Navy beans are one of my favorite beans! And that's saying something because I am currently obsessed with legumes. Every time Amazon drops a package off my kids ask in an accusatory tone, "Mom, Did you buy ANOTHER bean book?"
Navy beans, also called haricot beans, are at the top of my list because of their creamy texture and buttery, nutty flavor. They are so versatile and my oldest loves them for a simple snack.
I have structured this post in order of most relevance to the average (not bean-obsessed) home cook, starting with general information about culinary applications and nutrition facts. For my fellow legum lovers, I have followed with more history and cultural context.
Navy with their thick skins, mild flavor, and creamy texture, Navy beans are perfect for hearty and thick dishes like Boston beans, pork and beans, and navy bean soup.
They can withstand long cooking times without losing shape, making them ideal for slow-cooked stews and soups. Navy beans also work well in casseroles and bakes, adding substance and flavor to oven-baked dishes. When mashed or pureed, navy beans create a creamy consistency, making them an excellent base for hearty dips and spreads.
You can readily locate this pantry staple, available in the form of either canned or dried beans, at most grocery stores.
- Common Name: Navy Bean
- Aliases: Peas Beans, Small White Beans
- Texture: Soft and velvety texture
- Size: Smallest of the white beans
- Shape: traditional kidney bean shape
- Color: White
- Taste: Nutty, Buttery, and slightly earthy flavor
- Cooking Time of Dry Beans: 90 minutes after soaking
- Best Culinary Uses: stews, dips, and purees
If you check your cupboards and discover you don’t have either legume, have no fear. You can use several suitable substitutes to ensure your dish turns out just as delicious.
If navy beans are unavailable, you can easily use any white like great Northern or cannellini beans. You could also use other colored bean, such as white kidney beans or black beans. In a pinch, lentils can also step in as a viable replacement.
Other types of white beans
Navy beans are only one type of white bean. Great northerns, butter beans (baby lima beans), and Cannellini Beans are a few of the most common.
Great northern beans have a thin skin and tender texture that makes them ideal for delicate dishes. If your recipe calls for white beans, you can often use Cannellini Beans as an excellent substitute for Navy or Great Beans. They are slightly larger, have a meaty texture, and have thicker skin. With nutty and early flavor works well in soups and cold salads.
Butter beans are a good size bigger than the other types of white beans- making them a more pronounced and less common substitution. While butter beans are less common, I am really falling in love with their buttery texture and robust flavor- don’t be afraid to try these as a substitute.
How to cook white navy beans
Navy beans shine in salads, absorbing vinaigrettes and complementing fresh veggies. Transform them into a creamy soup by blending with aromatic herbs and spices. Add them to stews, casseroles, or chili, infusing your dishes with protein and fiber. Mash them for a nutritious spread, tossed in a Mediterranean-inspired dish, or baked into a savory casserole. A versatile bean, it is great in a variety of dishes, but the simplest might be this classic broth beans which can be made on the stove top or an Instant Pot:
Stove Top Instructions
To prepare navy beans, start by rinsing one pound of dry navy beans under cold water and then placing them in a large soup pot. Cover the beans with fresh water and let them soak overnight at room temperature.
The next day, drain and rinse the beans, returning them to the pot. Add chicken broth to the large pot, enough to cover the beans, and toss two bay leaves and garlic cloves for aromatic depth. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil on medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and red pepper flakes for a hint of warmth. Allow the beans to cook slowly, absorbing the rich flavors, until they are tender and creamy. This stove-top method ensures that the navy beans soak up the savory essence of chicken broth and the subtle fragrance of bay leaves, creating a hearty and flavorful dish.
Instant Pot Instructions
For a quick and convenient way to prepare flavorful navy beans, opt for your trusty pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Begin by rinsing one pound of dry navy beans under cold water, then transfer them to the Instant Pot.
Cover the beans with fresh water and let them soak for an hour at room temperature or use the Instant Pot's quick soak function to expedite the process. Drain and rinse the beans, returning them to the Instant Pot.
