Summer Succotash

summer succotash

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.

Succotash
Serves 4, adjust the recipe accordingly.
  • 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)
Cook lima beans according to package directions. When tender, drain and set aside. While beans simmer, cook bacon in a heavy skillet over moderate heat until crisp.  Transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings. Add butter and olive oil to the skillet, melt over moderate heat. Lightly sauté the onion, peppers and garlic. Add corn, season with salt and pepper, stirring to coat and cook, partially covered for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the lima beans, bacon, tomatoes and cook until heated through and corn is tender. Add cream and a generous splash of wine, if using, and simmer until slightly reduced. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if nessary.

Tips:

  1. 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.
  2. If you don’t have limas, edamame or fava beans are a good substitute.
  3. 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.
  4. Do Not Add Salt to the beans when initially cooking, it can interfere with them getting tender.
  5. For a hint of spice, you can sauté a jalapeño pepper with the other ingredients or add a little cayenne or hot smoked paprika.
  6. 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.
  7. For a vegetarian version, you can omit the bacon, cream and butter and just use olive oil.
  8. 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.

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76 thoughts on “Summer Succotash

  1. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had succotash. It’s such a nice dish — lots of great colors and flavors all playing nicely together. Yours looks terrific — good recipe. Thanks.

  2. This is one of my favorite summer side dishes! Thank you for sharing this recipe! I made some last week. My recipe is almost exactly like yours except I don’t add cream or wine. If I can get fresh butter beans and fresh corn it’s over the top!

    1. Hi Nancy, isn’t it funny how we can enjoy a dish but that over time we forget about making it. I’m glad you liked the succotash recipe…thank you.

  3. Karen,
    I have to admit to you that I’ve never had succotash. One more thing that I’ve learned about from reading your blog!
    Thank you for educating me.
    Stay safe and well,
    Roz

    1. Hi Ros, I appreciate your lovely compliment. I think with certain foods, it depends on what part of the country you lived in on whether dishes such as succotash were popular or not.

    1. Hi Gary, I can certainly understand why you probably wouldn’t know what succotash was. I have googled some of the ingredients or foods on your blog…it is all those miles between our to continents that does that I think. 😊

  4. Oh dear ! At the moment I very much feel my position on the other side of that Pond 🙂 ! All I know about ‘succotash’ is THAT saying ‘sufferin’ succotash’ which, I believe actually has a biblical meaning !? Some dishes are just very American and one is happy to learn ! Looks appetizing, contains some of my favourite ingredients . . . am happy to learn ! Bye Sylvester . . .

  5. I confess I am not a big fan of frozen lima beans. I think I was scarred by them as a child. LOL But this dish looks so winning that I might just give them another chance. 😉

    1. Hi Carolyn, Some frozen lima beans that are sole use very mature beans which can be dry or mealy. I think if you find a good brand of baby ones that you would probably like them.

  6. thanks Karen.
    This is a family favorite – especially when we have fresh corn. I have never put tomatoes in the dish. Try a dusting of freshly ground nutmeg for a twist.

  7. I love love succotash, but for some reason usually only make it during Thanksgiving and Christmas times. Makes sense to cook it now when veggies are fresh the farmers’ market! Like your recipe for it and cream or milk in it is a must! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Pam, I’m not surprised that you have succotash during Thanksgiving and Christmas. It seems to be a tradition going back to the pilgrims. I’m glad you like my recipe, thank you.

  8. We used to eat a very simple succotash with just corn and lima beans all the time. Not sure why we ever stopped since we really enjoyed it. I’ll have to give your version a try–looks so good!

  9. What a coincidence, I just purchased ten cobs of Ontario corn to grill later today (I cut off the kernels and freeze for the winter). I love lima beans too! This would make a wonderful salad with a poached egg on top!

  10. Succotash? Yes, I love all the ingredients in it…and I would even have it just like this as my main dish…thanks for sharing this delicious recipe Karen.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  11. I love succotash! It really is the perfect side dish for summer grilled foods – and the timing is perfect here. Also, succotash reminds me that I really like lima beans. It’s funny as I never think about lima beans in general, but they are so tasty in succotash!

    1. Hi David, I’m like you and sometimes forget about cooking certain foods that I really enjoy. It is probably because our markets have such a bounty to choose from.

  12. You are not going to believe this, we have never had a succotash, but yours look fantastic and would love to try this recipe. Thanks, again!

    1. Hi Liz and Anna, don’t feel bad, it appears that a lot of people haven’t tried succotash. I hope you get a chance to make it and will enjoy it as much as we do.

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