans, on the other hand, have a thicker skin that gives their seeds a heartier texture.

Appearance and Size

Fava beans are typically much larger than lima beans, with an average length of about 1-2 inches. On the other hand, Lima beans are usually only about 1/2 an inch in length.

In addition, fava beans have a round, oval shape, while lima beans are flat and disk-shaped.

Finally, fava beans are typically dark green, while lima beans can be either green or yellow.

Taste and Flavor

Fava beans have a lightly grassy and nutty flavor similar to chickpeas. They also have a slightly sweet taste that makes them perfect for use in salads and as a side dish.

Lima beans, on the other hand, have an earthier flavor that makes them ideal for use in soups and stews. They also have a creamier texture than fava beans, which makes them perfect for dips and spreads.

Nutrition

Fava beans and lima beans are both nutritious options that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Both beans are good sources of protein and fiber and contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals. However, there are some critical differences between the two types of beans regarding nutrition.

For instance, fava beans are a good source of iron, while lima beans are a good source of calcium. Moreover, fava beans are much richer in protein, potassium, and magnesium than lima beans. Additionally, fava beans contain more folate than lima beans.

Both beans contain Vitamin K, while lima beans are an excellent source of vitamins A and C in comparison to fava beans which are rich in vitamin B6.

So if you’re looking for a nutritional edge, fava beans may be the way to go.

Uses in Cooking

Fava beans and lima beans might look similar, but they have pretty different uses in the kitchen. Fava beans are more commonly used in dishes from Italy and North Africa, while lima beans are popular in South American and Caribbean cuisine.

When it comes to cooking them, fava beans can be boiled, fried, or even made into a puree. On the other hand, Lima beans are often used in stews and soups. They are also combined with garlic, onion, and spices and made into a savory side dish.

Cost

Fava beans are typically more expensive than lima beans, especially when they are fresh or canned. This fact remains true because they are not as widely available in countries where they are not grown and are usually found sparingly stocked on the shelves of specialty food stores. For this reason, frozen fava beans can be found at a lower price point but may lack flavor compared to fresh or canned alternatives.

Lima beans, on the other hand, are usually more affordable than fava beans, regardless of their form. What’s more, they are abundantly available in most grocery stores. This reality makes them a good option for budget-minded cooks.

Availability

Fava beans and lima beans are two of the most popular beans, but they can be quite different in terms of availability. Fava beans are typically available fresh, frozen, or canned, while lima beans are usually only available dried or canned. Their varying forms are attributed to fava beans’ fragility and shorter shelf life.

Additionally, fava beans are grown in a broader range of climates than lima beans, which means they can be found year-round in some parts of the world.

In contrast, lima beans are only grown in tropical and subtropical regions, so they may not be available fresh outside these areas.

Different Ways of Eating Lima Beans

  • Sautéed: Sautéing is a quick and easy way to cook lima beans. First, trim the ends of the beans and then slice them in half. Next, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the lima beans to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes, occasionally stirring, until fork-tender. Finally, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. This simple cooking method brings out the beans’ natural flavor and can be easily customized to suit your taste.
  • Boiled: To boil lima beans, rinse them thoroughly in cold water. Then, add the beans to a pot of boiling water and cook them for 3-5 minutes. Once the beans are cooked, drain them in a colander and season them as desired. Boiled lima beans can be enjoyed on their own or as part of a dish. Try boiled lima beans with garlic and olive oil for a simple and tasty side dish.
  • Roasted: Roasting is a great way to bring out the natural sweetness of those lima beans. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (or 204 degrees Celsius). Next, rinse the beans and spread them on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Finally, roast them for 15-20 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the beans are tender and lightly browned.
  • Steamed: Steaming is also a quick and easy way to cook lima beans. First, rinse the beans and place them in a steamer basket. Then, add water to a pot and insert the steamer basket. Cover the pot with its lid and bring the water to a boil. Steam them for 5 minutes or until the beans are tender. Remove them from the heat source and season them as desired.
  • Grilled: Grilling is a great way to add a smoky flavor to those lima beans. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Next, rinse the beans and place them on a grilling tray. Drizzle them with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Finally, grill them for 5 minutes or until the beans are tender and lightly browned.
  • Seared: Searing is a great way to add flavor and texture to lima beans. Place a pan on the stovetop at medium-high heat. Toss the beans into a piping hot pan and sear them for 2 minutes or until they become golden brown. Remove them from the heat source and season them as desired.

