Can You Mix Great Northern & Cannellini Beans in Chili?


Chili is one of the first meals a lot of people prepare when the weather turns cool. This blend of tomatoes, beans, vegetables, chicken or beef and spices satisfies hungry appetites coming in from the cold -- and even tastes great vegetarian-style. There are hundreds of chili recipes out there, and most of them call for beans, leaving some cooks to wonder if you can mix great northern beans with cannellini beans in chili.

Appearance, Taste and Use of White Beans

  • Great northern beans resemble baby white lima beans, while cannellini beans are a bit larger. Both are an off-white tan color and are sometimes confused with navy beans, which are more oval-shaped. Because of the minor differences in their appearance, it could be difficult for even the most experienced cook to identify which is the great northern and which is the cannellini bean in a bowl of chili.


  • Along with looking similar, most people would find it challenging to taste the difference between great northern and cannellini beans if they were mixed into chili. Both have a slightly nutty taste and creamy texture, although cannellini beans are technically Italian kidney beans, while great northern beans are white beans.

Common White Bean Chili

  • Chili made with white beans, such as great northern and cannellini beans, are often called white bean chilies and frequently do not include tomatoes. A white bean chili recipe such as "White Chicken Chili" calls for white beans and chicken, with cumin and diced green chilies for flavor. Using just great northern, cannellini or navy beans would suffice for any white bean chili recipe with virtually no effect on the final results.

Mix it Up

  • Chili recipes often vary by region, and the beans that a cook puts into his chili may tell you what part of the country he is from. Southern areas tend to favor pinto beans in their chili, while some northern areas favor red kidney beans. Southwest chili is frequently speckled with black beans while some cooks put no beans at all in their chili recipes. Preparing this spicy delight means anything in the cupboard is fair game and, as a result, many cooks toss a variety of canned beans into their chili pot. Do not be afraid to play around with different beans in your chili recipes -- mix beans up and enjoy.

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