Ready within 45 minutes, this saucy butter bean skillet with cherry tomatoes is a hearty but still light vegan dinner. The skillet meal is made with simple ingredients, like canned butter beans, thyme, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and shallots, and requires only one pan on the stovetop! Filled with delightful flavours, wholesome vegetables, plus a tangy finish from a traditional parsley and lemon gremolata, this lush pan of beans is so satisfying.
The small tomatoes are abundant right now. One of my favourite things to do is make an aromatic and simple cherry tomato sauce, like in this summer garden pasta. Here, we serve the tangy sauce with canned butter beans and small cuts of green romano beans–regular green beans also work! The silky butter beans plump up, you get some veggie goodness, and it’s all perfect with some crusty bread for dipping.
What’s the difference between butter beans and lima beans? They are the same thing! You will find these beans sold at different stages of maturity. Text like “green baby limas” or “large lima beans” will appear on the package for example. They’re all from the same plant and how they’re referred to generally comes down to the region.
Once you simmer the sauce with capers, thyme, and garlic, the beans go in. While they simmer, I like to make up a tangy gremolata condiment. Gremolata is Italian in origin and traditionally used to finish richer meat dishes. It has naturally uplifting flavours from parsley, lemon zest, and raw garlic. The tangy and punchy qualities are so nice with the lush butter beans!
I like to serve this with a simple green salad with red wine vinegar dressing and the previously mentioned bread. The bread is key! I don’t really make soup in the warm months, so that means the frequency of bread dipping meals goes down. Skillet meals bring them right back up where they belong 🙂
For more butter bean inspiration, check out my Kale Arugula Butter Bean Salad with Mustard Tahini.
Saucy Butter Bean Skillet with Cherry Tomatoes & Gremolata
Butter Bean Skillet
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large shallot, fine dice
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
- ½ teaspoon dried chili flakes, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon capers, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 ⅓ lbs cherry tomatoes, halved
- sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- ¾ cup water
- 1 teaspoon Tamari
- 2 14 oz cans butter beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ lb green romano beans, chopped
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup flat leaf parsley leaves
- 1 lemon, washed
- 1 small clove garlic, peeled
- Other canned beans are fine here! I just prefer the big, creamy butter beans.
- Any chopped up small tomatoes work for the sauce base.
- I used green romano beans in mine, but chopped regular green beans would also be delicious!
- Heat a large sauté pan or braiser over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, pour in the olive oil and swirl it around. Add the shallot and thyme to the pan and stir. Cook until the shallots are translucent and soft, stirring often, about 3-4 minutes. If the shallots are browning too fast, lower the heat.
- Add the thyme, chili flakes, smoked paprika, capers, and garlic to the pan and stir for about 30 seconds, or until very fragrant. Add the tomato paste to the pan and break it up with the back of your spoon. Keep stirring and mashing the tomato paste until it has darkened a bit.. Again, if you’re experiencing rapid browning here, just lower the heat.
- Add the cherry tomatoes to the pan and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Once the cherry tomatoes let off some juices and start bubbling, keep the heat at this level. Simmer the sauce base for 5 minutes. Then, add the water to the pan and stir. Let the sauce simmer for another 5 minutes, mashing the tomatoes with your spoon. The sauce should be slightly thickened but still fluid enough to move around the pan easily. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the Tamari, butter beans, and chopped romano beans to the sauce and stir. Bring this up to a boil and then simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until the romano bean pieces are tender. Check in on the beans and stir them up often.
- While beans are simmering, make the gremolata. Finely chop the parsley, leaving it on the cutting board. Using a Microplane or other fine grater, zest the whole lemon right over the parsley (only the peel; not the white pith). Finely grate the clove of garlic over top as well. Run your knife through the mixture on the cutting board a few times and then transfer to a bowl. Set aside.
- Once the saucy butter beans are to your liking in terms of consistency, add the balsamic vinegar and stir. Give the beans a taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the beans hot with gremolata spooned on top and with crusty bread for dipping.