If you don’t want to read an entire article, I should tell you right from the start that the best navy beans substitute is whatever bean variety you can buy where you live.
Whichever beans you like the most or are within your budget, those are the ones you can use in recipes that call for navy beans as an ingredient.
You can use cannellini, black beans, kidney beans, Great northern beans, lima beans (butter beans), pinto beans, flageolet beans, mayocoba beans, black-eyed peas, tepary beans, etc.
Moreover, as the best navy bean substitutes, you can also use lentils, chickpeas, green peas, fava beans, pigeon peas, etc.
As you can see, all these substitutes that I’ve mentioned are legumes that belong to the bean and pea family (Fabaceae or Leguminosae).
The Best Navy Beans Substitute for All Recipes
The best navy bean substitutes are:
- great northern beans
- black beans
- pinto beans
- fava beans
- pigeon peas
- lima beans
- flageolet beans
- mayocoba beans
- black-eyed peas
- tepary beans
- green peas
All these substitutes can be used interchangeably, in a 1:1 substitution.
The only thing you must pay attention to is cooking times.
For example, if you’re using dried beans or chickpeas, then you must leave them to soak overnight so that it shortens cooking times. After that, you must check how long you should cook the bean/lentil/chickpeas. Each will have different cooking times. Even among the multitude of bean varieties we have different cooking times.
On the other hand, if you’re using canned beans or chickpeas, then you don’t need to be concerned about cooking times.
Canned legumes are already cooked, they can be used directly from the can, which is an amazing shortcut. If you’re in a hurry or you don’t like making recipes that involve long cooking times, canned legumes are your friends.
1. Cannellini beans: one of the best navy bean substitutes
Cannellini beans are the largest beans among the many types of white beans. We can also call them white kidney beans.
Great northern beans belong to the same white beans family. They’re medium-sized.
In the same family, navy beans are the smallest, they’re described as being pea sized.
The conclusion we can draw is that cannellini, Great northern and navy beans can be absolutely used interchangeably in recipes. You’ll use substitutes that have the same color, taste and texture.
However, their size differs so their cooking times might differ slightly, too.
Navy beans are the quickest to cook, in as little as 45 to 90 minutes. It also depends on how crunchy or mushy you want their texture to be.
Great northern and cannellini can even take up to 120 minutes to cook. Once again, it depends on the texture you want to achieve and it also depends on the quality of the beans you’ve bought.
I don’t guide myself by a clock, I always taste until I’m satisfied with the beans’ texture, no matter which variety I’m cooking with.
Overall, cannellini, Great northern and navy beans are three of the most popular white beans around the world. Each works as a substitute for the other two.
Plus, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to find at least one of these three in a store near you.
If you want to skip the soaking overnight and the long cooking times the next day, just buy canned beans. This also applies to chickpeas and many other legumes.
2. Great northern beans
I already said everything I had to say about the different types of white beans that we can cook with interchangeably.
Great northern beans can be the best navy beans substitute for you, no matter what dish you want to cook.
Great northern is a bit larger than a navy bean. They have a mild, nutty flavor and a firm texture.
If you want a more mushy texture, you have to focus on smaller beans, those more close to the size of a pea.
3. Black beans: my favorite navy bean substitute
I can never talk about any bean variety or chickpea substitute without mentioning black beans as being one of my absolute favorites.
The awesome thing about black beans as the choice for the best navy beans substitute is that they’re pretty similar in size.
Black beans are also about the size of a pea.
However, when it comes to colors, talk about two opposites. Black beans have a satiny black skin and a white center, while navy beans are white both on the outside and on the inside.
I love that black beans have a creamy texture with a strong, slightly sweet flavor. I love them for making chili, soups, stews, salads and so many other recipes.
4. Pinto beans: similar texture to navy beans
We all know pinto beans as being light brown or pale pinkish brown. I love their look. In Spanish they’re called frijoles pinto, which means painted bean.
Pinto beans are another variety of common beans.
Moreover, pinto and navy beans have a similar texture. Their taste is similar, too. What I would say is that pinto are slightly bigger than navy. But not by much.
5. Fava beans
If you love Middle Easter dishes, you are well acquainted with how delicious fava beans are. They’re famous across Asia, Middle East, Europe, South America and Africa.
They have a long reach so there’s a high chance that you might be able to find fava beans dried or canned in your local store.
Fava beans and navy beans can be used interchangeably. Actually, in my recommendations for fava bean substitutes, I mentioned navy beans and many other bean varieties plus chickpeas, green peas, sugar snap peas, green beans, and lentils.
Some people will tell you that fava beans are the model delicious legume that they’ve eaten. Some will mention that their taste is sweet and nutty.
On the other hand, other people might describe it as being sweet, nutty, slightly bitter and with a slight aroma of cheese.
Fava beans can be even eaten raw when they’re young. They’re certainly one of the few legumes that we can eat raw. But that’s what makes them all the more interesting and versatile.
