9 Best Substitutes for Cannellini Beans (White Kidney Beans)


You are home late from work, and you’re cold, tired, and hungry, and your dinner plan is your favorite white bean soup or maybe pasta and bean salad. So you’re going to make them with your favorite white beans, cannellini, but you don’t have any. What do you use instead?

Those of us who love our plant-based cuisine do not like a deviation from the perfect recipe. We want the taste to be the same every time. In this article, we’re going to show you how easily you can use similar beans interchangeably with cannellini beans.

1. Red Kidney Beans

Cannellini beans are white beans, but their size and shape are close to red kidney beans. You may hear cannellini beans referred to as “white kidney bean” or “Italian beans,” but white kidney beans may appear on the label. 

Although very similar, cannellini and red kidney beans have minor differences.

Are Kidney Beans and Cannellini Beans the Same?

Kidney beans aren’t the same as cannellini beans. Kidney beans aren’t as creamy or smooth as cannellini beans, and there’s a slight difference in taste. However, the differences aren’t significant enough to affect the successful outcome of your favorite recipe flavor. 

You Can Substitute Red Kidney Beans for White Cannellini Beans in Recipes

Using red kidney beans instead of white cannellini beans will change the appearance of the dish. 

Cannellini beans are frequently used in popular Mediterranian cuisine. Light seafood and fresh vegetable salads may be overwhelmed by large red kidney beans, while white beans will complement the visual appeal of the food.

Heartier dishes aren’t overwhelmed by the red kidney beans. 

The two different colors do very well when substituted for each other in chili. Many people prefer white chili, which is made with cannellini beans and turkey or chicken. Others prefer red beans and beef chili. 

Switch the beans, and the chili will look different but taste the same. 

Vegetarian chili is where you can indulge your love of white and red beans combined in a nutritious bowl of low-fat, healthy dining. Kidney beans may be dark red or light red. 

2. Pink Beans

Small pink beans are both milder in flavor than the larger red kidney beans. They’re also called habichuelas rosadas and are a favorite in the Western U.S. and in Tex/Mex recipes used interchangeably with pinto beans. 

Tasty Fact: Pink Beans are also a favorite of Caribbean countries and are used with garlic, onions, and other herbs. When color doesn’t matter, you could substitute pink beans in any recipe that calls for cannellini.

3. Red Beans

Red beans are usually followed by rice. Originating in Haiti and synonymous with Louisiana Creole Cuisine, red beans and rice are still favorites in the south and southwest. 

Red Beans and rice are traditionally created from Sunday’s leftover ham, pork, or sausage, bolstered with small red beans and rice, then served as Monday’s dinner. The small red beans have a milder flavor than red kidney beans, which are sometimes used. 

That makes them a good substitute for cannellini when color doesn’t matter. 

4. Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are the small tan and dark speckled bean often used in chili, refried beans, and other Tex/Mex dishes. The pinto bean is firm and holds together well while cooking and is beloved in the south, with onions and ham hocks as a substitute for white kidney beans. 

Pintos are also the best choice for making refried beans.

5. Great Northern Beans

The Great Northern bean absorbs the flavor of other foods, so you get the great texture of beans with the dominant flavor of the dish. The beans are a great addition when you want texture and a big nutritional boost, but you don’t want any interference with the taste. 

The tender white beans satisfy the appetite in soups, salads, stews, and even burritos. They get their name from North Dakota, where they were grown by the Mandan Tribe. 

Can I Substitute Great Northern Beans for Cannellini Beans?

You can substitute Great Northern beans for cannellini beans. They are smaller and with a firm skin. Moreover, Great Northerns have a flavor blander than the nuttiness of cannellini, but that can work in their favor.  

6. Black Beans

Are you even surprised that black beans are on this list? 

Can I Substitute Black Beans for Cannellini Beans?

You can substitute black beans for cannellini beans in any recipe where color doesn’t matter or where color enhances the dish, as the taste and texture are very similar.

The black bean is smaller than the cannellini bean, so consider size when contemplating substitution. The color helps the smaller black bean to shine through in a recipe of many different ingredients. 

7. Navy Beans

Navy beans, Great Northern beans, and Cannellini beans have some commonalities, as they are all three pole beans as opposed to bush or vine beans. There is little distinction in taste, but there is a distinction in texture and size. 

Navy beans are small and oval so consider their size in any recipe. They don’t hold together as well as cannellini or even Great Northern beans. The skin slips away easily, leaving a mushy texture. 

The creamy texture is great for cream soups, dips, and casseroles. 

Navy beans get their name from their high-ranking availability as a food source in the U.S. Navy in the early 1900s. Their high nutrient value and long shelf life sustained troops out to sea for extended tours. 

They mix well with cured ham and just about anything else. 

8. Lima Beans

Lima beans are simply smaller butter beans, though many people might not know that. Lima beans are those small flat green-tinted beans that many of us hated to eat as a kid. When the lima beans grow longer, they get bigger and turn a white/beige color. 

Those large lima beans are the ones they cook in the south with onions and ham and call them butter beans. When cooked, the beans are soft, pillowy, and creamy with a buttery flavor. 

You could use large lima beans to substitute for cannellini beans if you are careful not to overcook them. 

9. Borlotti Beans

The borlotti bean is a speckled bean that turns darker when cooked. They are also called cranberry beans in the United States because of their cranberry red shadings on the skin of the beans and make an acceptable substitute for cannellini beans because of their firm texture. 

