Cannellini Beans vs. Great Northern Beans

Are you finding it tricky to differentiate between cannellini beans and Great Northern beans? Though they are similar, there are definitive differences between them. This post highlights those differences by comparing cannellini beans vs. great northern beans.

What Are Cannellini Beans?

Cannellini beans are a type of legume with Italian roots with a recognizable kidney shape. Therefore, it’s not surprising that Italian cuisine frequently features cannellini beans. 

Creamy and silky on the inside, cannellini beans have thicker skin. And they offer an earthy, nutty taste when used in recipes.

For best results, one should soak cannellini beans in water a day before cooking them. And you’ll typically find them in meals where the beans are cooked and served whole.

What Are Great Northern Beans?

Great northern beans, often called “giant white beans”, are medium-sized white beans. They are classed as a type of “common bean”, along with black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, and red kidney beans. 

These beans are tender legumes with a mild nutty taste and a smooth texture. Despite their mild taste, they retain their form in dishes and absorb the flavors of foods they are cooked with. 

Great northern beans may be used in many ways because they complement the taste and texture of most dishes. They’re typically used to make baked beans, soups, and stews.

Cannellini Beans vs. Great Northern Beans: What’s The Difference?

Cannellini beans and great northern beans may seem similar, but there are some clear differences. Below we compare the characteristics of these beans and how they differ in these properties.


Cannellini beans are white kidney-shaped beans with squared-off ends. On the other hand, great northern beans are whitish or light brown with a rounder shape than cannellini beans.


Cannellini beans are distinguished by their nutty flavor. Great northern beans also have a mild, nutty flavor, but it may not be as noticeable. However, it may be challenging to determine this subtle difference in flavor if you don’t taste them side by side.


Cannellini beans are smaller and more delicate than the average white kidney bean. However, great northern beans are slightly smaller than cannellini beans. Again, unless you place them next to each other, you may not notice the difference in size.


Cannellini beans have a slightly tender, meaty flesh. With the skin off, they are soft and creamy when eaten. They have thick skin and tend to hold their shape when cooked.

Although they are grainier in texture, great northern beans have a soft texture. However, their flesh is not as smooth. But its tender skin absorbs the spices and flavors of dishes it’s added to.


Cannellini beans are popular in soups, chilis, stews, and salads because they retain their shape and consistency. They are a staple in Italian cuisine and are frequently featured in traditional Italian recipes. 

Great northern beans are mild-tasting beans that can be used in various dishes. Their tender skin makes them ideal for mashing and pureeing. Therefore, they’re great for party dips, thick soups, and colorful bean salads.


Cannellini beans and great northern beans are both delicious and able to elevate the taste and texture of many dishes. This comparison of cannellini beans vs. great northern beans should help tell them apart for your next bean recipe.