Cannellini Beans vs White Beans: Types of White Beans & Nutrition

There are so many beans to choose from it can get confusing! Many recipes will call for white beans, but what does that mean? With so many white beans to choose from, how do you decide? Cannellini beans are a popular white bean, but are they the best fit for your recipe that calls for white beans? Let’s take a closer look at cannellini beans vs white beans.

Cannellini Beans vs White Beans

Cannellini beans are a type of white bean; what sets them apart from other white beans is that cannellini beans have a nutty flavor that can limit the recipes they are used in. Small white beans, also known as navy beans, have a very mild flavor, making them more versatile.

Larger white beans in a bowl with a jar of beans next to it
Cannellini Beans

What are Cannellini Beans?

Cannellini beans are large white beans originating from Italy; they are popular in Italian cooking. They have a traditional kidney shape and thicker white skin with a smooth, creamy texture.

The taste of cannellini beans is an earthy flavor with a nutty taste, making them versatile beans. They are hearty and filling, with twelve grams of protein per cup, making them an excellent option for vegetarians.

They go by several names, such as white kidney beans, fagioli, fazolia beans, Italian kidney beans, and haricots Blancs.

Cannellini beans perform best when first soaked overnight. They are one of the most popular beans to use in a bean salad and also work well with soups, stews, chili, and other Italian dishes. They can also be added to salads, making them very versatile beans.

Other Types of White Beans

The reference to “white beans” can apply to various white-colored beans. A few of the more common and popular types of white beans include cannellini beans, Great Northern beans, baby lima beans, and navy beans. Lima beans are often considered white beans; although they are more cream in color than white, they will work as white beans in most recipes. With a variety of white beans to choose from, let’s look a bit closer at what makes each type of white bean unique.

small white beans in small sack
Navy Beans

1. Navy Beans

Navy beans are small white beans and are often called just that. They also go by the names pea beans, haricot beans, and Boston beans. They are a common bean that is native to the Americas. Navy beans have an oval and slightly flat shape, with a very mild flavor, and are one of the softer beans, turning quite creamy when cooked, making them versatile beans for various recipes, especially bean dips and soups. Great northern beans make a great substitute for navy beans.

a pile of white great northern beans
Great Northern Beans

2. Great Northern Beans

Great northern white beans are very similar to navy beans, and the most significant difference between the two is their size, as great northerns are larger beans with thicker skin that with a creamy texture. They also have a slightly different texture than cannellini beans, but it isn’t even noticeable once cooked. They both have a similar nutty and mild earthy flavor. Great northern beans make a great substitute for cannellini beans and navy beans.

white baby lima beans spread out
Baby Lima Beans

3. Baby Lima Beans

Baby lima beans are white beans that are smaller in size than navy beans. They are the mildest tasting and least starchy of the different varieties of lima beans. Like their full-sized counterparts, they also become creamy and buttery when cooked and can also be referred to as “butter beans.”

Their soft texture makes them versatile and an excellent option for soups, stews, and other dishes that need a more delicate bean. Because they are soft beans, when overcooked, they become mushy.

white lima beans in a bowl
Lima Beans

4. Lima Beans

Lima beans are the most common shell bean sold in the United States. They have a creamy texture and are often referred to as butter beans. Lima beans can be a creamy white/beige color to a green color, but they may still work as white beans in some recipes. The mature lima beans are larger and have a creamier color than the baby lima beans, which are more white in color.

They are the more starchier of the white beans and will create a texture that is more constant with potatoes. They have a creamy, buttery flavor which is how they get the nickname “butter beans.”

pile of black-eyed peas, which are white beans with black spots on them
Black-Eyed Peas

5. Black Eyed Peas

Black-eyed peas aren’t entirely white beans, as they also have a small black spot or “eye” on them, but they will go well in many dishes that call for white beans. They have a firmer texture than other white beans and don’t soften when cooked like many other white beans.

They have an earthy flavor and a plump oblong shape. Black-eyed peas are common in Mediterranean dishes and Greek cuisines. They pair well with dishes that also contain fresh herbs and tomato flavors.

Health Benefits of White Beans

Beans are a staple food in many parts of the world, such as Africa, Asia, and India. Beans tend to be economical and a great source of plant protein and dietary fiber, among other nutrients.

Below is an outline of the nutritional profiles of common white beans. The nutritional and health benefits of these white beans are very similar. You will find variations in the nutrient amounts depending on what brand of beans you buy in the grocery store.

Cannellini Beans NutritionNavy Beans NutritionGreat Northern Beans NutritionLima Beans NutritionBlack Eyed Peas Nutrition
Total Carbohydrate38 g, 13%47.4g, 16%37.3 g, 12%39.3g, 13%44g, 15%
DietarFiber9.9 g, 35%19.1g, 68%12.4 g, 44%13.2g, 47%10g, 36%
Protein12 g, 24%15 g, 30%14.7 g, 29%14.7g, 29%16g, 32%
Calcium143 mg, 11% 125.6mg,
120.4 mg, 9%32mg, 2%40.5mg, 3%
Iron4.8 mg, 27%4.3mg, 24%3.8 mg, 21%4.5mg, 25%3.6mg, 20%
Potassium741 mg, 16%708mg, 15%692.1 mg, 15%955mg, 20%681.2mg,
White Beans Nutritional Profiles Source

These types of white beans contain about 12-16 grams of protein per one-cup serving size.

Like other beans, white beans are also a great source of dietary fiber, with navy beans having the most at 19.9 grams of fiber per serving. The fiber in beans helps regulate blood sugar and can help make you feel fuller for longer, which can support weight loss or healthy weight management. Fiber also supports the digestive process and gut health.

Beans are also a great source of vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, folate, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and zinc. A diet full of vitamins and minerals from various plant-based foods is essential to supporting your body in functioning at its best.

Key Takeaways

Cannellini and white beans have many similarities. The most significant differences come down to their size and how soft or firm the beans are once cooked. Some white beans, such as cannellini and great northern beans, have a nuttier flavor than navy beans, which have a very mild flavor.

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Author Biography

Karla Kueber is a Certified Evidence Based EFT Practioner and Health Coach, with a double Masters Degree in Education. She works with people to overcome emotional eating, curb cravings, and overcome resistance to eating new healthy foods. You can learn more about coaching with her here.