Fava Beans vs Lima Beans: What’s the Difference?

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Fava beans and lima beans aren’t the most popular in Western countries, but they are a staple of many people around the world.

Even though they may both look like small green beans, they are in fact different beans that have significant differences to consider.

This post is a quick side-by-side comparison of fava and lima beans.

Are Fava Beans and Lima Beans the Same?

green legumes

Fava beans and lima beans are not the same. While they both come from the Fabaceae family, fava beans (broad beans) originated in Northern Africa, while lima beans (butter beans) originated in South America.

Note that while fava beans can be bought in the less mature green version, they eventually mature to a brown colored bean.

Taste of Fava Beans vs Lima Beans

Both beans go well in salads and soups, but will give them a different flavor:

  • Fava beans – Have a firmer texture than lima beans, and also a richer nutty flavor.
  • Lima beans – Have a soft, creamy texture with a mild flavor profile. Unlike some other beans, lima beans taste much different fresh compared to canned.

Can I Use Fava Beans Instead of Lima Beans

You can typically substitute fava beans for lima beans or vice versa based on personal preference. Whether it’s a soup or salad, neither bean is usually too prominent, so the small differences in flavor don’t make that much of a difference.

Nutritional Value Comparison

Even though most beans have similar nutritional profiles, there are typically some differences that may be important if you’re trying to maximize or minimize some particular nutrient.

The data in the following sections is per 100 grams (about 1/2 cup) of each bean.

Macronutrients

Let’s look at the main nutritional facts for fava and lima beans:

  Fava Beans Lima Beans
Energy (kcal) 110.0 122.9
Protein (g) 7.6 6.8
Total Lipid (g) 0.4 0.3
Carbohydrate (g) 19.6 23.6
Fiber (g) 5.4 5.4
Sugars (g) 1.8 1.6

The general profiles are the same, with a few key differences:

  • Fava beans have fewer calories
  • Fava beans have more protein
  • Lima beans have more carbohydrates (more starches)

Most people, especially those on a plant-based diet, would prefer having more protein and fewer calories in a food, so fava beans are the clear choice here.

And while the difference is not huge, if you eat multiple cups of beans in a day, those differences do add up.

SUMMARY

The macronutrient profiles of fava and lima beans are very similar. However, fava beans are slightly lower in calories and higher in protein, which is commonly preferred if you had to make a choice between the two.

Vitamins and Minerals

Now let’s look at the micronutrients in both these beans.

I’ve ordered the nutrients generally from most to least. Again, it’s per 100 gram serving.

Note that the RDA is a general reference number for adults, but the actual RDA depending on your age and gender may be different.

  RDA Fava Beans Lima Beans
Manganese (mg) 2.3 0.4 1.3
Potassium (mg) 2000 268.2 570.0
Folate (µg) 400 104.1 25.9
Magnesium (mg) 400 42.9 74.1
Phosphorus (mg) 700 124.7 130.0
Vitamin B-6 (mg) 1.3 0.1 0.2
Iron (mg) 18 1.5 2.5
Thiamin (mg) 1.2 0.1 0.1
Vitamin C (mg) 90 0.3 10.1
Zinc (mg) 11 1.0 0.8
Choline (mg) 550 30.6 44.1
Vitamin K (µg) 75 2.9 6.2
Riboflavin (mg) 1.3 0.1 0.1
Niacin (mg) 16 0.7 1.0
Selenium (µg) 55 2.6 2.0
Calcium (mg) 1200 35.9 31.8

For the most part, the nutrients found in significant amounts are similar in both types of beans.

However, there are some differences that might matter if you’re trying to get more of a particular vitamin or mineral:

  • Lima beans have much more manganese, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C.
  • Fava beans have much more folate.
SUMMARY

Both fava and lima beans have a significant amount of the RDA of several vitamins and minerals. However, lima beans have a stronger overall nutrient profile, only lacking in folate compared to fava beans.

What’s The Difference Between Fava Beans and Lima Beans?

Overall, fava beans are fairly similar to lima beans when it comes to taste and nutrition.

However, there are some differences that may make you prefer one over the other:

  • Fava beans have a firmer texture, while lima beans are softer and creamier (when cooked correctly).
  • Fava beans are higher in protein and also have fewer calories.
  • Lima beans overall have more vitamins and minerals, although fava beans are still a really healthy food too.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. I've spent over 6 years as a freelance nutrition writer and researcher. During this time, I've tested over 50 vegan protein powders, and over 100 other types of vegan supplements.