Best Substitutes For Great Northern Beans

11 Best Substitutes For Great Northern Beans

Known for their mild flavor and creamy texture, great northern beans are a popular bean throughout the United States. You can easily substitute one of their many substitutes for great northern beans when you don’t have any on hand.

So what are the best substitutes for great northern beans? The best great northern bean substitutes have a mild flavor, similar texture, and similar cooking time, as well as the ability to soak up maximum flavor. We offer cannellini beans, navy beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, lima beans, black beans, adzuki beans, and more! Discover the best substitutes for great northern beans and how they compare in taste, texture, and nutritional content!

What Are Great Northern Beans?

The great northern bean is a variety of white bean most commonly used in soups, stews, and casseroles. It is distinguished primarily by its small size and cream color. While great northern beans are an independent type of legume, they have many characteristics in common with cannellini, baby lima, and navy beans.

Taste And Texture

The grainy texture becomes smooth and melt-in-your-mouth if properly cooked, making great northern beans extremely popular all over the United States.  Generally, they have a mild flavor and can easily absorb the flavors of seasonings and other ingredients added to the dish.

Common Uses

A variety of sweet and savory dishes can be made using great northern beans, just like any other type of bean. Salads and casseroles can also benefit from great northern beans, which are commonly used in soups and stews.

Additionally, they go well with a variety of meats and vegetables and can also be enjoyed on their own. By adding butter or spices, they can be turned into a healthy side dish or into a savory hummus-like dip for bread and crackers.


Great northern beans are considered to be extremely nutritious and contain a lot of protein and fiber. The beans are a favorite of vegetarians due to their high mineral content and low calorie and natural sugar content.

Best Substitutes For Great Northern Beans

A wide variety of great northern beans can be found in supermarkets and farmer’s markets across the country. You can easily substitute one of their many great alternatives if you don’t have any (or your kitchen pantry is out).

Your recipe may require options with similar tastes, textures, and/or nutritional profiles depending on which characteristic of great northern beans is most important to you. Great northern beans can be substituted with some of these great alternatives!

1. Cannellini Beans

One of the best substitutes for great northern beans are cannellini beans, also known as white kidney beans. Their appearance is similar to that of great northern beans, and they are typically white in color with squared ends. They grow in Italy and are kidney-shaped. The airy, soft texture of these nuts and mild nutty flavor make them a staple of Italian recipes, as well as worldwide recipes.

Cannellini beans are slightly bigger than great northern beans, and can be substituted for them in stews, soups, salads, dips and pasta dishes. Unlike great northern beans, cannellini beans keep their shape well after cooking, becoming soft and chewy. As well as being highly nutritious, they offer numerous health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol, improving digestion, and building muscles.

2. Navy Beans

As a substitute for great northern beans, navy beans (also known as pea beans) are small, cream- or white-colored beans. These North American beans are primarily used in baked beans recipes because of their similar texture to great northern beans. While navy beans do not hold their shape as well, their mild flavor and ability to absorb other flavors make them a good alternative.

Despite their hard exteriors, they cook much faster and require less time to cook. To save time, navy beans can be used in soups, salads, chili, pasta, tacos, and enchiladas in place of great northern beans. With their high fiber content and low sodium content, they are an ideal choice for people with high blood pressure.

3. Pinto Beans

Southern states often use pinto beans as a substitute for great northern beans because of their versatility and ease of availability. Pinto beans have a dark color and are often speckled – hence their name – and are used in recipes like tacos and burritos. Pinto beans have a slightly nutty and earthy taste, similar to that of great northern beans, and have a creamy texture similar to that of soups and salads.

If cooked properly and for the right amount of time, they absorb flavors well and will hold their shape well. In addition to containing dietary fiber, protein, amino acids, phosphorus, and manganese, pinto beans are also a healthy option.

4. Black-Eyed Peas

Known as southern peas, black-eyed peas have a pale color with a black spot that looks like an eye on top. Their ease of cooking and availability make them a good substitute for great northern beans in North African, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, and West African cuisine.

In addition to being full of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, black-eyed peas have a mild, nutty flavor similar to great northern beans. The dense, creamy consistency and earthy taste make them a great addition to soups, salads, stews, casseroles, and side dishes.

5. Chickpeas

You might not have thought to substitute chickpeas for great northern beans, but they are actually a decent substitute with a slightly earthy and nutty flavor, similar to great northern beans. Chickpeas are one of the most widely used beans in the world and can be used in salads, soups, stews, tacos, and burritos instead of northern great beans.

