This vegan butter bean stew is vibrant, hearty, and healthy. With a fragrant citrus zing, it's a delicious dinner option that's low-fat and gluten-free.
The lemon zest does an incredible job of lifting the flavour of the tomatoes and veg, which themselves combine to deliver an explosion of colour. All in all, it's a winning butter bean recipe that I continue to make regularly at home.
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Why you'll love this butter bean recipe
- You can have it ready in around 40 minutes
- It's a feast for the eyes with all that colourful mixed veg
- It's low in fat and high in nutrients such as fibre, iron, and vitamin C
- You can easily make this stew stretch further with an extra tin of tomatoes and/or beans
Recipe testing notes
- Make it a one-pot meal: Thicken the stew with quinoa (GF) or bulgur wheat (not GF) to make it a true one-pot meal. Add this when adding the chopped tomatoes, then cook the stew for longer and add extra liquid as necessary until the grains are tender.
- Other beans: Butter beans work very well here, but you could make this dish with virtually any legumes you like – beans, lentils, or chickpeas. You'll just want to make sure these are canned or pre-cooked before adding here.
Can you add lemon to stew?
If you've never tried adding lemon zest to a tomato-based stew before, you're in for a treat. It's absolutely delicious together with the subtle smokiness from the smoked paprika here.
Note: I would only use the yellow zest of the lemon – not the white pith or the juice. The zest is the part that holds the lemon's essential oil, adding a fragrant citrus zing to the stew.
Lemon juice has a tart, acidic flavour, and while it can help to lift other flavours, I'd suggest starting small if you want to include it here. Alternatively, save it for other recipes such Moroccan zaalouk or vegan cheesy pasta.
Is butter bean stew healthy?
In one serving of this recipe (without sides), you'll find:
- Calories: 189 kcal
- Fibre: 9 grams (38% of RDA)
- Iron: 5 mg (28% of RDA)
- Vitamin C: 113 mg (137% of RDA)
Want to learn more about the wonderful world of beans, lentils, and chickpeas? Check out my Beginner’s Guide to Pulses.
What you'll need
This butter bean stew combines various colours and textures for a healthy recipe that's full of flavour:
- Butter beans as the star of the show
- Lemon zest for those citrus notes
- Mixed peppers and spinach to pack in the nutrients
- Seasoning in the form of thyme and smoked paprika
How to make lemony butter bean stew
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the sliced onions. Fry for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly, before adding the sliced peppers.
Turn up the heat slightly to get these going, and reduce to medium again after a few minutes.
Once the onions and peppers have started to soften, add the chopped garlic and fry for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomato puree and tinned tomatoes, using a spoon to break these down.
Next, add in the vegan stock, smoked paprika, and bay leaves. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After 5-10 minutes, stir in the drained butter beans, thyme, and grated lemon zest. Simmer for a further 10-15 minutes.
With 5 minutes to go, add the spinach leaves and mix these through the stew.
It'll look like a lot at first, but these will soon wilt.
Once the spinach leaves have wilted down, adjust the seasoning to taste and serve.
I like this stew spooned over basmati rice or brown rice, with a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley to finish it off.
To make this dish (and others) even cheaper, you can use dried beans. These will need to be soaked and cooked in advance, with times varying depending on the type.
If you need to ensure that this recipe is 100% gluten-free, use a vegan stock that is certified or labelled as such.
Store this butter bean stew in the fridge for up to four days. Simply reheat in the microwave or in a pan with a splash of water to loosen it up.
You can freeze this butter bean stew in sealed containers or resealable bags for up to six months. Defrost before reheating in the microwave or in a pan with a splash of water.
Variations and tips for vegan butter bean stew
- Add more veg: Add carrots, mushrooms, courgette, kale, aubergine, sweet potato, or anything else you fancy (or want to use up). You can also include chopped fresh chillies for a bit of extra heat.
- Lemon juice: After using the lemon zest in this recipe, try using the juice in other things such as salad dressings, hot drinks, cakes, and vegan cheesy pasta.
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Lemony Butter Bean Stew (Vegan + Gluten-Free)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
- 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
- 1 green pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato puree
- 3x 14 oz (400 g) tins tomatoes
- 1 cup (240 ml) vegan stock
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 4 bay leaves
- 2x 14 oz (400 g) tins butter beans, drained and rinsed
- 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 5 oz (150 g) fresh spinach (approx. 4-5 cups)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley, to serve
- Heat the oil in a large pan and add the sliced onions. Fry for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly, before adding the sliced peppers. Turn up the heat slightly to get these going, and reduce to medium again after a few minutes.
- Once the onions and peppers have started to soften, add the chopped garlic and fry for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the tomato puree and tinned tomatoes, using a spoon to break these down. Next, add in the vegan stock, smoked paprika, and bay leaves. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- After 5-10 minutes, stir in the drained butter beans, thyme, and grated lemon zest. Simmer for a further 10-15 minutes.
- With 5 minutes to go, add the spinach leaves and mix these through the stew. It'll look like a lot at first, but these will soon wilt.
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