When a recipe calls for white beans, I'm just as confused as the next person. With rows and rows of beans lining the grocery store shelves, which am I to choose? The cans aren't exactly labeled so simply. And contrary to my prior beliefs, cannellini beans and Great Northern beans have differences. They aren't just popular protein sources that have different names for the same bean. So here's a breakdown of everything you need to know about cannellini beans vs Great Northern beans so you know which one to choose.

How They're Similar

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Jelani Moore

Cannellini beans and Great Northern beans are both white in color and are similar in taste. They're high in soluble fiber, low in fat, and have no cholesterol, making them the perfect addition to any diet. Legumes are basically an underrated gift to this world. From desserts to main dishes, beans are a staple to always have in your cupboard. With that said, yes, cannellini beans and Great Northern beans are interchangeable. 

However, there are some differences to note:

Cannellini Beans vs Great Northern Beans

Cannellini beans can also be labeled as white kidney beans or Italian kidney beans, adding to the confusion. What does remain constant though is the fact that cannellini beans are larger and have a traditional kidney bean shape, perfect for that comforting fall chili. They have a nuttier, earthy flavor. The thicker outside texture also keeps the inside smoother.

Cannellini are linked to most Italian dishes and are typically paired with fish or chicken. They're the perfect addition to homemade minestrone soup or an added source of protein to a salad. 

Conversely, Great Northern beans are medium-sized and firmer than cannellini. These are also the one's used in most recipes that list white beans as an ingredient. Great Northern beans have a grainier texture but a delicate flavor. Their flesh is less creamy, and takes on the flavor of whatever they're cooked with (similar to tofu). This versatile and mild-flavored bean is perfect for tailgating bean dips, hearty stews, and mixed bean salads. 

Endless Possibilities 

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Shelby Cohron

If you're standing in the grocery store aisle trying to remember which white bean your grandmother's homemade soup called for, choose either cannellini beans or Great Northern beans. Sure, they might work better in certain dishes, but they basically have the same flavor.

If you're trying to perfect the texture in a dish, though, try and get the correct can. The differences aren't huge, but at least you now know all white beans aren't the same. Now if only recipes would be a little clearer: white bean chili, anyone?