Cannellini, Great Northern and Navy are three popular types of white beans. What’s the difference between them?
Cannellini beans are large and have that traditional kidney shape. With a slightly nutty taste and mild earthiness, they have a relatively thin skin and tender, creamy flesh. They hold their shape well and are one of the best white beans for salads and ragouts.
Great Northern beans are smaller than cannellinis and and suitable for any number of uses: salads, soups, stews, ragouts, purees. Their texture is slightly grainy, with a nutty, dense flavor. Popular in North America, Great Northerns look like white baby lima beans.
Navy beans are small and oval and cook relatively quickly (which, as Aliza Green notes in The Bean Bible, has made them popular with commercial baked bean manufacturers). Known as Boston beans, the white coco, pea beans or alubias chicas, Navy beans are perfect for dishes that don’t need the full bean shape to shine: purees, soups, stews and baked beans.
It’s great to know the differences between the three and it’s worth paying more attention to them when you’re using dried beans. Truthfully though, when we use canned white beans, we use these three almost interchangeably.