Different Ways of Eating Fava Beans

  • Boiled: Boiling fava beans is one of the simplest ways to prepare them, and it also happens to be one of the tastiest. Boiling these beans brings out their natural sweetness, allowing them to become nice and tender. First, shell the fava beans by removing them from their pods. Next, rinse the beans and place them in a pot of boiling water. Cook them for 3-5 minutes or until they are tender. Once they are done, drain them in a colander and season them as desired.
  • Sautéed: Sautéing these beans also brings out their natural sweetness. It also helps to preserve their nutritional value. To sauté them, first, shell the fava beans by removing them from their pods. Next, rinse the beans and slice them in half. Then, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the fava beans to the pan and cook them for 5-7 minutes, occasionally stirring, until they are fork-tender. Be sure to keep them moving around so that they don’t have a chance to burn. Finally, season them with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
  • Roasted: This simple cooking method adds caramelization to the beans, making them a perfect companion in salads and pasta dishes. First, shell the fava beans by removing them from their pods. Next, rinse the beans and spread them on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Then, roast them in a preheated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (or 204 degrees Celsius) for 15 to 20 minutes, occasionally stirring, until they are tender and lightly browned.
  • Grilled: When grilled, they take on a smoky flavor that pairs well with other grilled foods like meats and vegetables. First, shell the fava beans by removing them from their pods. Next, rinse the beans and place them on a grilling tray. Drizzle them with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Then, grill them for 5 minutes or until they are tender and lightly browned.

Fava Bean Recipes

Lima Bean Recipes

Conclusion

So, what’s the verdict? Are fava beans and lima beans interchangeable? In most cases, yes. However, there are a few key differences to consider when trying to discern between these two types of beans.

Generally speaking, fava beans have a nuttier flavor and are more expensive than lima beans. They also tend to be larger and have a slightly different appearance (fava beans typically have a thicker skin and deeper color than limas).

You may also want to take into consideration the origin of the dish you are cooking to determine which bean might be a better fit. If you’re ever unsure about which bean you’re looking at, it never hurts to ask your local grocer – they should be able to help you out.

So now that you know the difference between fava beans and lima beans go forth and make the perfect bean dish for your next dinner party!

FAQs

Yes, fava beans and lima beans can be used interchangeably in most recipes. However, there are a few key differences to look out for when trying to discern between the two types of beans. Generally speaking, fava beans have a nuttier flavor and are more expensive than lima beans. They also tend to be larger and have a slightly different appearance (fava beans typically have a thicker skin and lighter color than limas). If you’re ever unsure about which bean you’re looking at, it never hurts to ask your local grocer – they should be able to help you out.

Lima beans are often eaten cooked. While some people may enjoy eating them raw, there are a few reasons why this practice is not recommended:

  1. Lima beans contain a high amount of lectin, a protein that can cause gastrointestinal problems when consumed in large quantities.
  2. Raw lima beans are difficult to digest due to their hard outer shell.
  3. Lima beans can taste rather bland and unpalatable when eaten raw.


For these reasons, it is generally best to cook lima beans before consuming them.

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Hello, I’m Kristina, Founder and Head Blogger of Savory Suitcase… the one-stop-shop for the international foodie. 

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Hello, I’m Kristina, Founder and Head Blogger of Savory Suitcase… the one-stop-shop for the international foodie.

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