Beans, beans, they’re not just musical fruits! If you’ve ever wandered down the aisles of your local grocery store, chances are you’ve seen an array of beans staring back at you, from navy beans to great northern beans and everything in between. But what sets these legumes apart? We’re breaking down navy beans vs Great Northern beans and how to use each in your cooking!
Origin and History
Navy Beans: Scientifically known as Phaseolus vulgaris and sometimes called Haricot beans or Boston beans, navy beans are a type of common bean that originated in the Americas. While the exact origins are not well-documented, they are believed to have been cultivated by indigenous populations in the region that now encompasses Mexico and Central America.
These beans gained their name due to their historical use as a staple food by the United States Navy during the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were a valuable source of sustenance for sailors on long voyages due to their long shelf life and high nutritional content. Navy life then wasn’t exactly what we see in Top Gun or Navy recruiting commercials to include the food. Beans were a staple in the navy diet!
Great Northern Beans: Like navy beans, their scientific name is Phaseolus vulgaris (that ends today’s Latin Lesson, we promise), and also like Navy beans they are a type of common bean that originated in the Americas. So, are great northern beans the same as navy beans? No, but the difference between navy beans and great northern beans is less than their similarities.
The name “Great Northern” likely refers to the beans’ larger size and northern distribution in the United States. These beans were cultivated by native American tribes for centuries before becoming a staple in European cuisine following the Columbian Exchange. They are closely related to navy and cannellini beans. The great northern bean is particularly popular in the northern regions of the United States, where it is often used in comfort foods like stews and casseroles.
Navy Beans: These are small, oval-shaped beans with a slightly flattened appearance. They are typically white or off-white in color and have a smooth, glossy surface. Their size and shape make them ideal for a variety of culinary dishes we will discuss shortly.
Great Northern Beans: Great Northern beans are medium-sized, oval-shaped beans with a thin, white to light cream-colored skin. They are slightly flattened and have a distinctive kidney-like shape, although they are larger and plumper than kidney beans. Their appearance makes them easily recognizable, and their neutral color makes them versatile for use in various dishes.
Flavor and Texture
Navy Beans: These beans have a mild, subtle flavor that is slightly nutty and earthy. This mild taste allows them to readily absorb the flavors of the ingredients they are cooked with, making them versatile in various dishes. In terms of texture, navy beans have a creamy and smooth consistency when cooked properly. This texture makes them a popular choice for soups and purees, as well as in dishes where a soft yet hearty element is desired.
Great Northern Beans: Great Northern beans have a mild, delicate flavor. Like navy beans, they absorb flavors well, making them a versatile ingredient. When cooked properly, they have a tender yet slightly firm texture that holds up well in soups, stews, and salads. Their creamy consistency also lends itself to being mashed or puréed for use in dips and spreads.
Navy Beans: These are popular beans in a lot of culinary applications due to their versatility. They are commonly used in dishes like baked beans, soups like the classic “Navy Bean Soup”, Navy Bean Chili, stews, and salads. Navy beans can also be mashed and used as a base for dips and spreads. Additionally, their neutral flavor allows them to be incorporated into both savory and sweet dishes, such as desserts and baked goods.
Great Northern Beans: These beans are prized for their versatility in a wide range of culinary applications. They are often used as a base for soups, stews, and casseroles, where their subtle flavor allows them to absorb the flavors of the other ingredients. Great Northern beans can be added to salads for extra protein and texture, or mashed and used as a filling for vegetarian patties. They’re also an excellent choice for making dips like hummus or white bean dip. We like them in this Roasted cauliflower salad with Great Northern Beans.
Navy Beans: Dry navy beans should be stored in a cool, dry place in an airtight container to prevent moisture and pests from affecting their quality. Canned navy beans, on the other hand, can be stored in a pantry or cupboard until their expiration date. It’s important to check the expiration date on canned beans and ensure that there are no signs of damage or bulging in your cans before use.
Great Northern Beans: Dried great northern beans should be stored in a cool, dry place, ideally in an airtight container to prevent moisture and pests from affecting them. Canned beans, if unopened, can be stored in a pantry. Once opened, any unused canned beans should be transferred to a sealed container and refrigerated; they usually stay good for a few days. Cooked beans, whether dried or canned, should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and consumed within 3-4 days. For longer-term storage, cooked beans can be frozen.
