Succotash is a classic side dish of fresh sweet corn and tender baby lima beans. Whether serving it as part of an outdoor summer barbecue, a potluck dinner or even at your next holiday gathering, you must give this bright, colorful and delicious dish a try.
While many think of succotash as a Southern dish, it is said to have evolved from a thick corn, bean and squash stew the Native Americans introduced to the 17th century settlers of the first colonies in New England. You will now find it prepared throughout of the country as a side dish, varying from cook to cook, region to region and season to season. In summer it is usually prepared with fresh corn cut off the cob and fresh baby limas beans or other young shell beans such as fava or cranberry beans. Fresh garden vegetables such as tomatoes, zucchini, peppers or okra are often added. Later in the year, it might be prepared from frozen corn, dried beans, a piece of salt pork and a splash of cream.
I had succotash at a friends home that was delicious and asked if she would share how she prepared it. She sent me this note, “I’m happy to share the recipe. It actually came from Epicurious, but I modified it quite a bit, just like you do. Here is my take, and please know that measurements are not precise. I sometimes cook from the seat of my pants.”
Of course, I think we all take a recipe and modify it to our own tastes and what we have available in our kitchen as I’ve done with the recipe I’m sharing here. At this time of the year, the dish is wonderful when made from fresh flavorful summer ingredients so I’ve added tomatoes to create a sunny and colorful dish.
- 10 oz. package (2 c.) frozen baby lima beans
- 2 strips of thick cut bacon cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 c. finely diced sweet Vidalia onion or a bunch of scallions (green onions) sliced
- 1 red or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 c. corn kernels cut from 3 to 4 ears, frozen and thawed can be substituted
- a dozen cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 c. cream (optional)
- A generous splash (2 Tbsp.) of white wine (optional)
- To remove corn kernels from the cob, husk and remove the silk, stand the corn on one end and carefully slice the kernels off with a sharp knife. One ear will yield about 1/2 cup kernels.
- If you don’t have limas, edamame or fava beans are a good substitute.
- Frozen baby lima beans take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes depending on size to get tender. Adjust the cooking time according to the beans you are using.
- Do Not Add Salt to the beans when initially cooking, it can interfere with them getting tender.
- For a hint of spice, you can sauté a jalapeño pepper with the other ingredients or add a little cayenne or hot smoked paprika.
- The original recipe called for heavy cream for a creamy succotash. For a lighter summer dish, it can be omitted, I’ve made it both ways and they are both good.
- For a vegetarian version, you can omit the bacon, cream and butter and just use olive oil.
- Sprinkle the finished dish with finely chopped fresh parsley or basil as a garnish, if you wish.
Succotash is a true celebration of fresh vegetables from summer gardens or local Farmer’s Markets all across America. Each cook has their own version of this traditional side dish but it usually starts out with sweet summer corn and tender baby lima beans or other young shelled beans that are sautéed in butter, olive oil or bacon fat until just barely tender. If vine ripe tomatoes are in season, they add wonderful flavor, sweetness and color to the succotash.