Add chicken broth to the pot, enough to submerge the beans, and toss in a couple of bay leaves for a fragrant touch. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and red pepper flakes to infuse a subtle heat. Seal the Instant Pot and set it to high pressure for a cooking time of around 25 minutes.
Allow natural release for optimal tenderness. This efficient method ensures that the navy beans absorb the savory goodness of the chicken stock and the aromatics, resulting in a delectable dish ready in no time.
Quick Soak Method- The quick soak method is a convenient way to prepare dried beans in a shorter time frame compared to the traditional overnight soak. After thoroughly rinsing the dried beans, place them in a pot and cover them with water, using about three cups of water for every cup of beans.
Bring the water to a rapid boil on the stove, allowing the beans to cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove the pot from heat, cover it, and let the beans soak in the hot water for approximately 1 hour. After this expedited soaking period, drain and rinse the beans thoroughly.
The quick soak method efficiently softens the beans, making them ready for cooking without the extended overnight wait, making it a practical option for impromptu meal preparation.
Add a Ham Bone- Do you have a leftover holiday ham? Sound a like great excuse to make navy beans. The addition of a ham bone brings a smoky and meaty essence, infusing the beans with a deliciously complex taste.
Simply introduce the ham bone into the large soup pot along with the navy beans, chicken broth, bay leaves, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Allow the ham bone to simmer alongside the beans, letting its seasoned goodness meld with the other ingredients.
How to Serve Navy Beans
I highly suggest making a big batch of these navy bean recipes because are so versatile and great for meal prep. They are delicious right out of the pot with crusty pieces of bread but here are a few more ideas for enjoying these beautiful beans all week long:
- Bean Grain bowl- serve the navy beans with whole grains like farro or brown rice. Top with some roasted veggies, and pickled onions and dress with herb tahini sauce or garlic cilaton sauce and will have an impressive vegetarian grain bowl.
- Chessless pizza- navy are key ingredient to my cheerless pizza which is amazing and tasty. I guarantee it will be the best-tasting "health" pizza you ever have!
- Salads- Navy beans are a great addition to a salad. Try broccoli rabe salad with white bean with sun-dried tomatoes or white bean salad with shallots.
- Spread- add navy beans to a food process with a splash of olive oil, and lemon juice and blend until smooth. You can do this will cooled, but it even better with warm beans. It will be a lillte smother and creamier than hummus but you can serve it the same way.
- Soups- this might be the most common use for navy beans, for good reason. Navy beans easy absorb flavors and have a nice creamy texter in broths.
***If you don't have time to cook dried navy beans from scratch you can use canned beans for most recipes. Just drain and rinse them before adding them to your recipe.
The USDA provides the following nutrition information for 1 cup serving of navy beans thoroughly cooked (boiled) without salt. (1) (NOTE that if you are cooking them, you are likely going to be adding some salt for flavor- so if you are following a low-sodium diet, make adjustments to your recipes accordingly)
- Calories 140 kCal
- Fat .62 g
- Protein 8.23 g
- Carbohydrates 26 g
- Fiber 10.5
- Sodium 0mg
- Calcium 69 mg
- Iron 2.36 mg
- Magnesium 53 mg
- Potassium 389 mg
Health benefits of navy beans
Are navy beans beneficial for your health? Absolutely! Let's delve into the nutritional advantages supported by various studies (see the complete list of references at the bottom of the post).
Carbohydrates and Fiber
Navy beans emerge as nutritional powerhouses, boasting a robust combination of carbohydrates and fiber. With around 140 kcal per serving, containing 26 grams of complex carbohydrates, navy beans stand out as an exceptional source of both quick and sustained energy. Notably, their carbohydrate composition is primarily starch. Additionally, a serving of navy beans provides an impressive 10.2 grams of dietary fiber, playing a pivotal role in stabilizing blood sugar levels, promoting a sense of fullness, and supporting digestive health. In the United States, where less than 10% of people meet the recommended daily fiber intake, both navy and great northern beans serve as valuable sources of fiber (1, 3).
