Lima Bean Couscous Salad

“Do you ever come across on-the-package recipes that don’t work?”

People ask me this all the time. And I respond, “Yes, more often than you think!”. For the most part on-the-package recipes are wonderful hidden gems (hence, I started this blog!) but every once in a while I’ll find one that…um…isn’t. I have a special (circular) file for those and they don’t make it onto the blog.

Then there are on-the-package recipes, like this very tasty one for Lima Bean Couscous Salad that I’m sharing today, that work but the directions provided on-the-package are missing important details to make it successful. That’s another reason I write this blog – to fill in those details that brands sometimes omit due to space constraints. I ultimately found the right way to make this salad, but first let me show you what I went through to get there.

Soak beans overnight. Sounds easy, right?

Last weekend was Labor Day and I wanted a healthy salad to round out my menu. The Lima Bean Couscous Salad on the back of the Bob’s Red Mill Large Lima Beans package, with its zesty sherry vinaigrette and confetti-like bell peppers tossed throughout, sounded like the perfect choice. The first step of the recipe: Soak beans overnight. That sounded easy enough. Well…

Split lima beans...ugh

I woke the next morning to the disappointing mess of dry, split, skinless lima beans pictured above (that’s before I drained them, by the way). Maybe they would have still been salvageable and edible if these were going into a purée, but I was making a salad (that I was hoping to photograph!). I was so frustrated.

Countless Google search results later, I determined the dry, split, skinless bean problem likely arose from either the way I soaked the beans (clearly not enough water) or the fact that I soaked them at all (apparently it’s not even necessary). I’m hardly a novice cook, but I’ve never prepared dried lima beans before. Wouldn’t it have been helpful if the package had mentioned, “fill the pot so the water rises at least 3 inches above the beans”?

Bob's Red Mill Large Lima Beans package

As I continued to look for lima bean soaking advice I thought to check Bob’s Red Mill’s own website. I found the Large Lima Beans on the site, and I noticed that the recipe on the back of the package in their photo was different from the bag I had in my kitchen. Moreover, the website photo didn’t say to “Soak beans overnight.” Instead, it suggested a quick soak method which I’ve come to learn is a bit more reliable when it comes to keeping the beans intact.

My husband went back out to the store for new beans and I gave this new quick soak version of the recipe a try, with much better results. The beans, for the most part, didn’t split and they came out nice and tender. My best guess is I had an older package (even though I’d just purchased it the day before) and they improved the recipe in the new packaging.

I opted to combine the beans with Israeli couscous rather than standard couscous because I prefer the look of the large pearls (NOTE: Israeli couscous is prepared slightly differently than standard couscous, so be sure to follow the specific directions for whichever type of couscous you decide to use). This is one of those salads that taste even better the next day, once the flavors of the sherry vinaigrette have had a chance to seep into the beans and couscous. All’s well that ended well!

UPDATE: I let Bob’s Red Mill know about my initial challenges with this recipe on their Facebook page – here was their kind response:

Bob's Red Mill made good!

Thank you, Bob!

Lima Bean Couscous Salad...get the recipe at

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  1. Jeanette wrote:

    I’ve never tried cooking dried lima beans – glad you figured out how to do it and alerted Bob’s Red Mill. I do love their products so I’m glad they were quick to respond.

    Posted 9.7.12 Reply
  2. Gorgeous! The soaking overnight it was always gets me. I forget until it’s too late!

    Posted 9.7.12 Reply
  3. I haven’t even prepared dried beans… period. I have chickpeas in my pantry that I’ve been meaning to use, but they’ve just sat there. Thanks for sharing your story (struggles and all). The dish looks like it came out great though!

    Posted 9.7.12 Reply
  4. I’ve never cooked with dried lima beans either–I usually buy the frozen ones. But I love them and this salad sounds delicious!

    Posted 9.7.12 Reply
  5. richard bennett wrote:


    I have soaked northern and kidney beans overnight with no problem. Also, you should use salt. My advice on matters like this is cooks illustrated who I believe do a great job of testing this sort of issue.

    Posted 9.7.12 Reply
  6. love these ingredients! Have a great weekend!

    Posted 9.7.12 Reply
  7. Simple and delicious recipes

    Posted 9.26.12 Reply