Substitutes for Navy Beans and Great Northern Beans
The best great northern bean substitute is the navy bean and similarly the best navy bean substitute is the great northern bean. Beyond this, the best substitutes for these beans depend on the specific recipe you’re preparing and the flavor, texture, and nutritional profile you’re aiming for.
Here are some alternatives you can consider, but if none peak your interest check out 29 Types of Beans for a whole lot of other options.
Cannellini Beans: Also known as white kidney beans, cannellini beans are slightly larger than navy beans and have a creamy texture. They have a mild flavor and can work well in recipes that call for navy beans.
Pinto Beans: Pinto beans are medium-sized and have a slightly earthier flavor compared to navy beans. They can be a suitable substitute in recipes where the flavor difference won’t be too noticeable.
Butter Beans: Also known as lima beans, butter beans are larger and have a distinct buttery flavor. They can be used as a substitute, but their flavor and texture may be more noticeable in the dish.
Chickpeas: Chickpeas have a nutty flavor and a slightly firmer texture than navy beans. While they can work in some recipes, the flavor difference may be more pronounced.
Black-Eyed Peas: These beans have a distinct flavor and texture, but they can be used in certain recipes as a substitute for navy beans, especially in dishes with a Southern or Creole influence.
Adzuki Beans: Adzuki beans are small and have a slightly sweet flavor. They might not be an exact match for navy beans, but they can work in some recipes where you’re looking for a different taste and texture.
Black Beans: Black beans are a bit of a stretch as a substitute. They are smaller than navy beans and have a strong flavor. While not a good direct substitute, they can be used in recipes where the color and flavor won’t be an issue.
Northern Beans Vs Navy Beans Nutrition Information
Looking to add more beans to your diet but not sure which type to choose? Let’s talk Navy Beans versus Great Northern Beans in terms of nutrition! When it comes to the numbers, a 100-gram serving of cooked navy beans packs in around 127 calories, providing a small amount of Vitamin C (1% of your recommended daily allowance), 10-12% of folate, 8-9% of iron, and a touch of calcium. Plus, they offer about 8.7 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber, making them a fantastic source of vegetarian protein and a decent fiber boost for your daily intake.
Now, onto the Great Northern Beans. Surprisingly similar in many ways to navy beans, these also boast around 127 calories per 100 grams cooked, with that same hint of Vitamin C (1% of RDA), slightly higher folate (32% of RDA), 9% of iron, and a touch more potassium (10% of RDA). Their protein content comes in at 8.2 grams, accompanied by 6.2 grams of fiber, making them another great option for protein and fiber intake.
You might have noticed a trend here – these beans are pretty close in their nutritional profiles! But why bother with Vitamin C when these beans barely contain any? Well, it’s all about variety. Even though beans aren’t a big source of Vitamins A and C, they shine as a plant-based protein powerhouse and are packed with fiber, something many of us could use more of in our diets. The recommended daily allowance for fiber is 25g for women and 38g for men, yet a whopping 90% of Americans fall short of hitting these goals. Just a small portion of these beans can help bridge that gap.
One thing to note if you opt for canned beans: their nutritional content aligns closely with cooked-from-dried beans but with notably higher sodium levels. So, while they’re convenient, keep an eye on your sodium intake if you go the canned route.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I use great northern beans in chili? Oh heck ya! Use them in any white bean chili recipe. If you don’t have a favorite, try our Whie Bean Bean Chili which works equally as well with either navy or great northern beans.
Can I use great northern beans in salad? Again, absolutely. Really just about any bean is a great nutritional add to your salad creations. Give this healthy Roasted cauliflower salad with Great Northern Beans a try.
Are beans legumes? Yes, all beans are legumes. Check out our guide to all things legumes.
Well that wraps up our look at Great Northern beans Vs Navy beans. The difference between navy beans and great northern beans are less than the similarities. We hope you found something you could use here and perhaps one or two navy bean recipes you might try. As always, happy gooking!