In today’s jam-packed article, we will take a look at 7 amazing substitutes for navy beans (aka pea beans). These beans are naturally sweet, slightly nutty, and make a rich and hearty addition to any meal. No wonder there are thousands of traditional dishes based around it!
If you want to brush up on more alternatives for common ingredients, you can also look at some other substitution articles like Vanilla Extract Substitutes, 10 Best Substitutes For Cotija Cheese, or Substitutes For Dill.
What Are Navy Beans?
Navy beans are arguably one of the most common types you can find across the globe. That being said, they go by many names, which is why so many people “don’t know what they are.”
They are also commonly referred to as haricot beans, pearl haricot beans, Boston beans, and white pea beans (or simply pea beans). They are native to North and South America, but as I’ve said, have reached global markets on a massive scale.
Navy beans are one of a few white bean varieties alongside lima beans, cannellini beans, Great Northern beans, runner beans, and marrow beans.
What makes them different is their appearance and flavor.
Generally, they are smaller than the other white bean varieties. They have a slightly flattened oval shape that isn’t very curved. The color, while definitely being a shade of white, can also often be more creamy in color.
When it comes to their flavor, it’s to die for! These beans are relatively neutral but have a noticeable sweet and nutty undertone.
You can also use these beans in all the same ways other beans are used. They are packed with flavor, are extremely filling, and loaded with nutrients.
Are Navy Beans And Northern Beans The Same?
Also commonly called Great Northern beans or Great Northern white beans, this is another common white bean varietal. But, it’s not the same as Navy beans, despite looking similar. That being said, it’s one of the best navy bean replacements.
Great Northern beans are slightly bigger than navy beans and slightly smaller than cannellini beans. The color of these beans is also slightly more creamy than your average navy bean. Other than this minor difference, their flavor is almost the same as well as their nutritional build.
But again, while many people often confuse the two for each other, they are not the same!
Navy Beans Versus Cannellini Beans
Another white bean variety that looks very similar to both navy beans and Northern beans. And you may be more familiar with these by their other name, white kidney beans.
These are easy to recognize because they are quite large compared to any other white bean variety. They also have that distinctive kidney bean shape.
Their flavor is meatier, earthier, and a lot more hearty than navy beans, which is why they are commonly used as a substitute for navy beans.
So again, cannellini (or white kidney beans) are not the same as navy beans, despite the common confusion.
Substitutes For Navy Beans
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the 7 best navy bean substitutes.
I tried to include only options that will work. There are loads of other legumes you can try, and feel free to let me know in the comments below.
But today’s list includes a variety of options for different price points, that vary in availability (depending on where you are located), and that have slightly varying flavors.
Here’s a tip from a pro: if you are in a rush and need to cut back on cooking time, use canned beans. They have already been softened, and there’s no need to soak them for hours!
1. Great Northern Beans
As you have probably guessed from the description above, Great Northern beans are often confused with navy beans, which is why it’s one of the best alternatives you can use!
Again, they are slightly larger than navy beans and usually have a slightly creamier color.
This type of bean also has a pretty neutral flavor, but in my opinion, they’re much creamier and have a less dense texture. While both have a nutty and earthy flavor, Great Northern beans are more prominent here.
Now, how to substitute navy beans for Great Northern beans? You can use a one-to-one substitution when it comes to quantity. The biggest difference is how you cook them.
You can use the same amount of water to cook these beans and strain off any excess. They cook for roughly 60-120 minutes, but some people claim theirs took a lot longer. I think this massive inconsistency in time comes from different levels of soaking.
If you soak your beans for 24 hours, they will take much less time to cook than beans that have only been soaked for 1 hour.
From my experience, my 24-hour soaked beans took about 1 hour to fully cook.
A big benefit of using these beans instead of navy beans is that they cook for less time. Navy beans can take anywhere between 90-180 minutes.
2. Cannellini Beans
Naturally, cannellini or white kidney beans would be second on this list! After all, it is one of a couple of white bean varieties. They are quite easy to find and also pretty inexpensive.
To recap, these are the largest white bean variety with a noticeable kidney shape. They are also more off-white in color. They are extremely hearty and have an almost meaty flavor. Cannellini beans have a similar earthy undertone to navy beans.
Again, you can use a one-to-one substitution, but you will need to change the cooking times slightly.
They can also take between 90-180 minutes to cook depending on how long you soak them before cooking. But keep an eye on them to prevent them from overcooking.
3. Red Kidney Beans
Obviously, these two beans are very similar. The only tell-tale difference is their color. Red kidney beans, or red cannellini beans, have a purple-red color with a tiny white dot on the inside “seam.”
Red kidney beans have a much more intense flavor as compared to cannellini beans. They are also very nutty in comparison. So, while it would be a “better” match to use white kidney beans, this option will work too.
Other than flavor, the big difference between these two options is availability and price. These are much easier to find across the globe and often more affordable.
4. Pinto Beans
Pinto beans will make a great substitute for navy beans when it comes to flavor and texture. They are also slightly sweet and have that distinct nutty undertone.
A big difference between these two types is their appearance and texture when cooked. Pinto beans become are much creamier than navy beans.
And, as you will immediately see, they have a reddish-brown mottled skin color.
Other than that, they will cook for a similar amount of time and in a similar way, making them an easy one-to-one substitute.
Chickpeas are not very high on everyone’s list as a substitute for navy beans. That’s because there are a ton of differences. That being said, they’re super easy to find and affordable, which arguably makes it a better option than those listed below.
These unique round textured beans have a nutty flavor with a rich, earthy taste. They are also pretty neutral, so can make a seamless substitute.
Depending on whether you use canned, soaked, or dried chickpeas, the cooking times can vary between 30 minutes to 8 hours. This massive gap also takes into account the cooking method you use. Slow cookers, for example, can take between 6-8 hours because they operate at lower temperatures.
6. Flageolet Beans
These beans are definitely more difficult to find and can even cost more than you’d expect. Their flavor is what makes them a good navy bean alternative.
Flageolet beans are super creamy, very nutty, slightly sweet, and pretty neutral in earthy flavors. They can be easily identified by their pale green color.
These also cook for pretty much the same amount of time as navy beans, between 60-180 minutes.
7. Tepary Beans
Okay, so while this bean is literally the complete opposite (solid black in color), their flavor and texture make them a great white navy beans substitute.
That being said, there are white varieties as well, which are just as easy to find.
They are also slightly nutty, have a sweet undertone, and have a relatively neutral overall flavor profile.
Now, the downside: generally they take a lot longer to cook than navy beans. Most people say it takes between 2-4 hours, which isn’t THAT bad for beans. But if you are in a rush, just keep this in mind.