What is Succotash?

For those of you unfamiliar with succotash, it is a dish consisting primarily of corn and lima beans, often cooked with tomatoes.

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The word “succotash” comes from a Narragansett (a language spoken by Native Americans) word meaning “broken corn kernels.” It’s known as an American Southern dish that dates back to the 1700s and is often served as a side dish or as a main course.

The origin of succotash is not entirely clear, but it’s thought to have started out as a way for Native Americans to make a hearty meal consisting of fresh corn kernels and lima beans.

It has since evolved into an American staple and there are many variations on the core ingredients of succotash, and many recipes add meat such as ham or bacon.

How to Cook Succotash

Succotash is a great side dish for summer cookouts or for any meal that you want to add some fresh vegetables. The recipe is also very easy to make, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for something easy but filling.

You can even make succotash ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.

There are two ways to make this dish. You can either cook the vegetables separately and then combine them, or you can sauté all of the ingredients together at once. Both methods should produce good results, so it’s really up to you which way you prefer.

If you’re making non-vegetarian succotash, you can add ingredients like bacon, sausages, and other meats to the dish. This will give it a more hearty, meaty flavor.

If you’re making vegetarian succotash, you can add fresh summer vegetables like cherry tomatoes, sweet onion, okra, bell peppers, mushrooms, or zucchini. It’s a great way to use up any fresh produce that you have on hand. You can also add fresh herbs like fresh basil and your choice of spices for flavor.

You can also use canned corn or frozen veggies instead of fresh corn and vegetables. If you’re using canned corn, be sure to drain the liquid from it first before adding it to your dish.

The Classic Succotash Recipe

Homemade Succotash

The classic succotash is a super simple recipe that’s easy to make and is made with just a handful of ingredients that you can find in your kitchen. The original recipe calls for lima beans, corn, and tomatoes, and it’s really all about the combination of these ingredients.

For this recipe make sure you use fresh or frozen corn. You can add diced green or red bell pepper if you want, but it isn’t necessary. The corn and lima beans are the stars of this dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen lima beans
  • 3 ears fresh corn or 1/2 cup of frozen corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons of salted butter or olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

If you’re using fresh lima beans, cook them in boiling water for about an hour or until they are tender, then drain and set them aside.

If you’re using frozen corn kernels, you don’t need to blanch or boil them since they are already precooked. But it’s good to wash them off with water before using them.

Once you’re done with cooking or preparing your lima beans place the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until melted. Add onion and saute for three minutes, until tender but not browned. Stir in corn and lima beans, salt, and pepper to taste.

Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes until heated through and the flavors have blended, stirring occasionally. Serve warm as a side dish or as a main dish served on toast points.

This recipe is easy to make and you can enjoy it as a side dish or as a main meal.

Succotash Nutrition Facts

Succotash illustration

Since this is a dish that is made with baby lima beans and corn, these ingredients contain essential nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

You can make the dish as nutritious as you like by adding fresh vegetables to the mix. For example, you can add kale or spinach to your succotash for an extra boost of vitamins and minerals. You can also add meats like chicken, pork, or beef to make the dish more protein-rich.

Tips for Making Great Succotash

  • Use fresh lima beans and corn – Like any other dish that calls for veggies, it’s always better to use fresh vegetables than frozen ones. Frozen vegetables may be convenient, but they can’t compare to fresh vegetables. Fresh corn and lima beans will have a better texture, flavor, and color than frozen ones.
  • Add texture and brightness with fresh herbs – Fresh herbs add a whole new dimension to succotash, with their complex flavors and bright colors. You can use them as a garnish at the end of cooking or chop them up finely and add them at the beginning. If you don’t have fresh herbs feel free to use dried herbs, but be sure to add them at the beginning of cooking so they have a chance to release their flavor into the dish.
  • No bacon? Try mushrooms instead – Sautéed mushrooms are a great way to add a meaty flavor to the dish without having to use bacon. Try sautéing them with olive oil and garlic, or adding them at the end of cooking for just a few minutes.
  • Don’t overcook the vegetables – The vegetables should be tender but still slightly crunchy. If you overcook them, they’ll lose their fresh flavor and texture. Remember to use fresh corn.
  • Consider making your own bacon bits – If you don’t have bacon bits on hand, it’s easy to make your own. Just cook a few strips of bacon until they’re crisp. Then chop or crumble the bacon into small pieces and add it to the succotash.
  • Master the cooking time – from start to finish, cooking succotash should take about 20 minutes. That’s enough time for the corn and lima beans to cook through, but not so long that they turn mushy and their flavors become bland or lost in all of the other ingredients.
  • Consider who you’re cooking for – If you’re preparing succotash for your kids consider adding ingredients that your kids enjoy eating. For example, if you’re making succotash for a child who doesn’t like lima beans, you can substitute the beans with Fava beans or soybeans. If you’re making succotash for an adult who enjoys strong flavors, consider adding spices and fresh herbs to the dish. For example, adding green pepper flakes or thyme will give your succotash a spicy kick that adults enjoy.

Final Thoughts

Succotash is possibly one of the easiest and simplest dishes to make. You can make it for a large group or just for yourself.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating this dish. You can add to it whatever vegetables or meats you want including fresh herbs and spices for flavor. You can use fresh or frozen corn and lima beans, depending on your preferences and what you have available. 

It’s really up to you what you want to add to your succotash dish, and that’s one of the many reasons we love it.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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