6. Pigeon peas
Contrary to the name, pigeon peas are actually a bean variety. They’re also small, which makes them an awesome candidate as the best navy beans substitute.
This legume is a favorite in Caribbean kitchens so we know that it must be awesome. If you get the chance to buy them, definitely do it.
Pigeon peas have a delicious nutty flavor. They’re not as sweet as green peas but they’re still sweet enough. Plus starchy because they’re beans.
I’m aware that not all people will have access to pigeon peas. But if you do, use them in whatever navy bean recipe you want to make.
7. Lima beans
Lima beans are also known as butter beans. There are a lot of people who love cooking with lima beans. For those, it will be nice to know that they can use butter beans as the best navy beans substitute.
Those who love them, will describe their taste as being nutty and sweet. However, keep in mind that if you overcook them, they can taste bitter and sulfurous.
8. Flageolet beans
Flageolets are another white bean variety with a kidney shape and a pale green color. If you’ve ever experimented with French cuisine, you might have come across a few dishes with flageolet beans.
Flageolet, cannellini, great northern and navy beans can all be used interchangeably because they’re all white beans. Only their size differs. But their flavors are quite identical.
9. Mayocoba beans
These are also called Mexican yellow beans. Thus, mayocoba beans are medium-sized with a pale yellow or ivory color.
Uncooked, they remind me of mustard seeds just that they’re beans actually.
Since they’re originally from Peru, they’re also called Canario or Peruano.
10. Black-eyed peas
Besides the very catchy name and besides the really adorable look, black-eyed peas are amazing.
It’s another medium-sized bean with a familiar starchy, beanie taste. They also have an earthy taste and they’re a touch nutty. For many of us, the earthiness is the flavor that stands out the most.
11. Tepary beans
These are indigenous to the American southwest. They can also be called an ancient superfood of the Sonoran Desert.
They have a rich nutty flavor. Unlike white varieties, brown varieties like tepary beans taste more earthy and less sweet.
That’s why tepary beans and black-eyed peas have a more earthy taste. Some might prefer white beans, like navy beans, more because they have a sweeter flavor.
When we think of lentils, we might think of delicious soups or maybe we think of mouthwatering curries.
But we can also use lentils as the best navy beans substitutes. It totally works if you love lentils, whether they’re green, red or brown.
13. Chickpeas: versatile substitute for navy beans
Although chickpeas are also known as garbanzo beans, botanically they’re neither a bean nor a pea. They’re a legume and a very delicious one.
Chickpeas have a similar taste to beans. Most people will compare their flavor to cannellini or pinto beans. Thus, we can also say that they have a taste similar to navy beans.
If you’re tired of cooking bean recipes, you can simply make the same recipes with chickpeas.
You can buy dried chickpeas or get canned ones, if you don’t want to go through the overnight soaking and cooking times. Canned chickpeas, like canned beans, can be used straight out of the can.
We can even make chickpea chili. Or use them in soups, stews, salads, with meats, seafood, fish. Or just prepare a simple dish of chickpeas, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper, salt, garlic and fresh herbs.
I love chickpeas because they’re so versatile.
Obviously, you’ll want to try to make hummus and falafel. You can also make these two famous dishes with beans. Or even peas. Legumes can truly be used interchangeably in most recipes.
Another interesting detail about chickpeas is that we can also grow our own chickpea sprouts at home. That’s a good alternative for those who want to experiment with more than bean sprouts. The only thing you must remember is that you need to buy chickpea for sprouting or microgreens. Regular chickpeas will usually not sprout.
14. Green peas
If you don’t like beans all that much, no matter which variety you’ve tried, then you can use green peas.
Some people find that beans are too starchy for their tastes. In that case, green peas can be used.
Or even green beans, depending on what recipe you’re cooking.
Green peas work in soups, stews, pasta dishes, salads and whatever other navy beans recipe you want to make.
Plus, we can buy them fresh, frozen or canned. And their price is quite low.
We also don’t have to let them soak overnight like we do with beans and chickpeas. They’re quick to cook and delicious.
What Are Navy Beans?
Unlike black beans, navy beans don’t actually have a dark blue color. They’re tiny and white and absolutely adorable. I love them.
Among all the many white beans, navy beans are the smallest. They’re pea sized white beans. Now you understand just how small they are.
Due to their small size, they also cook more quickly than cannellini or kidney beans or Great northern beans.
Thus, just like I mentioned in the beginning of this article, when you’re deciding which is the best navy beans substitute for your dishes, you must pay attention to cooking times for all the various legumes that we can use.
The name navy beans comes from the fact that they were a staple in the US Navy for over 200 years. Other names for navy beans are haricot beans, Boston beans, pea beans and Yankee beans.
I love cooking with them but I also love cooking with all the recommendations that I wrote about as the best navy beans substitute.