The Best Substitutes For Great Northern Bean! (#10’s Pricey)


Tasting mild, creamy, and nutty, Great Northern beans go so well with rice, stews, chilis, and the like! So what happens on the off chance you ran out of Great Northern beans or can’t find any in the supermarket? You use a Great Northern bean substitute, that’s what!

We know the Great Northern Lights, but what about Great Northern BEANS? (*)

Sure, Great Northern beans may not be as colorful and stunning as the aurora borealis, but they are among the more popular beans we use in many delicious dishes.

Short Answer

The best ingredients to replace Great Northern beans include Cannellini beans, navy beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, and lima beans.

Bet we don’t stop there. We explain why these are great substitutes for Great Northern beans and how to use them, so keep on reading!

The 10 Best Substitutes For Great Northern Bean!

For those unfamiliar with Great Northern beans, these are also known as large white beans. These beans have a mild, delicate taste and grainy texture that works in many dishes, making them a versatile ingredient.

Fun fact:

Great Northern beans get their name from a place we now call North Dakota, where the Mandan Tribe grew these beans for hundreds of years.

Familiar with the classic pork and beans? The Great Northern beans are the main ingredient! They are also popularly served with meats like poultry and pork or salads, stews, and soups. 

You can usually find Great Northern beans in the supermarket, but in the off chance you can’t find them, you can use other bean varieties looking and tasting similar. Here are what you can replace Great Northern beans with:

1. Canned Great Northern Beans

image of using Canned Great Northern Beans

If your recipe calls for fresh Great Northern beans, your next best bet is the canned version! These are essentially the same thing, but you can readily use canned Great Northern beans instead of fresh or dried.

You can use an equal 1:1 ratio as a Great Northern beans substitute, but note that the canned version may have more salt.

2. Navy Beans

image of using Navy Beans

Navy beans are a fantastic substitute for Great Northern beans as they both look alike. These are small cream-colored beans with a mild, nutty flavor with a velvety texture. So while they aren’t exactly like the Great Northern, you can use navy beans in a pinch!

Both navy and Great Northern beans absorb flavors of other ingredients excellently to use them interchangeably in soups, bean burgers, tacos, enchiladas, pasta, or white bean chilies.

We also appreciate that navy beans are low in sodium but high in fiber, helping our health. Moreover, you won’t need too much time to prepare these beans, so they work if you need to create quick recipes.

3. Cannellini Beans

image of using Cannellini Beans

Cannellini beans are larger than Great Northern beans, but they share the same mild, nutty flavor and fluffy texture. The flavors aren’t intense, but they absorb the ingredients’ flavors excellently, like large white beans.

However, cannellini beans are fluffier than they are grainy, so they may change the expected texture or consistency of your dish.

Cannellini beans originate from Italy, so you can find them featured in numerous Italian dishes. That’s why they work great in Italian-themed soups or salads.

Up Next: 10 Best Cannellini Beans Substitutes for Your Cooking

4. Pinto Beans

image of using Pinto beans

Pinto beans, also known as the frijol pinto, don’t look similar to Great Northern beans, but we appreciate the added flavor to dishes. These beans are brown with speckles, so we recommend using them to replace Great Northern beans in dishes where color won’t matter.

Moreover, pinto beans have a slightly different flavor and texture, with pinto tasting earthier and richer with slight sweetness and nuttiness. On the other hand, Great Northern beans taste mild, delicate, and with a slight nuttiness.

That said, pinto beans work excellently in absorbing other ingredients’ flavors, like Great Northern beans. We recommend it for recipes like dips, stews, or tacos. However, if you create recipes that require white-colored beans, like white chili or white refried beans, you can try other Great Northern bean substitutes.

Since they have a slightly stronger taste than large white beans, consider combining kidney beans with pinto beans for a milder flavor.

5. Black Beans

image of using Black Beans

As the name suggests, black beans do NOT look the same as Great Northern beans at all! They have entirely different appearances and textures but a similar mild flavor.

It’s not the best for all recipes, but you can use it to replace Great Northern beans in specific recipes like bean burgers, salads, soups, stews, salsas, burritos, or certain chili dishes.

Black beans are nutrient-dense, having high protein, antioxidants, and fiber levels!

6. Black-Eyed Peas

These are not to be confused with black beans or the infamous band! These peas are a cowpea variety grown for edible beans. It’s white with a black spot looking like an eye, hence the name.

You can find this cowpea in the Caribbean, North African, West African, and Middle Eastern cuisines. They make a good substitute for Great Northern beans as they are readily available and easy to cook. Moreover, they have a mild and nutty flavor similar to large white beans.

We recommend this substitute for its health benefits as well, having high levels of minerals and dietary fiber.

7. Red Kidney Beans

Again, red kidney and Great Northern beans have different appearances, but they still work well as replacements for the latter. Red kidney beans have a sweeter and nuttier flavor than Great Northern beans, so we only recommend the Great Northern beans substitute as a last resort in certain stews or soups.

8. Chickpeas

image of using Chickpeas

Chickpeas aren’t a type of bean but a legume. However, they have the bean-like flavor we appreciate and an earthy, nutty, and starchy taste. Expect a mildly grainy texture comparable to mashed potatoes.

While chickpea has a different flavor and appearance, it can absorb flavors like Great Northern beans and have a similar texture. Plus, chickpeas offer a ton of amazing health benefits, with the United Nations considering this as a superfood.

Learn more: What’s The Best Chickpea Substitute? (#5 You Just Now Know!)

9. Butter Beans

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Butter beans are another excellent Great Northern beans substitute, though they have a different velvety texture and mild butter flavor. Even then, butter beans absorb flavors nicely while holding their shape as you cook them.

While butter beans aren’t our first choice to replace Great Northern beans, they work when you’re in a pinch. Just make sure you choose the white or pale yellow colored butter beans.

10. Lima Beans (Pricey)

image of using lima beans

Lima beans are extremely popular in Southern cuisine, found in recipes like baked beans or succotash. It gets its name from where it’s from (Lima, Peru).

It’s worth noting that these large, flat, green beans appear different from large white beans and have different flavors. Lima beans have a more robust and distinct taste, earthy and nutty. While it works as a Great Northern beans substitute, expect a slightly different flavor.

You can use it in most recipes calling for Great Northern beans like salads, casseroles, dips, spreads, soups, stews, and baked beans.

Another thing to note: Lima beans are on the more expensive side, so if you’re on a budget, it may not be the best substitute for Great Northern beans.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have other questions surrounding these large white beans? Continue reading below for answers!

Fun fact:

Many people add these large white beans to stretch a dish to feed even more people, but they still taste delicious! They add more bulk into a recipe without changing or lessening the flavor.


We hope our best substitutes for Great Northern bean gave you an idea of what to use for your following recipes! Next time you run out of these large white beans, you know what to look for in the kitchen or supermarket.

Continue expanding your knowledge in food and drinks with our informative content here at Nomspedia! We’ve got a lot more coming up, so please follow our posts.

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