Cranberry beans have a distinctive nutty flavor, and they’re wonderful when used in soups and stews. 

Cannellini Beans Are a Healthy and Inexpensive Food Source

A ½ cup (90g) serving of cannellini beans contain the following nutrients:

Calories     387Saturated Fat 0.2g (0.007 oz)Calcium        46 mg (0.002 oz)
Protein       6.2g (0.21 oz)Carbohydrate  12.2g (0.43 oz)Iron           1.6 mg (0.00006 oz)
Fat       0.6g (0.02 oz)Fiber   6.4g (0.22 oz)Magnesium   30 mg (0.001 oz)
Zinc       0.6 mg (2.1oz)Folate 81 ug (2.85 oz)Potassium     260 mg (0.009 oz)
Source

Cannellini beans are a bit heavy on calories and are high in carbohydrates, but there’s more to the equation than numbers. The beans supply protein, fiber, trace minerals, and very low fat. 

Notice, there’s no sodium in dried beans unless you add it when cooking. Canned beans will have anywhere between 40 mg (0.0014 oz) and 330 mg (0.012 oz) of sodium in a 15 oz (425 g), so be sure to read the labels if you need to watch your sodium levels.

Some brands, like Eden Organic Cannellini No Salt Added Beans have 40 mg (0.0014 oz) of sodium. Bush’s Best Cannellini Beans contain 270 mg (0.0095 oz) in a 15-ounce (425-g) can. 

The calorie and carb count indicates a good energy source from complex carbohydrates. For example, the cannellini beans satisfy your appetite and hunger much longer than a high-calorie simple carbohydrate like flour and sugar. 

Plus, you get protein, calcium, fiber, and no fat, which you would not find in a cake.

All the beans in our list have similar nutritional values. So if you substitute another bean for cannellini, you won’t be sacrificing any nutritional value. 

Beans are nutritionally packed for a meager cost. 

A 15 oz (425 g) can of beans contains 3 ½ half-cup servings, and a pound of dried beans contains 12 half-cup servings. 

Cannellini Beans Are an Excellent Substitute for Other Foods

Beans are an ancient food used throughout the history of civilization to sustain life, as they are vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates. They are nutrient-dense with trace minerals, antioxidants, macronutrients, and they have no animal fats. 

It seems that cannellini beans have earned a place of honor at the dinner table based on being a nearly complete food. However, the bean is also sustainable, compact, shelf-stable, and cheap. 

In addition, they supply a good amount of slow-burning carbohydrate calories to sustain energy. 

When fresh meat and produce were in short supply throughout history, beans have proven to be a life-saving substitute. The flavor is bland, so there is no reason to dislike the taste. 

They are also healthier than many of the preferred foods for which they substitute.

Are Cannellini Beans Healthy?

Cannellini beans (and beans in general) are good for combating diseases that plague us. In addition, their research finds that beans are a tasty way to get your daily fiber, which is important because fiber helps reduce blood sugar and after-meal spikes in blood sugar. 

As a complex carbohydrate, it is slowly absorbed, which keeps us feeling full longer, so we eat less. There is a place for beans on a weight loss diet. 

  • The American Heart Association includes beans in a heart-healthy diet. Since beans are plant-based protein, there is no saturated fat to block arteries, and the nutrients and fiber found in beans help to lower cholesterol.  They recommend using dried beans or rinsing canned beans to remove the added salt. Excessive salt consumption results in water retention, which burdens an already congested heart. 
  • WebMD calls beans a superfood because they are protein-rich, high in fiber, and contain antioxidants. They recommend eating three cups of beans each week.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture supports the data confirming that beans could play a part in reversing the childhood obesity trend. To that end, they have added a guideline to the school lunch program stating that at least ½ cup (90 g) of beans is offered each week with school lunches. 

Interesting Info: The leading producer of beans in the United States is North Dakota.  A publication of North Dakota State University discusses the many health benefits of adding beans to our diets, particularly the prevention and treatment of obesity.

When it comes to improving your health, no one bean is better than another. Any kind of bean can be substituted for any other. 

Beans Are a Pantry Shelf Staple

If a recipe calls for cannellini beans, any of the other nine bean varieties listed will serve the purpose without altering taste or nutrition substantially. 

Since bean color, size, texture, and firmness factor into the presentation of a dish, some beans are more suitable than others as substitutes for cannellini beans.

The best substitutes for cannellini beans are white beans of similar size, texture, and color.

Beans should be a pantry shelf staple, so remember to always keep a few extra cans on hand for a quick delicious meal.

Is There Another Name for Cannellini Beans?

Cannellini beans are also called white kidney beans. They’re a nutritional powerhouse with a pleasing taste and texture that enhances a variety of cuisines. However, cannellini beans have a simple flavor profile that’s easy to replicate.

Let’s explore each possible substitute for when there are no cannellini beans on your shelf. After all, cannellini beans and their substitutes are an excellent addition to most diets. 

Final Thoughts

Here are the 9 of the best substitutes for cannellini beans:

  1. Red kidney beans
  2. Pink beans
  3. Red beans
  4. Pinto beans
  5. Great Northern beans
  6. Black beans
  7. Navy beans
  8. Lima beans
  9. Borlotti beans

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

For more, don’t miss How to Fix Over Salted Beans (The 4 Best Ways).

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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