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Butter Beans vs Great Northern Beans: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated on April 17, 2024 by Shari Mason

Butter beans and Great Northern beans are favorite types among the plethora of beans varieties, which are considered a staple in numerous households. Despite the multitude of bean options available, these two varieties continue to be sought-after choices.

While they may look similar, there are some critical differences between these two types of beans, including their taste, texture, and nutritional value. 

Our team checked out butter beans vs. Great Northern beans, exploring their similarities and differences and providing tips on how to use each variety in your cooking. 

What Are Butter Beans & Great Northern Beans?

Butter Beans on a Pan

Butter beans [1] and Great Northern beans are legume family members, which include beans, lentils, and peas.

Butter beans are a type of lima bean that are larger and flatter than regular lima beans, with a creamy texture and buttery flavor. They are often used in Southern-style dishes such as succotash or baked beans.

“My diet mostly comprises whole-grain cereals, legumes, beans, lentils. Lots of cooked, baked, or steamed vegetables. Lots of spices like curcumin or cumin that help aid digestion. Some superfoods.”

– Adam Ondra, Czech Rock Climber

On the other hand, Great Northern beans are smaller and rounder than butter beans, with a mild flavor and slightly grainy texture. 

They are a common ingredient in casseroles, soups, and stews and are often used as a substitute for navy or cannellini beans.

Also Read: What Does Read Bean Taste Like?

What Are The Differences In Taste & Texture?

  1. Taste: Butter beans have a creamy, buttery flavor with a slightly nutty taste. Great Northern beans, on the other hand, have a milder taste with a slight graininess.
  2. Texture: Butter beans have a soft, creamy texture with a slight firmness, making them ideal for dishes with a smooth and velvety texture. Great Northern beans, on the other hand, have a slightly grainy texture that holds up well in soups and stews.
  3. Cooking Time: Butter beans typically take longer to cook than Great Northern beans due to their larger size and creamier texture.
  4. Culinary Uses: Butter beans are often used in Southern-style dishes such as succotash, baked beans, and stews, while Great Northern beans are commonly used in casseroles, soups, and stews, as well as salads and dips.
  5. Availability: Butter beans are less commonly found in grocery stores than Great Northern beans [2], widely available in canned and dried forms.

How Do You Cook Butter Beans & Great Northern Beans?

Butter Beans:

  • Soak the beans in cold water for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  • Drain and rinse the beans, then add them to a pot with enough water to cover them by about an inch.
  • Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the beans until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Drain the beans and use them in your desired recipe.

Great Northern Beans:

  • Soak the beans in cold water for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  • Drain and rinse the beans, then add them to a pot with enough water to cover them by about an inch.
  • Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer the beans until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Drain the beans and use them in your desired recipe.

Also Read:

Nutritional Differences Between Butter Beans & Great Northern Beans

  1. Calories: A 1/2 cup serving of cooked butter beans contains approximately 110 calories, while the same serving size of cooked Great Northern beans contains around 120 calories.
  2. Protein: Both types of beans are a good source of protein, with 1/2 cup of cooked butter beans containing around 7 grams of protein and the same serving size of cooked Great Northern beans containing approximately 8 grams of protein.
  3. Fiber: Both butter beans and Great Northern beans are high in fiber, with 1/2 cup of cooked butter beans containing around 6 grams of fiber and the same serving size of cooked Great Northern beans containing approximately 6.5 grams.
  4. Fat: Both types of beans are low in fat, with 1/2 cup of cooked butter beans containing less than 1 gram of fat and the same serving size of cooked Great Northern beans containing approximately 1 gram of fat.
  5. Vitamins and minerals: Both butter beans and Great Northern beans are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, and folate. Butter beans are also a good source of Vitamin B6, while Great Northern beans contain more calcium and magnesium than butter beans.

Related Post: Simple Steps To Freeze Green Beans Without Blanching

FAQs

u003cstrongu003eWhy are they called great northern beans?u003c/strongu003e

Great Northern beans are called so because they were initially grown in the northern United States, particularly in the Midwest. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eThey are believed to have been developed in the mid-1800s in the region that is now Minnesota, North Dakota, and Michigan. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eThe name u0022Great Northernu0022 was likely chosen to reflect the beans’ northern origin and popularity in the region. 

u003cstrongu003eWhat is a suitable replacement for butter beans?u003c/strongu003e

Lima beans are a suitable replacement for butter beans, as they have a similar flavor and texture. Other alternatives include navy beans or cannellini beans.

Key Takeaways

While butter beans and Great Northern beans may look similar at first glance, they have distinct differences in taste, texture, and culinary uses. 

Butter beans have a creamy, buttery flavor with a slightly nutty taste, while Great Northern beans have a milder taste with a slight graininess. 

Butter beans have a soft, creamy texture, while Great Northern beans have a slightly grainy texture that holds up well in soups and stews. 

Both beans are a good source of protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals, making them a healthy and nutritious addition to any diet. 

Whether you’re using them in Southern-style dishes like succotash, casseroles, or stews, knowing the differences between these beans can help you create delicious and satisfying meals for yourself and your family.

References:

  1. https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-are-butter-beans-5105145
  2. https://www.allrecipes.com/recipes/17026/fruits-and-vegetables/beans-and-peas/great-northern-beans/
Shari Mason

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