Navy beans are noteworthy protein sources. A cup of navy beans offers 15 grams for the same quantity. This makes them particularly beneficial for vegans and vegetarians seeking to augment their protein intake. While Navy Beans are good sources of protein, they are not complete sources of protein- they do not have all nine essential amino acids your body needs. By pairing white beans with grains like rice, barley, corn, and wheat- which have complementary proteins- you can ensure you get all the essential amino acids in your diet. (4)
Health Benefits of Legumes
Being legumes, navy beans contribute to a nutrient-rich category studied extensively by nutrition researchers. Legumes, including beans and lentils, are recognized for their global popularity, ease of cultivation, and numerous health benefits. Research indicates that elevating your legume intake correlates with lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and type 2 diabetes (5).
For a quick nutritional comparison of beans or other foods, myfooddata.com offers a convenient and free online tool. Explore the health benefits of lentils while incorporating these versatile legumes into your diet for a delicious and nutritious boost to overall health!
Navy beans, also known as pea beans, have a fascinating historical context dating back to the early 1800s. They gained their name from extensive use as a staple food in the United States Navy during the 19th century. US Navy ships relied on these beans as a primary source of sustenance due to their excellent nutritional profile and ability to be stored for long periods without spoilage. As a result, navy beans became a crucial food item for sailors during their long voyages, earning them the moniker "navy beans."
Common botanical ancestor:
Navy beans, along with a diverse array of counterparts like pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, and others, share a common botanical lineage in the form of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). This versatile plant species was among the earliest crops cultivated in the Americas, playing a pivotal role in the diets and cultures of indigenous peoples. Archaeological findings suggest that common bean cultivation dates back at least 7,000 years in present-day Mexico and Central America (6).
The European exploration and colonization of the Americas introduced common beans, including navy beans, to Europe, facilitating their spread worldwide. The cultivation and global popularity of common beans were significantly influenced by trade, exploration, and colonization. This historical context underscores the cultural and culinary importance of navy beans and their shared botanical ancestor in shaping global food traditions.
The term "Navy bean" originates from its status as a staple in the U.S. Navy since the mid-1800s. In Australia, navy bean production surged during World War II, driven by the need to supply nutritious food to troops, particularly American forces in Queensland. The widespread planting of beans in the region, especially in Kingaroy, earned it the title of the Baked Bean Capital of Australia. During this time, another colloquial name for the navy bean was "the Yankee beans."
- US Department of Agriculture -Nutrition facts Navy Beans
- University of Rochester Medical Center- Nutrition facts Great Northern Beans
- Filling America's fiber intake gap: summary of a roundtable to probe realistic solutions with a focus on grain-based foods
- Dietary Protein and Amino Acids in Vegetarian Diets—A Review
- Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake
- “Beans: A History” by Ken Aldala
- 1 pound dry navy beans
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 bay leaves
- 2 carrot peeled
- 2 celery
- 1 onion peel and cut in half
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Water for soaking
- Rinse the dry navy beans under cold water to remove any impurities.
- Place the rinsed beans in a large soup pot.
- Cover the beans with water and let them soak overnight at room temperature.
- The next day, drain and rinse the beans thoroughly.
- In the same pot, add chicken broth, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Let the beans cook slowly until tender, absorbing the flavors of the broth and seasonings.
- Remove bay leaves before serving.
- Optionally, garnish with fresh herbs or a drizzle of olive oil.
- Enjoy your delicious and hearty navy bean dish!
- Rinse one pound of dry navy beans under cold water.
- Transfer the rinsed beans to the Instant Pot.
- Cover the beans with fresh water and let them soak for an hour at room temperature or use the Instant Pot's quick soak function.
- Drain and rinse the beans, returning them to the Instant Pot.
- Add enough chicken broth to submerge the beans in the pot.
- Toss in a couple of bay leaves for a fragrant touch.
- Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and red pepper flakes for subtle heat.Seal the Instant Pot and set it to high pressure for a cooking time of around 25 minutes.
- Allow natural release for optimal tenderness.
- Enjoy the flavorful navy beans that have absorbed the savory goodness of chicken broth and aromatic spices. A delectable dish ready in no time!