Northern beans, also known as Great Northern beans, are a delightful addition to many dishes.

They are often sought for their soft texture, mild flavor, and ability to absorb other tastes in a dish effectively. Despite their versatility and usefulness in culinary arts, there are several reasons why one might seek alternatives.

These include dietary restrictions, personal flavor preferences, and availability of ingredients. If you’re unable to access northern beans, or simply looking to shake up your recipes, fear not, there are numerous substitutes that can be a great addition to your cooking repertoire.

👅 Flavor Profile

Great Northern beans are a staple in many kitchens due to their distinctive yet unobtrusive flavor. They boast a mild, nutty taste, with a hint of earthiness. They have a firm but not tough texture that becomes creamy when cooked, making them excellent for various dishes ranging from soups to salads.

Beans like cannellini and navy beans bear a striking resemblance to the northern beans in flavor. They are mild in taste, with a slightly nutty undertone. Their texture also reacts similarly to heat, becoming creamy when cooked and soft enough to be mashed.

🔄 The closest Northern Beans Substitutes & Alternatives

cannellini beans

Cannellini Beans

As far as substitutes go, cannellini beans are probably the closest to Great Northern beans in taste and texture.

They share a similar creamy texture when cooked, and their mild flavor is easily interchangeable.

Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting with cannellini beans. Substituting won’t significantly affect the cooking time or the flavor of your dish. Nutrition-wise, cannellini beans are similar to Northern beans, but contain slightly more calories and protein.

Ratio: 1:1

Navy Beans

Navy Beans

Another close substitute, navy beans are smaller but share a similar flavor and texture profile with Northern beans. Substitute navy beans in a 1:1 ratio for northern beans.

They cook a bit quicker due to their smaller size, so keep an eye on them to avoid overcooking. Nutritionally, they are almost identical to Northern beans, making them an excellent substitute.

Ratio: 1:1

baby lima beans

Baby Lima Beans

Baby lima beans, also known as butter beans, can also work as a substitute. Their slightly buttery flavor can enrich your dishes, and their texture is similar when cooked.

Use baby lima beans in a 1:1 ratio when substituting. The flavor of your dish will be slightly richer due to their buttery notes. As for nutrition, lima beans are higher in calories and carbs but offer more fiber and protein.

Ratio: 1:1



Chickpeas or garbanzo beans, have a slightly stronger flavor, but their texture is similar to northern beans when cooked. Substitute in a 1:1 ratio.

The substitution may add a slightly nuttier flavor to your dishes. Chickpeas are nutritionally comparable to northern beans but contain more protein and fiber.

Don’t have chickpeas? Check for substitutes here.

Ratio: 1:1

Flageolet beans

Flageolet Beans

Flageolet beans are small, pale beans that can be used as a substitute. They have a creamy texture when cooked and a delicate flavor. Substitute in a 1:1 ratio.

These beans take longer to cook, so adjust your cooking time accordingly. Nutritionally, flageolet beans are similar to Northern beans but slightly lower in protein.

Check also: Flageolet Beans Substitutes

Ratio: 1:1

Pinto Beans

Pinto Beans

Pinto beans can also serve as a substitute, although their flavor is slightly sweeter. Substitute in a 1:1 ratio.

Pinto beans will give a slightly sweeter taste to your dishes. They are nutritionally similar to Northern beans but contain more fiber.

Ratio: 1:1

⤵ Other substitutes

Black Beans

Although black beans have a more robust and slightly sweeter flavor, they can still serve as a substitute. Substitute in a 1:1 ratio, but keep in mind this will significantly change the flavor of your dish.

Kidney Beans

Kidney beans, while larger and darker, can serve as a substitute in a pinch. Substitute in a 1:1 ratio, but remember that this will alter the flavor and appearance of your dish significantly.


If you’re in a bind, lentils can work as a substitute. They are smaller and quicker to cook, so use a 1:1.5 ratio of northern beans to lentils, and adjust the cooking time. Keep in mind, this substitute will drastically change the flavor and texture of your dish.

White Rice

In some recipes, white rice can work as a substitute for northern beans. Use a 1:1 ratio for this substitution, but note that this will significantly change the texture and will also lack the protein content of beans.

Green Peas

Green peas can be used in recipes requiring a similar texture but do keep in mind that they have a sweeter flavor. Substitute green peas at a 1:1 ratio, but expect a significant change in the taste and texture of your dish.

💡 Tips and Guidance

Whether you’re using a similar substitute like cannellini beans or going for something more adventurous like lentils or green peas, remember that adjusting your cooking time accordingly is essential. Also, make sure to consider the final flavor of your dish – more flavorful beans like black beans or kidney beans can dramatically change the outcome of your meal.

Also, don’t be afraid to experiment with these substitutes. Try them in different dishes such as bean salads, soups, or casseroles. Remember, cooking is a creative process, and sometimes the best results come from unexpected combinations. Happy cooking!

Northern Bean Substitutes in Cooking by
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