Known by many names including white pea beans, pearl haricots, and Boston beans, navy beans are small, oval-shaped, and creamy-white legumes.
They are popular in various cuisines for their mild, nutty flavor and tender texture. However, there might be instances when you need to find a substitute, either due to dietary restrictions, flavor preferences, or simply because you ran out of navy beans.
The best substitutes include Great Northern beans and cannellini beans, which closely mimic the texture and flavor of navy beans.
👅 Flavor Profile
Navy beans have a mild, nutty flavor and a smooth, creamy texture when cooked. They are highly versatile and absorb flavors from other ingredients well.
Products similar in flavor profile include other white beans like Great Northern beans, cannellini beans, and white kidney beans.
The texture of navy beans varies based on how they are cooked: they can retain their shape well in soups and stews, but can also be cooked until soft and creamy for dishes like baked beans.
🔄 The Closest Replacements/Substitutes
Great Northern Beans
Great Northern beans are among the best substitutes for navy beans. They have a similar mild, nutty flavor and a soft texture when cooked, making them versatile in numerous dishes. The substitution ratio is 1:1, meaning you won’t need to make drastic changes to your recipe.
Taste and Texture Comparison: Great Northern beans mirror navy beans in taste, albeit with a slightly stronger nutty flavor. Their texture aligns well too, though Great Northern beans are slightly larger, which gives a bit more bite to the dish.
Nutritional Comparison: Great Northern beans and navy beans are both rich in fiber and protein. They offer a hearty dose of nutrients, with navy beans having a slight edge in protein and fiber content.
Price and Availability Comparison: Great Northern beans are widely available in grocery stores and online. Their price is typically on par with navy beans, making them an accessible option.
Cannellini beans, also known as white kidney beans, are another excellent substitute for navy beans. They are larger and have a slightly firmer texture, but their mild flavor and creamy interior when cooked align well with navy beans.
Taste and Texture Comparison: Cannellini beans are mild and nutty, much like navy beans. However, their larger size and firmer texture can add a different mouthfeel to dishes.
Nutritional Comparison: Similar to navy beans, cannellini beans are a good source of fiber and protein. They also contain a significant amount of iron and calcium.
Price and Availability Comparison: Cannellini beans are readily available in stores and online. They might be slightly more expensive than navy beans, but the difference is generally minimal.
Pinto beans can also be a suitable substitute for navy beans. Although they are larger and their flavor is slightly richer and earthier, their creamy texture when cooked makes them a fitting alternative, particularly in soups and stews.
Taste and Texture Comparison: Pinto beans are creamier and have a bit more flavor complexity than navy beans. While they aren’t an exact match, they can add an extra dimension of taste to your dishes.
Nutritional Comparison: Pinto beans are similar in nutritional value to navy beans, boasting high amounts of fiber and protein.
Price and Availability Comparison: Pinto beans are widely available in supermarkets and online grocery stores at a price comparable to navy beans.
Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a unique substitution for navy beans due to their size and slightly nutty flavor. They can be used in many dishes where you’d typically use navy beans, including soups, salads, and casseroles.
Taste and Texture Comparison: Chickpeas are larger and firmer than navy beans, and they have a unique, nutty flavor. They maintain their shape well during cooking, which can add a different texture to your dishes.
Nutritional Comparison: Chickpeas are a powerhouse of nutrition. They’re rich in protein, fiber, and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals.
Price and Availability Comparison: Chickpeas are readily available in most grocery stores and online. They’re generally priced similarly to navy beans, making them an accessible alternative.
Use one of the chickpeas substitutes, if you don’t have it.
Kidney beans are another suitable replacement for navy beans. They are larger and have a slightly stronger flavor, but their soft texture when cooked makes them a good option in many recipes.
Taste and Texture Comparison: Kidney beans have a stronger flavor than navy beans, but their soft texture aligns well when cooked.
Nutritional Comparison: Kidney beans are rich in protein and fiber, much like navy beans. They also contain significant amounts of iron and potassium.
Price and Availability Comparison: Kidney beans are widely available in supermarkets and online grocery stores, usually at a price comparable to navy beans.
Black beans, known for their slight sweetness and rich, meaty texture, can serve as a solid alternative to navy beans. This option works well in Mexican and South American recipes, where their distinctive flavor and color can truly shine.
Taste and Texture Comparison: Black beans have a hearty, meaty texture with a mild, sweet flavor that’s more pronounced than navy beans.
Nutritional Comparison: Similar to navy beans, black beans offer plenty of fiber and protein, along with a good amount of antioxidants thanks to their dark color.
Price and Availability Comparison: Black beans are widely available in both dried and canned forms in most grocery stores and online, generally at a similar price point to navy beans.
Great Northern Beans
Great Northern beans are a fantastic substitute for navy beans because of their similar size, texture, and taste. They can be used interchangeably in almost any recipe.
Taste and Texture Comparison: Great Northern beans have a slightly nuttier flavor and firmer texture than navy beans, but the difference is hardly noticeable in most dishes.
Nutritional Comparison: Both beans are similar in nutritional value, offering plenty of protein, fiber, and essential nutrients.
Price and Availability Comparison: Great Northern beans are typically available wherever navy beans are sold, often at a similar cost.
Lima beans, with their buttery texture and slightly sweet flavor, can provide an interesting twist as a navy bean substitute. They can be particularly good in salads and stews.
Taste and Texture Comparison: Lima beans are larger, plumper, and have a more buttery texture than navy beans. They also have a slightly sweet, unique flavor.
Nutritional Comparison: Lima beans are rich in protein, fiber, and several key nutrients, much like navy beans.
Price and Availability Comparison: Lima beans are readily available in supermarkets and online grocery stores, typically priced comparably to navy beans.
🔪 How to Use Navy Beans Substitutes in Recipes
Soups and Stews
Many of the bean substitutes for navy beans work well in soups and stews. They can be incorporated in the same quantities as navy beans, with adjustments made for cooking time if necessary. Their similar textures and flavors can provide a good match for the original recipe.
Baked Bean Dishes
Baked bean dishes that traditionally use navy beans can be adapted to use any of the listed substitutes. Whether it’s a barbecue side dish or a hearty main course, the bean alternatives can provide similar texture and taste.
Salads that call for navy beans can utilize alternatives like cannellini beans or lima beans for a unique twist. These substitutes bring their own distinctive flavors and textures that can complement other ingredients in the salad.
Chili recipes often include navy beans, but many of the substitutes can work just as well. Whether it’s black beans, kidney beans, or chickpeas, each brings a unique flavor profile to the chili, adding a fresh twist to a classic recipe.
Casserole recipes are often quite flexible when it comes to ingredients, making them perfect for experimenting with different bean substitutes. Whether it’s Great Northern beans, chickpeas, or even lentils, these alternatives can make a delicious and nutritious addition to any casserole dish.
💡 Tips and Guidance
When using a substitute for navy beans, it’s crucial to keep in mind the differences in taste, texture, and cooking time. Adjust your recipe as needed to account for these differences. For instance, kidney beans take longer to cook than navy beans, so you’ll need to modify your cooking time accordingly.
Similarly, keep in mind that different beans may absorb flavors and seasonings differently. You may need to adjust the amount of seasoning to get the taste just right.
It’s always a good idea to rinse canned beans before using them to reduce sodium content and improve flavor. And, if you’re using dried beans, be sure to soak them for several hours or overnight before cooking to ensure they cook evenly and are easier to digest.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment! One of the joys of cooking is discovering new flavor combinations and creating dishes that are uniquely yours. With these navy bean substitutes at your disposal, you have endless possibilities to explore.