Lebanese fasolia (pronounced FA-SOOL-YA) is a slow-cooked lamb and white bean stew made with sautéed onions, lamb, lima beans (also known as butter beans), crushed tomatoes, and allspice. This comforting Lebanese stew is served alongside vermicelli rice.
What I Love About This Recipe
Fasolia, lamb and lima bean stew, is incredibly simple and satisfying. The portion size for this recipe is rather large, making it suitable for a large family or a meal prep recipe. Over the years, I've made this recipe with all types of cuts of lamb and beef. My favorite meat to use is lamb with the bone, cut into large chunks. This hearty stew is slow-cooked for several hours making the flavors infuse beautifully.
- Dried Lima Beans: I recommend using large dried lima beans for this recipe because they make this stew really thick and hearty. If you can only find small lima beans, those will work too. I have never made this recipe with canned lima beans, so I don't recommend using the canned stuff. Butter beans are the same thing as lima beans, so dried butter beans are acceptable as well.
- Lamb: Any cut of lamb will work for this recipe. I recommend cutting the lamb into large chunks, so it will cook easily. If lamb is unavailable, beef is a great substitute. Also, the amount of lamb or beef can be adjusted to your dietary preference.
- Onions: I use white onions, brown onions, or sweet onions for this recipe. I chop the onions into small pieces. Since onion size varies dramatically, I recommend measuring the chopped onions.
- Canned Tomatoes: Any type of canned crushed tomato is suitable.
- Ground Allspice: Ground allspice is important for this dish. It's easy to find in the spice section of any grocery store. If you don't have any allspice, you can add half the amount of cinnamon.
- Olive Oil: Any type of good-quality olive oil is suitable for this recipe. Butter or ghee can be substituted if needed.
- Garlic cloves (optional): Use peeled whole cloves of garlic if using.
- Chopped cilantro (optional): In the Northern part of Lebanon, chopped cilantro is added to this stew. I really like the chopped cilantro, so I'd recommend using it.
How To Make Fasolia
Soak the dried lima beans overnight or for 3 hours minimum.
Caramelize the lamb in a large pot on medium-high heat with olive oil. Caramelize all sides of the lamb.
Saute the onions in the same skillet as the lamb. Add the chopped onions directly to the same skillet used for caramelizing the lamb. This gets all of the lamb flavor infused into the onions.
Add the soaked lima beans, water, caramelized lamb, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic cloves (optional) salt, pepper, and allspice.
Reduce the heat to medium and cover. Cook for about 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours on medium heat with a lid. The water will reduce and the stew will thicken up. Monitor the liquid in the pot. If the stew is thick, add a few cups of water so the beans won't burn. Keep an eye on the beans. Make sure the beans are not burning on the bottom of the pot while cooking this recipe. I stir the pot about every 30 minutes to make sure there is adequate liquid.
Cook for another 1 hour on low heat covered. The total cook time for this stew is about 3 hours. The stew is finished once the lima beans are extremely tender and the liquid in the pot is thickened up. Serve with vermicelli rice.
Tips and Tricks
- Soak the lima beans (butter beans) the night before. Since we are using dried butter beans for this recipe, we need to soak the beans ahead of time. I recommend doing this the night before. However, if you are short on time, you can soak the beans for a minimum of 3 hours.
- Add enough water when soaking the butter beans. I add about 3 inches (7.5 cm) of water above the dried butter beans. They will really expand while soaking. Rinse the water and drain prior to making the recipe.
- Use allspice. This spice makes a large part of the flavor. If you have never cooked with allspice, now is the time! If you don't have any allspice on hand, then substitute half the amount of ground cinnamon or 7 spice.
- The lamb meat and lima bean cooking times are about the same if the lima beans have been soaked overnight. I cook the lamb and beans together so that the flavors infuse. The beans take longer to cook than the lamb, especially if using large lima beans.
- Complete the 3-hour cooking time. Fasolia gets better and better the longer it is cooked. Don't take shortcuts for the cooking time. If you try to cook this stew faster by turning up the heat, you will run the risk of burning the bottom of the pot. Cook for 2 hours on medium heat, then 1 hour on low heat.
Substitutions and Variations
- Use a pressure cooker. Cut the cooking time by half by using a pressure cooker.
- Add whole garlic cloves. My family adds whole garlic cloves to flavor the stew, however, many other recipes don't use garlic.
- Add cilantro at the end.
- Use fewer beans. This recipe has a large quantity of lima beans, which is how my family makes it. However, if you'd like fewer beans, you can cut the quantity in half and the water in half.
- Substitute beef in lieu of lamb. Either beef or lamb can be used for fasolia, just substitute equal parts.
- Use meat with bones or without bones. My family prefers to use meat with bones, however, meat without bones is also suitable.
- Very large stovetop pot
- Nonstick skillet
- Chefs knife and cutting board
- Can opener
- Larger bowl to soak the beans
Store fasolia in the fridge for up to 5 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Butter beans are large lima beans. Lima beans come in a few different sizes.
Rice! The best side dish for this butter beans stew with lamb is some Lebanese vermicelli rice.
Soak the lima beans first overnight. Boil the lima beans for about 1.5 hours with water until tender. Depending on the size of the lima beans, the cook time can vary.
In Arabic, fasolia means lima beans.