Cannellini beans are white, kidney-shaped legumes with a fleshy, creamy texture and nutty flavor. Cannellini beans are a common ingredient in many Italian foods and add flavor to soups, stews, salads, and chili.
Cannellini beans, also called white kidney beans, belong to the group of legumes known as white beans. Legumes are the edible seeds found inside the pods of some plants.
There are many beans that work well as substitutes for cannellini beans, the best of which are great northern beans.
Best Substitute for Cannellini Beans: Great Northern Beans
The best substitute for cannellini beans is great northern beans. Great northern beans are named for their origin in North Dakota. They are similar to cannellini beans in their nutty flavor, creamy texture, and white flesh. Great Northerns make a great cannellini substitute.
Great northern beans have the same nutritional value as cannellini beans. Both are well-loved for their meaty flesh that absorbs the flavors of other ingredients and spices.
Be aware that when substituting great northern beans for cannellini beans, you will need to increase the cooking time to account for their extra density. Or, reduce the cooking time by soaking the beans overnight first. It’s difficult to over-cook great northern beans since they are so firm.
Replace cannellini beans with a 1:1 ratio of great northern beans in any recipe, especially those for soups and stews.
Other Cannellini Beans Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
There are many beans that have a similar flavor and texture to cannellini beans, and that can be used as delicious replacements in foods otherwise made with cannellinis.
Bean Substitutes for Cannellini Beans
Navy beans, white legumes also known as pea beans, are smaller and rounder than cannellini beans. Navy beans are highly nutritious and have a long shelf life, which made them popular on long U.S. Navy voyages in the 19th century – and that’s what gave them their name.
Because navy beans have thicker skin and tougher flesh than cannellini beans, navy beans must be soaked overnight before cooking. Or, boil navy beans for 1 to 1 ½ hours longer than cannellini beans.
Navy beans are an ideal substitute for cannellini beans in dishes like Boston baked beans. Navy beans hold their shape well too, giving pork-and-beans dishes a lovely appearance.
Use navy beans as a 1:1 substitute for cannellini beans in most recipes.
Kidney beans make a great substitute for cannellini beans because they have a similar nutty flavor and creamy texture to cannellinis.
Keep in mind when substituting kidney beans for cannellini beans that kidneys are much darker than cannellini beans, which will change the look of your recipe. Their flavors are nearly identical though, so don’t worry about the overall taste changing much.
Kidney beans are often used as a substitute for cannellini beans in Mexican foods because their flavor complements traditional Mexican spices like those used in chili.
Kidney beans are available raw and canned.
Use kidney beans as a 1:1 replacement for cannellini beans.
Pintos are brown, speckled beans that are similar to cannellini beans in their nutty flavor and creaminess. Since pintos taste earthier than cannellinis, they make the best replacement in savory recipes and match well with spicy foods like enchiladas.
Use pinto beans as a 1:1 replacement for cannellini beans. Cook pinto beans according to cannellini bean cooking directions.
Butter beans, also called mini lima beans, make an excellent substitute for cannellini beans because of their similar creamy texture and nutty flavor.
Mini lima beans are defined based on their maturity. When harvested while still green, they are called butter beans. When fully ripe, the mini lima bean is called a lima bean, or sometimes referred to as a ripe butter bean, not to be confused with the larger, proper lima bean. Ripe butter beans have a smooth, buttery texture, making them a wonderful alternative to cannellini beans.
Use butter beans as a 1:1 cannellini bean substitute in pastas, soups, and stews.
Fava beans are starchy beans with a creamy texture and bitter-sweet flavor. Fava beans work well as a replacement for cannellini beans, and especially complement strongly-flavored sauces.
Fava beans have a thick skin that is unpleasant to eat. Before using fava beans, soak them in water overnight and easily remove the skins.
Once their skins have been removed via soaking, use fava beans as a 1:1 replacement for cannellini beans.
Lima beans are pale green in color and have a buttery texture and earthy flavor. Lima beans make a delicious substitute for cannellini beans in soups, stews, and salads because of their similarity to cannellini beans in taste and texture.
