There are a lot of questions regarding lima beans and fava beans. A lot of the time, these two beans are used interchangeably, which is not surprising. But how are they different from one another and is the substitution a valid choice?
In this post, we will look a little bit at the history of both the beans, how to ten on the two from the outside, and how they vary at a fundamental level in terms of flavor, texture, appearance, and more. Let’s get started.
Lima Beans: A Brief Intro
Lima beans are a type of protein-rich legume that can be found in many different and rather interesting colors. Depending on where you live, you might find them in a range of colors starting from beige all the way to green.
It is also called the wax bean, double bean or butter bean and can be eaten whether it is mature or not. In the market, you will also find them in canned, frozen or dried form.
Lima beans are also said to have a lot of health benefits, including improving heart health, controlling blood sugar and helping in weight loss.
Lima beans are a summer crop that originated somewhere in South America and have a history dating back to 2,000 BC. The seed is located right in the middle of the bean and when they are cooked, the texture does not stay consistent.
Fava Beans: A Brief Intro
These beans grow on flowering pea plants. They are bright green in color with clear skin, making them look like peas on the outside. This skin is usually removed before the beans are consumed. These beans are also more expensive than the others of their kind.
Fava beans are a winter crop that originated somewhere in North Africa and have a history that dates back to 6,000 BC. These beans have their seed on the top corner of the bean and when cooked, the consistency doesn’t change, unlike lima beans.
Lima Beans vs. Fava Beans: The Differences
There are quite a few differences between these beans. Let’s take a quick look.
But it is easy to confuse the two beans, especially after they have been dried. Compared to the fresh state, the differences are slightly more pronounced.
Just in terms of the way they look, fava beans are actually larger than lima beans. They are also a lot more green in color compared to lima beans which have a little white, yellow, brown, purple and even traces of red on them.
Typically, the kind of lima beans you will find in the market will either be in green color or pale cream. These are used more often than the ones in exotic colors. Lima beans also have flat pods which are a bit wider than the fava bean pods. The latter are also a bit bumpy.
The easiest way to tell the difference between these two beans is to look at the seeds. As mentioned before, lima bean seeds are at the center and are connected to their pod. In comparison, fava bean seeds are connected at the top corner of the bean.
Both these beans are quite different, even in terms of flavor. Fava beans have what can be described as an earthy flavor, whereas lima beans are sweet and quite mild.
When it comes to texture too, there is a considerable amount of difference between lima beans and fava beans. In fact, it is one of the key reasons based on which people make their choices. Typically, the lima bean loses.
Lima beans are soft and slightly creamy. They become softer and also lose their consistency a bit after being cooked. On the other hand, Fava beans are firmer in comparison, and their consistency stays intact even after being cooked.
Lima beans are also relatively more starchy, giving them a specific texture after being cooked. And that is not for everyone. We are, of course, talking about fresh lima beans and not frozen ones. If you want to make the best of the beans, you should get them fresh while in season.
And even after that, if you feel like they are not for you, then there might not be much to debate.
Both these beans are quite versatile in terms of their nutritional value, which is why they are so liked whether it is as an addition to a soup or a salad. Both these beans are an excellent source of fiber and protein.
They also come with anti-inflammatory properties, which are quite sought after. But here are the differences.
Fava beans are vegan-friendly and do not have as many calories as lima beans. Lima beans also have less protein content compared to fava beans, even though it is still a good deal. And finally, since lima beans are more starchy, you might have guessed that they are rich in carbohydrates. Even more than fava beans.
Lima beans also have a lot of manganese which is why they are rich in antioxidants and are important in regulating metabolism. These beans also have a lot of copper, which is good for various brain functions and promotes a better immune system.
And finally, lima beans have a lot of magnesium, which is good for DNA synthesis and the production of energy in the body.
But if you are looking for a vegan-friendly bean, fava beans are a good choice. This is also great because they have more protein and fewer calories.
However, it is important to remember that there isn’t a great deal of difference in protein content and calorie count unless you consume multiple cups of either of these beans in one day.
Related: Can You Freeze Baked Beans? Jack’s Art Of Saving Food For Later
Fava beans are a hot favorite when it comes to additions to soups and salads. Lima beans, on the other hand, are a preferred choice when it comes to casseroles and stews. But, in general, both have quite the range if only you get creative.
Now, if you are looking at fresh fava beans that are unshelled, you can keep them in the fridge and expect them to last for 10 days. But if you have smaller beans that are still young, you should consume them as soon as you can.
If you have shelled fava beans, you can keep them in an airtight container, but even then, they will last only a couple of days. You can also freeze the beans, and in that case, they will last for a month. If you have dried beans, keep them in an airtight container, and they will be good for almost a year.
When it comes to lima beans, you can keep them at room temperature too. If they are canned lima beans, use them before the expiry date on the can. If you have frozen lima beans, you can keep them in a cool and dry place and you can use them for about six in an airtight container.
Related: Food Storing Guide: Storage Times For The Refrigerator And Freezer
And finally, there is the matter of availability. If you only want to get them fresh, these two beans are completely opposite in terms of when they are available in the market. Since lima beans are a summer crop, you will find the best quality beans during the fall. But fava beans, on the other hand, are a winter crop.
But if you are fine with frozen products, you will get both these beans throughout the year. Although, it is important to remember that the texture and flavor of the beans change when you are dealing with frozen beans.
Can You Use Fava Beans Instead of Lima Beans?
As mentioned earlier, this is all about what you prefer. But even though both beans are quite different in more ways than one, you can use one of them as a substitute for the other. Convenient, isn’t it?
This is possible mostly because neither of them is an integral ingredient in any of the popular dishes in which they are used. They also don’t have a very strong flavor. So, it does not alter the overall taste of the recipe.
The advantage of lima beans is that, more often than not, they are more readily available, which is why this question even arises.
Related: How To Cook Canned Black Beans: 10 Recipes And Ideas To Try