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 bean stew is served alongside vermicelli rice.
What I Love About This Recipe
Fasolia bi lahme, meat 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 Lebanese-style stew with all types of cuts of lamb and beef. My favorite meat to use is lamb with the bone, cut into large chunks. This is one Lebanese version of this hearty stew, slow-cooked for several hours, infusing the flavors beautifully.
- Dried Lima Beans: I recommend using large dried lima beans (fasolia beans) for this recipe because they make this stew 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. Dry lima beans look like dry white beans.
- Lamb: Any cut of lamb will work for this recipe. I prefer lamb loin chops, boneless lamb leg cut into cubes (I buy mine at Costco), or lamb shoulder. Try to cut the lamb into large chunks, so it will cook easily. If lamb is unavailable, beef is a great substitute. Beef shank (with the bone), chuck roast, or any beef stew meat is suitable. Also, the amount of lamb or beef can be adjusted to your dietary preference.
- Onions: Use white onion, brown onion, or sweet onion for this recipe. I chop the onions into small pieces. Since onion size varies dramatically, I recommend measuring the chopped onions.
- Canned Tomatoes: Use any type of canned crushed tomato, diced tomato, or plain tomato sauce.
- Tomato Paste: I recommend plain tomato paste.
- 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.
- Extra Virgin 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, fresh cilantro is added to this stew. I really like chopped cilantro, so I'd recommend using it.
How To Make Fasolia
Soak the dried 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 cooking 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 Lebanese rice and pita bread.
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 prefer to cook the lamb and beans together so that the flavors infuse. If the beans aren't soaked overnight, boil them for about 30 minutes to soften them.
- Complete the 3-hour cooking time. This Lebanese fasolia recipe 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.
- Serve with a side of rice.
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.
- Double the beans. The traditional recipe has more beans to meat ratio. Just double the quantity of lima beans.
- Substitute beef in lieu of lamb. Use either beef cubes, beef shank, or tender lamb chunks of meat for fasolia, just substitute equal parts. You can also use goat meat, although it's not my preferred meat of choice because it's tougher.
- Use meat with bones or without bones. My family prefers to use meat with bones, however, meat without bones is also suitable.
- Add a bay leaf to the stew if desired.
- Serve with brown rice instead of white rice.
- 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.
Middle Eastern Comfort Food
- Mujadara Msufaye Lebanese Lentils and Rice
- Fresh Mulukhiyah with Roz (Jute Leaf Stew)
- Egyptian Koshari Recipe (The Best I've Had)
- Egyptian Kolkas - Taro Root Stew
- Egyptian Bamia - Okra Stew with Oxtail
- Shish Barak Lebanese Dumplings in Yogurt
- Kibbeh Bil Sanieh (Baked Kibbeh)
- Ouzi Spiced Rice With Minced Lamb and Toasted Nuts
Join the Tribe
Fasolia Lebanese Lamb and Lima Bean Stew
- 2 lbs boneless lamb, cubed see note 5
- 1 lb dried lima beans large or small
- 14.5 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1 large onion
- 8 garlic cloves peeled, whole
- 12 cups water rough estimate
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoon ground allspice
- salt to taste
- 1 cup chopped cilantro optional
- Soak the dried lima beans the night before or for a minimum of 3 hours.
- In a large pot on medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Caramelize the lamb meat on each side.
- Add the chopped onions to the same pan where the meat was cooked. Sautee the onions on medium-high heat until cooked through (about 8 minutes).
- Add the soaked lima beans, water, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, caramelized lamb meat, salt, pepper, and allspice. Turn the stove to medium heat and cover. If using garlic, add the garlic peeled and whole. Cook the fasolia for about 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours, or until the lamb is tender. Stir every 30 minutes.
- If the stew is very thick, add some water so the beans don't burn on the bottom. Cook for another 1 hour on very low heat covered. The total cooking time is close to 3 hours. Add chopped cilantro (optional).
- Serve with vermicelli rice.
- Substitute beef in lieu of lamb.
- The nutrition facts do not include rice.
- Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Store in the freezer in a freezer-friendly container for up to 3 months.
- Substitute bone-in meat for boneless. Just double the weight. So if the recipe calls for 1 lb of boneless meat, substitute 2 lbs of bone-in meat.