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Making a recipe that calls for great northern beans? If you are and you have none on hand, you’re likely looking for some of the best ways to substitute for great northern beans. Fret not as there are 9 replacements that can work. Keep reading to find out how you can find alternatives for great northern beans right in your kitchen!

great northern beans substitutes

Great northern beans, also referred to as great northern or “large white” beans are a mild tasting large white bean with a grainy texture. Great northern beans also have a mild and delicate flavor and can absorb other flavors well, which makes them a versatile bean to have on the kitchen.

Are great northern beans and cannellini beans the same?

Great Northern beans and cannellini beans are not the same although they are indeed very similar and can often be used interchangeably.

The main difference between the two is that great Northern beans are smaller, grainier, oval shaped and can easily take on other flavors around it. On the other hand, cannelini beans are kidney shaped, nuttier and earthier and has a smoother texture when cooked.

Great northern beans are used popularly in soups, stews, dips, casseroles, salads and even great for mash.

But, what if you’re making a recipes like white bean chili and you need some great northern and have none on hand? You must be wondering if there is any way to substitute these beans and get similar results.

The good news is that you can replace these beans if you have ingredients like navy beans, cannellini beans, pinto beans, black beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas and butter beans.

Let’s discuss each in more details below.

Best substitutes for great northern beans

Canned great northern beans

canned great northern beans

If you’re tying to replace dried great northern beans, you can easily use canned beans in its place. They’re essentially the same thing, except that canned bean are already cooked while dried beans need at least 90 minutes to cook. Also canned beans are less flavorful when compared to dried.

Use 1 1/2 cup of canned great northern beans to replace a 1/2 cup of dried great northern beans

Navy beans

navy beans to replace great northern beans

Navy beans are small cream or whitish beans that are easily substituted for great northern beans.

Navy beans have a mild, slightly nutty flavor with a velvety texture, so they’re not 100% like great northern, nonetheless in a pinch these small white beans can easily be used as an alternative for great northern beans.

This is so because of their mild flavor and because they are good at absorbing the flavors around them, which is something great northern beans do too.

Use navy beans to replace large white beans in soups, white bean chili, bean burgers, pasta, tacos and even enchiladas. Also find out how to substitute navy beans in recipes.

Cannellini beans

Cannellini beans as a substitute for great northern

While cannelini beans also called white kidney beans are bigger than great northern beans, these extra large white beans can be used as a replacement for great northern beans because they are also mild with a slightly nutty flavor and a fluffy texture. 

While cannelini beans are more fluffy than grainy and will add a slightly different texture to your dish, if you happen to have them on hand, they can be used instead of great northern in many dishes.

Pinto beans

pinto beans

Pinto beans also called frijol pinto aren’t white, in fact, they’re speckled and have a very different look compared to great northern, however, in a pinch you can use pinto beans instead of great northern. Especially in dishes where the color of the beans don’t really matter.

Frijol pinto also have a bit of a different flavor profile and texture, in that pinto are more earthy, rich slightly sweet and nutty compared to the mild, delicate and slightly nutty flavor of the large white beans.

Nonetheless, pinto beans are great at absorbing the flavors around them which means they can work in recipes that call for great Northern beans like tacos, dips and stews. 

Note, if you’re trying to make a recipe like white refried beans, or white chili for instance, pinto beans will not work in those cases.

Black beans

black beans can be used as s tand in for great northern beans

Another type of bean you can use as a great northern bean substitute are black beans or turtle beans.

It is very obvious that black beans and large white beans are completely different, in terms of looks.

However, black beans have a mild flavor which is comparable to that of great northern, although the texture of these beans are different.

Use black beans as a stand in for great northern in dishes like bean salads, bean burgers, chili, soups, stews, burritos and even in salsa.

Red kidney beans

red beans

Red kidney beans are another good great northern beans replacement. Red kidney beans have more of a lightly sweet and deep nutty flavor and can work as a last resort in certain soups and stews. Also, you can red more on red kidney beans substitute ideas here. 

Chick peas

chick peas

If you have chickpeas on hand, you can also use this ingredient as a stand in for great northern beans.

Chickpeas can be described as having a beany, earthy, starchy and nutty flavor and a creamy, yet mildly grainy texture.

So, while chick peas will add somewhat of a different flavor and a different look to a dish, it is great at absorbing the flavors around it, just like large white beans. It is also great because it has a similar texture to great norther beans. Also as you can see here, great northern beans can also be used as substitute for chick peas

Butter beans

butter beans

If you’re trying to find a good great northern beans alternative, butter beans is also a good choice. 

While it should be noted that butter beans have a velvety texture and a mild buttery flavor compared to great northern beans, they can work in certain dishes as they absorb flavors well and can also hold their shape when cooked properly.

Butter beans would not be my first choice as a substitute for great Northern, but, if these are all you have on hand, these white to pale yellow colored beans will do the trick. Especially in creamier recipes. 

Final thoughts

Unlike ingredients like certain spices or certain herbs that can be more difficult to replace, beans are quite easy to replace in most dishes. As such, here are the best great northern bean alternatives that you can use in soups, stews, tacos, chili, refried beans and even salads.

Most of those beans listed above are mild in flavor and can properly soak up the flavors of the other ingredients around them. This makes them perfect to use in a pinch. Also most even have similar cook times as compared to large white beans which makes them even more suitable to use as substitutes.

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