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What are Cannellini Beans?

By C. Ausbrooks
Updated May 16, 2024
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Cannellini beans are a variety of white beans popular in Central and Southern Italy, particularly in Tuscany. Other names for the bean include white kidney bean and fazolia bean. They are similar to white navy beans or haricots, as they are known in Britain. These large white beans are often mistaken for great northern beans, as the two are so alike in appearance.

Before cooking, cannellini beans must be thoroughly rinsed. When cooked, the cannellini bean is fluffy and creamy. They are typically known for their smooth texture and nutty flavor. In recipes that call for the beans, substitutions can be made with great northern or white navy beans.

In Tuscany, the beans are often eaten dried instead of cooked. In other parts of Italy, the beans are a popular accompaniment to tuna and pasta dishes containing poultry. In the United States, vegetarians often utilize the hearty beans as a fish or chicken substitute. They can be found throughout America and Britain in minestrone soups and various bean salads.

Cannellini beans are available in supermarkets in both dried and canned form. They can be purchased year round in most parts of the world. They should be evenly colored and shiny, with a slight off-white color. As with most other beans, they should be stored in an airtight glass container to preserve them.

An excellent source of iron, magnesium, and folate, a single serving of cannellini beans provides more than 20 percent of the recommended daily values of these nutrients. They are also a good source of protein, providing more than 15 grams per serving. Other nutritional benefits include their low fat content and calorie count. Each serving contains only 225 calories and less than one gram of fat.

To prepare cannellini beans, they must be rinsed and soaked overnight. They can be cooked in a pressure cooker for 15-20 minutes, or boiled on the stove top for 2-3 hours. One cup of dried beans yields approximately three cups of cooked beans. After initial preparation, they can be added to soups and stews, served seasoned with salt and pepper, or pureed and used as a spread on crackers and sandwiches. They can also be used to make a white bean chili.

Cooked cannellini beans should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator to prevent dehydration. If not used within 3-4 days, the beans can be frozen for later use. The dried beans have a very long shelf life, so it isn’t necessary to cook more than can be used in a few days.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1002303 — On Oct 20, 2019

I bought the cannillini beans in the can, drained and rinsed them and heated them on low heat in some olive oil. Delicious

By anon263211 — On Apr 23, 2012

A good site with general information for those who want to know the nutritional basics without having to spend a long time reading.

By anon194866 — On Jul 09, 2011

It's pretty easy to find cannellini beans in my area now, but in the past I substituted great northern in Italian recipes. Cannellinis are also great in Portuguese bean soups.

By anon170258 — On Apr 25, 2011

These things are the best. We get them at Whole Foods. They are very tender when cooked(not hard-ish like some beans). Cook them with a little ham cut up small, ladle them into a bowl with lots of cooking juice, add diced onion, a little sea salt, and generous black pepper. Serve with fresh cornbread. It does not get any better -- ever.

And oh yes, they seem to produce less gas and of a milder nature than other beans. Really great beans. --TardOleJohn

By anon138831 — On Jan 02, 2011

I use these beans for cooking Caldo Gallego, a Spanish bean stew made of Spanish chorizos, smoked ham hock, diced onions and potatoes, minced garlic, and kale greens. It's a comfort food during cold winter nights.

By anon114115 — On Sep 27, 2010

If you have a whole food market near you they should have the canned and dried variety.

By anon94343 — On Jul 08, 2010

Thank you from me too. I've long doubled the soaking time for a variety of beans and it always reduces the cooking time. Cannellini dip is my favorite.-- Dogwoods

By anon92370 — On Jun 27, 2010

Wanted to try a new recipe---Tuscany Tuna. Called for cannellini beans. Was pretty sure they were a white bean but had no idea what to look for in one of our huge supermarkets which you would think would have everything! Alas! No cannellini beans -- in cans or bags. I asked three women if they knew what they are and got three very puzzled looks. I think they were embarrassed.

There is a new specialty Italian store just down the street. He'll probably either have them on hand or have a lead for me. In the meantime, it's very nice to know I could use navy or great northern. Thanks for being there!

By anon75820 — On Apr 07, 2010

Thank you! I wondered what cannellini beans were and if Great Northern beans would do as a substitute! Commencing cooking.

By sevenseas — On Feb 28, 2010

Soaking the beans overnight, or bringing them to a boil and then letting them soak in that liquid for about an hour will both speed up the cooking time and reduce the gas. The soaking liquid should be discarded and replaced with fresh water before cooking.

Beans are such a great and comforting food. The taste is creamy, they are filling and healthy.

I love pasta and fagioli, a simple but good, comforting food.

The whole families at one time used to be raised on this type of food.

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