This recipe takes Classic Succotash and gives it a southern spin with the addition of salty bacon and creamy butter. It is a fresh, flavorful, and super easy side dish featuring lima beans and corn that will make you want to gobble up your veggies.
What is Succotash?
Succotash is a centuries-old dish that is traced back to Native Americans from what is now the New England area, specifically the Narragansett people, an Algonquian American Indian tribe. The name, Succotash, is derived from the Narragansett word, sahquttahhash, which means broken corn kernels. It was, and is, a dish that is typically made from corn kernels and lima beans to create a savory, side dish, that is full of whole grains, nutrients, and a source of all essential amino acids.
Through the years, Succotash has been adapted and influenced by regional produce and tastes, resulting in hundreds of recipes for Succotash.
My Favorite Succotash Recipe
I have tried a lot of variations of Succotash through the years, but today I am sharing with you my all-time favorite version, which has been influenced by southern cuisine. This recipe for Succotash is elevated with the addition of bacon for a smokey, salty finish, butter for a touch of richness, and fresh tomatoes for a pop of acidic, fresh flavor. This is NOT a boring lima beans dish. This is a vegetable side dish that everyone will be excited to enjoy!
Star Ingredients in Southern Succotash
- Lima Beans: Frozen lima beans are best for this recipe, as they help the dish come together quickly. Be sure to thaw your lima beans out fully before adding the skillet. To do this, you can allow them to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, or place the frozen lima beans in a strainer and run cold water over them until fully thawed.
- Corn: This recipe for Succotash can be made using fresh or frozen corn. If using frozen corn, allow the corn to thaw before adding the skillet, just as you did for the lima beans. If using fresh corn on the cob, cut off the corn kernels from the cob and saute as directed.
- Onions: Use a yellow, white, or sweet onion for this Succotash recipe. I do not recommend using a red onion as the flavor is a bit overpowering.
- Bell Peppers: Select an orange, yellow, or red sweet bell pepper, rather than using green bell pepper, which is not as sweet as the latter varieties. I often select red bell pepper, for the pop of color.
- Bacon: Use thick-cut pork bacon for the best results. Of course, the bacon can be omitted for a vegetarian dish, but it adds an incredibly smokey, rich, salty base to the dish.
- Sugar: A little bit of sugar will really help to enhance the corn's sweetness and make all the flavors marry together.
- Vinegar: Use apple cider or red wine vinegar for best results. The vinegar will add a touch of acidity and balance out the richness of the bacon and butter.
- Butter: Finishing the succotash with butter will add a rich creaminess to the dish, without adding any cream. It also adds a southern flair to the dish.
- Tomatoes: I LOVE the bright, acidic pop that fresh grape or cherry tomatoes add to succotash. In my opinion, this addition turns good succotash into great succotash.
- Fresh Herbs: If you happen to have fresh basil, tarragon, or chives available, I strongly suggest finishing the dish with one of them, as fresh herbs always elevate a recipe. Basil and tarragon will add a sweet, slightly licorice flavor to the succotash, while chives will add a slight onion flavor.
- The Pan: I recommend preparing succotash in a heavy-bottomed large skillet or cast-iron pan to ensure even cooking.
How to Make Succotash
Step One: Prepare Bacon
To start this recipe for Succotash, we want to begin by sauteeing the bacon until it is crispy. This is not the time to use pre-cooked bacon or to bake bacon, as we want to use the rendered fat to saute our veggies--which makes this succotash recipe so flavorful!
Note: If you are vegetarian, skip this step and replace the rendered bacon grease with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Dice up the bacon into bite-size pieces.
- Add the diced bacon to your skillet and cook over medium-high until crisp, flipping, or stirring every couple of minutes, until crisp.
- Remove the crisp bacon from the skillet and place it onto a paper-towel-lined plate to cool and for the grease to be absorbed.
Step Two: Saute Vegetables
After cooking the bacon, you should have about 2 tablespoons of bacon grease rendered in the skillet. If not, add a bit of olive oil or butter to the pan. If you have MORE than 2 tablespoons of rendered fat, drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the grease into a heat-safe container and let the grease cool before discarding it into the trash.
- To the rendered bacon grease, add the minced onion and bell pepper. Saute the onion and pepper together until softened and the onions are translucent.
- Once the onion and pepper have softened, stir the vinegar, sugar, ½ teaspoon of salt, pepper, and garlic into the skillet. Cook for just a minute or until the garlic is fragrant and the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the lima beans and corn to the skillet and saute, stirring often, until the corn and lima beans are tender.
Step Three: Finish the Succotash
The finishing touches of this recipe are what make this the best Succotash. Butter is added for a rich, creamy addition, fresh herbs make the flavors pop, and tomatoes add an acid, texture, and a fresh flavor.
- Add in the butter and stir the butter into the vegetables until melted.
- Turn off the heat. Taste and add additional salt and/or pepper if needed.
- Add the bacon, tomatoes, and fresh herbs and stir everything together until evenly distributed.
- Serve the succotash immediately for the best results.
- Vegetarian Succotash: Omit the bacon and use olive oil or butter to saute the vegetables. If you want this dish to be vegan-friendly, use olive oil and omit the butter, or use your favorite vegan butter to finish the dish.
- Sugar-Free Succotash: The sugar is added to help enhance the corn's sweetness, but can be omitted with minimal change in flavor. I would suggest using frozen corn, which is frozen at its peak, or super fresh sweet corn, for best results.
- Spice it Up: If you like a little bit of heat in your Succotash, add a finely minced, seeded jalapeno along with the onions and peppers.
- Add Sausage: Adding andouille sausage to Succotash makes it a delicious, hearty, rich entree. It is best to dice the sausage into bite-sized pieces and cook along with the bacon until it is crisp and the fat has been rendered. Remove to a paper towel and stir into the succotash along with the bacon right before serving
- Add Shrimp: Adding shrimp adds a nice seafood flavor to the succotash. Season fresh or defrosted shelled shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a separate skillet over medium-high heat. Add the seasoned shrimp and cook for 2 minutes, flip and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until the shrimp is pink and curled. Stir the cooked shrimp into the succotash before serving.
- Add Okra: A lot of southern versions of Succotash feature okra. I personally find it overpowers the dish, but feel free to add up to 2 cups of sliced fresh okra to the succotash, when adding the onions and peppers.
Succotash is a delicious side dish that pairs beautifully with seafood, pork, or chicken. Or instead of serving as a Succotash as a side dish, try it over homemade cheesy grits for a hearty entree. Either way, it is delicious! Below are some of my favorite dishes to serve with succotash.
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If you tried this recipe for Succotash, I would love for you to leave a comment and review below.
- 4 slices bacon diced into ½-inch pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion finely minced
- ⅓ cup diced red bell pepper
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt divided
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 16 ounces frozen lima beans thawed
- 3 cups fresh or thawed, frozen corn kernels
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, tarragon, or chives, optional
- In a large cast-iron or metal skillet, cook the diced bacon over medium-high until crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to cool and for the grease to be absorbed.
- To the rendered bacon grease, add the minced onion and bell pepper. Saute over medium heat for 4-6 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent.
- Add the vinegar, sugar, ½ teaspoon of salt, pepper, and garlic to the skillet and saute until the garlic is fragrant and the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the thawed lima beans and corn to the skillet and saute over medium heat, stirring often. Cook until the corn and lima beans are tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the butter and tomatoes to the skillet and cook until the butter has melted.
- Turn off the heat. Taste and add additional ½ teaspoon salt if needed.
- Add the bacon, tomatoes, and fresh herbs to the succotash mixture and stir to combine. Serve immediately.