Replace cannellini beans with lima beans using a 1:1 ratio.
Anasazi beans are spotted white beans with a rich flavor and smooth texture. Although anasazi beans are sweeter than cannellini beans, they make a good 1:1 substitute for cannellinis in soups, pastas, and stews. Add extra spice to balance the sweet taste of anasazis.
Anasazi beans are softer than cannellini beans, which means they don’t need to cook for as long as cannellinis.
Flageolet beans are popular in French cuisine. Flageolet beans are light green in color with a subtle, mild flavor and rich, smooth texture.
Flageolet beans make a great cannellini bean substitute in soups and stews because they easily absorb the flavors of other ingredients. They show off a delicious creaminess when cooked with well-spiced sauces.
Use flageolet beans as a 1:1 substitute for cannellini beans.
Adzuki beans, also called aduki or azuki, are common in Asia and most popular in Korean and Japanese cuisines. Adzuki beans are a reddish-brown color and are attractive in salads. Adzuki beans work as a cannellini bean substitute because of their similar nutty flavor.
Soaking adzuki beans prior to cooking isn’t necessary because they have a soft texture and cook quickly.
Use adzuki beans as a 1:1 alternative to cannellini beans in soups, stews, pastas, and salads.
Black beans, as their name suggests, are black in color. They have a similar taste and texture to cannellini beans and work well as a substitute for cannellinis in soups and stews where their dark color doesn’t matter.
Though black beans can be used in place of cannellini beans in salads and wraps, be aware that the dish will look different because of the color of the beans.
Black beans are sweeter than cannellini beans, so add extra spices and salt to balance the extra sweetness.
Use black beans as a 1:1 substitute for cannellini beans.
Marrow beans are popular in Mediterranean cuisine. Marrow beans have a similar flavor and texture to cannellini beans and offer meaty undertones. Marrow beans make a great substitute for cannellini beans in soups, stews, and pasta.
Use marrow beans as a 1:1 replacement for cannellini beans, but soak marrows before cooking to plump them up.
Different Legume Substitutes for Cannellini Beans
Though the following legumes are not classified as beans, they can be used in place of cannellini beans.
Lentils have a coarser texture than cannellini beans but their flavor is similar to cannellini’s. There are numerous varieties of lentils, the most popular of which are brown lentils, green lentils, and red lentils.
Green lentils are the best lentils to use as an alternative to cannellini beans. They work best in soups and stews where the coarse texture of the lentils doesn’t affect the dish. The difference in texture isn’t noticeable.
Replace cannellini beans with lentils using a 1:1 ratio.
Soak lentils in water before cooking them to speed the cooking process.
Black Eyed Peas
Black-eyed peas are small white peas with a black dot in the middle. They are popular in the southern states where they are commonly cooked with meat.
Replace cannellini beans with black-eyed peas using a ratio of 1:1 in soups, stews, pasta, and salads. Black-eyed peas’ striking appearance makes them attractive in salads.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are healthy legumes that are an excellent source of protein and other nutrients.
Chickpeas have a similar nutty flavor to cannellini beans, but chickpeas are more grainy than cannellinis.
Use chickpeas as a 1:1 substitute for cannellini beans in soups and stews that won’t be affected by their grainy texture.
Soybeans are legumes that are popular in Asian cuisine. Their nutritional components set them apart from traditional beans, and give them a class all their own. There are numerous varieties of soybeans, the most popular of which are edamame beans.
Soybeans have a different flavor and texture than cannellini beans, but they make for a nutrient-rich replacement for cannellinis in soups, stews, and salads. Soybeans add their own unique flavor to the dish.
Use soybeans as a substitution for cannellini beans at a ratio of 1:1.
Mung beans are green legumes popular in East Asian cuisine for their sweet, nutty flavor. Mung beans can be eaten raw or cooked and have a crispy texture that goes well in salads.
Soaking mung beans prior to cooking isn’t necessary.
Use mung beans as a 1:1 substitute for cannellini beans in soups, stews, and salads.