What Is the Difference Between Navy & Great Northern Beans?


The Great Northern bean is a variety of the Navy bean, yet differences in appearance, flavor, size, texture and cooking time can be detected. While all beans are naturally low in sodium, the Great Northern and Navy beans contain a high level of calcium.


Both a white bean, the Great Northern bean is flat, medium-sized and kidney-shaped, compared to the smaller, oval-shape of the Navy bean.


Great Northern beans absorb cooking flavors, adding a mild, delicate taste to recipes; Navy beans have a mild flavor.


Navy beans' refined texture maintains its shape when cooking, as in making Boston-baked beans. The thinner-skinned Great Northern is interchangeable in recipes with most other beans.


Great Northern beans require a shorter cooking time than Navy beans. The time to cook 1 cup of Great Northern beans ranges from 45 to 60 minutes, while Navy beans need from 1½ to 2 hours cooking time.

Food Poisoning

According to the U.S. Dry Bean Council, many varieties of beans contain a protein called lectins, which interfere with the process of repairing cell membranes. If this protein is not destroyed by cooking, lectins may cause severe food poisoning.


  • U.S. Dry Bean Council: Varieties
  • U.S. Dry Bean Council: Why Can't I Eat Dry Beans Raw?
  • Cooking with Dry Beans

Who Can Help

  • Household Commodity Fact Sheet: Great Northerns
Keywords: navy beans, great northern beans, white beans

About this Author

Suzanne Fyhrie Parrott is lead graphic designer and owner of OneWay Advertising and Design. Established in 1988, OneWay provides professional advertising and graphic design services including marketing, SEO, Web content, targeted SEM, PPC marketing strategies, as well as tutorials and how-to guides for help in understanding how to implement basic marketing and design strategies.

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