As with great northern beans, cooked chickpeas hold their shape really well and absorb the flavors of the ingredients surrounding them. You can lose weight and improve digestion with chickpeas, which can also strengthen your muscles and bones. Chickpeas are a staple in most kitchen pantries.

6. Lima Beans

Butter beans, or lima beans, are large creamy beans from South America that are used in a variety of dishes. When cooked, lima beans have thick, whitish skin, similar to great northern beans. They are pale green in color with thin skin around them.

Lime beans have a mild, buttery flavor and can be used in soups, stews, braises, casseroles, spreads, dips, and salads, as well as in a variety of other dishes.

It contains about a quarter of your daily recommended iron, helps with digestive health, heart health, diabetes management, and anemia.

7. Black Beans

In place of great northern beans, you can use black beans, also known as black turtle beans. In terms of appearance, black beans are small, shiny, and black, while great northern beans are creamy in color. Both are mild in flavor, regardless of their texture and color differences. Aside from that, black beans do not hold their shape well when cooked, so they are used for salads, tacos, and burritos.

For recipes such as soups and stews where they are cooked for a long time, black beans will most likely turn to mush. The nutritional profile of black beans is impressive, so if the color difference doesn’t bother you, you can easily swap them for great northern beans.

8. Fava Beans

Large, flat, and bright green, fava beans are dense and meaty with a creamy, buttery texture. They have a long history of cultivation around the world. Fava beans hold their shape well when cooked and are good at absorbing flavors. They can replace great northern beans in recipes.

Their texture is creamier than great northern beans and they can be cooked longer than great northern beans. Their health benefits include improved immunity and improved bone and blood health, and they can be used in soups, stews, salads, and falafel recipes.

9. Red Kidney Beans

While red kidney beans are very different in color from great northern beans, when cooked they hold their shape quite well. In addition to their color difference, they also have a slightly different flavor profile than great northern beans, with a lightly sweet and deep nutty taste.

In soups and stews, red kidney beans are a great option for long-simmering recipes. Also, they add a nice, crunchy element to salads and are a good substitute if you’re out of great northern beans.

10. Adzuki Beans

The azuki bean (also called the aduki bean, red bean, or red mung bean) is cultivated in East Asia and is commonly used in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisine. Their mild flavor is nutty and earthy, and they offer just the right texture and mouthfeel to replace great northern beans. Their soft texture makes them an excellent addition to soups, stews, and bean bowls, and they can also be served with salads or boiled as a side dish.

As well as being high in fiber, potassium, folate, and magnesium, as well as B vitamins and other nutrients, adzuki beans also help lower the risk for diabetes, improve heart health, and improve digestion.

11. Flageolet Beans

Flageolet beans (pronounced “flah-zho-lay”) are tiny, tender, kidney-shaped beans popular in French cuisine. The flageolet bean is often called “the caviar of beans” because of its light green color and creamy texture. For soups, stews, and side dishes, their mild, nutty, and delicate flavor makes them a good substitute for great northern beans.

It is not as common to find these beans in their dried form as the other options on this list. If you can find them, you can use them in place of great northern beans. In addition to being high in protein and dietary fiber, flageolet beans are a healthy substitute for great northern beans.

Final Thoughts

They are not just flavorful, but also highly nutritious, making them a great choice for a variety of dishes. Great northern beans come in a variety of colors and can be used in a variety of dishes. Because there are so many different types of beans available on the market, it is relatively easy to find good substitutes that are both mild in flavor and can properly absorb flavors.

The best beans depends on the dish you are making and what matters to you most, whether it’s the taste or the texture. It is best to substitute cannellini beans, navy beans, and pinto beans for great northern beans if flavor is important to you. If texture is more important to you, go with chickpeas, butter beans, or fava beans.

Related Questions

We thought you might have a few additional questions now that you know all about great northern beans (along with some of their best substitutes).

How should you store great northern beans?

At room temperature, dried great northern beans can be stored for 2–3 years without losing their quality. It is best to store them in an airtight container or resealable freezer bag once they have been opened to prevent them from spoiling.

How long do cooked great northern beans last in the refrigerator?

Great northern beans can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days if they are properly stored. A freezer-safe bag or airtight container will keep them for about 6 months if you freeze them.

Do you need to soak great northern beans before cooking?

The great northern beans do not need to be soaked before cooking, but if you want them to cook faster, it may be a good idea. You should cook soups and stews in dried form so that the liquid in which they are cooked becomes a flavorful broth.

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