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Butter Beans vs Great Northern Beans: Which to Choose?

Are you trying to decide between butter beans and Great Northern beans?

Not sure which of these two legumes is going to be the best option for your meal planning needs?

There’s no need to stress — we’re here to provide you with an in-depth comparison between butter beans and Great Northern beans so that you can make an informed decision.

Whether you’re looking for a nutritional value breakdown, culinary applications or even flavor profiles – this post has all the information necessary to ensure that your next legume purchase is the right one.

What are Butter Beans?

Butter beans, also known as lima beans, are small, cream-colored legumes.

They come from the Fabaceae family and are native to South America.

They get their name from their buttery texture and mild flavor.

These versatile beans are used in many dishes like soups, stews, casseroles, and salads.

They can also be enjoyed as a side dish or mashed up into a spread.

Butter beans are high in protein, making them a great choice for vegetarians and vegans.

They are also rich in dietary fiber which helps with digestion.

Health benefits come from the vitamins and minerals in the beans.

These include folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium.

These nutrients work together to keep the heart healthy, regulate blood pressure, and boost the immune system.

What are Great Northern Beans?

Meet Great Northern beans.

Also known as ‘white kidney beans’, these little oval-shaped legumes have a mild flavor and creamy texture.

They’re popular for cooking due to their versatility and ability to soak up flavors from other ingredients.

Great Northern beans can be found in soups, stews, casseroles, and salads.

Plus, they’re a great source of fiber and protein.

Enjoy them cooked until tender or use their canned form for convenience.

Differences Between Butter Beans and Great Northern Beans

Butter beans and Great Northern beans may look the same, but there are big differences.

Appearance and Size

Butter beans, also known as lima beans, have a flat shape and are much bigger than great northern beans.

Their creamy color gives them a great look.

Great northern beans are smaller and round.

They have a creamy white shade that makes them special.

These unique features make it easy to distinguish between the two types of beans and identify them in various dishes.

Taste and Texture

Comparing butter beans and great northern beans? Taste and texture are the first things that come to mind.

These two factors decide which bean type is best for a dish.

Butter beans, aka lima beans, have a mild, creamy texture with a nutty flavor.

They’re often called ‘velvety’, perfect for soups, stews, and casseroles.

Their smoothness adds a great taste to meals.

Great northern beans have a firmer texture and earthy taste.

Not as creamy, but still tasty when cooked right. They keep their shape in salads and dips.

Both beans have unique qualities, with butter beans bringing tenderness and richness and great northerns bringing a robust element.

Size also makes them different.

Butter beans are larger and take longer to cook. Great northerns are smaller.

This affects the appearance of recipes too.

Cooking Time and Methods

Cooking butter beans and great northern beans? Let’s discuss.

Butter beans take longer to cook. They are larger and denser.

To speed up the process, soak them overnight.

Great northern beans have shorter cooking times cos they’re smaller and softer.

Soaking them isn’t necessary but it can help.

Both types of beans can be cooked via boiling or slow cooker.

Boiling is faster but needs more attention.

Slow cooker is a hands-off approach as it cooks over a longer period.

Canned versions are also available.

They’ve already been cooked – just heat ’em up.

The choice of beans depends on cooking time and method.

Soak or don’t – boil or slow cooker – or go canned. It’s up to you.

Nutritional Differences

Butter beans and Great Northern beans may look alike, but they have different nutritional qualities.

Protein, fiber, and mineral composition are all factors to consider when making a choice.

Butter beans boast more protein, while Great Northern beans offer more fiber.

Plus, butter beans contain more iron, and Great Northern beans provide more calcium.

Weigh up your individual needs and goals when picking between the two.

Incorporating them into your diet can be a great way to get diverse nutrients and support overall health.

Similarities Between Butter Beans and Great Northern Beans

Butter beans and Great Northern beans share many similarities.

Nutritious and creamy when cooked. Versatile for various cooking methods and recipes.

Both part of the kidney bean family, high in protein and fiber.

Appearance: small to medium, oval shape, white color.

Visually appealing, especially when cooked in soups or stews.

Taste: mild, nutty. Adaptable to dishes, soak up herb, spice, and sauce flavors.

Perfect for salads, casseroles, and purees.

Unique texture and flavor combination.

Interchangeable in recipes without compromising taste or quality.

These two types of kidney beans stand out.

Culinary Uses and Recipes for Butter Beans and Great Northern Beans

Butter beans and Great Northern beans are incredibly versatile.

From stews to creamy dips, their mild flavor and satisfying texture make them a great addition to any dish.

Soups and stews are a great way to enjoy butter beans.

Their creamy texture adds depth and substance to any hearty flavors, like vegetables, herbs, and spices.

Try them in a veggie soup or a gumbo.

Great Northern beans are great for casseroles and salads.

Their firm but tender texture stands up well to baking or sautéing, making them perfect for dishes like baked beans or bean salads.

Mash them for a tasty alternative to mashed potatoes, too.

Plus, these legumes can be blended into dips or spreads.

Just mix cooked beans with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs or spices.

Enjoy it with crunchy bread or fresh veggies.

Not only are they delicious, but butter beans and Great Northern beans are also good for you.

They’re high in protein and fiber, helping promote feelings of fullness and aiding digestion.

Plus, they’re low in fat and cholesterol-free.

How to Soak and Cook Butter Beans and Great Northern Beans

Ready to get cooking? Here’s a simple guide to help you prepare butter beans and Great Northern beans with ease.

  • Begin by rinsing the beans under cold water to remove any unwanted particles.
  • Place them in a bowl and cover them with water. Let them soak for 8 hours or overnight. This process softens the beans and lessens their cooking time.
  • Drain and rinse the beans again.
  • Pop them into a pot, adding enough water to cover them completely. Boil over medium heat, then reduce to low and simmer for about 60-90 minutes.
  • Add salt or other seasonings like garlic, onions, or herbs to enhance the flavor. Don’t add salt at the start – it may toughen the beans.
  • Once cooked, drain any excess liquid and enjoy.

Butter beans are known for their creamy texture while Great Northern beans have a mild flavor.

Use them in soups, stews, salads and dips – experiment to find your favorite way of enjoying these nutritious gems.

You now have all the knowledge you need to soak and cook butter beans and Great Northern beans.


In conclusion, butter beans and great northern beans both have unique qualities and characteristics that make them preferable for certain recipes and dishes.

When deciding which bean to choose for a particular recipe or dish, consider the flavor profile of the bean itself, its unique texture, creaminess and shape.

Also think about how you plan to prepare the beans and how they’ll compliment your meal.

While great northern beans are ideal for soups because of their relatively quick cooking time, butter beans are best for stews because of their creamy texture and larger size.

Ultimately, the choice between these two types of beans is personal preference and depends on each individual’s taste buds and needs.

However, bear in mind that these two types of beans can also be used to create delicious side dishes or main courses.

Whether it is butter beans or great northern beans you decide to use for your next meal; experiment with different ingredients and herbs until you find something that suits your exact tastes.

Butter Beans vs Great Northern Beans: Which to Choose?

Choosing between butter beans and great northern beans? Discover the ideal bean for your dish with a concise comparison of butter beans and great northern beans.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course This vs That


  • Butter Beans
  • Great Northern Beans


  • Choose between butter beans and Great Northern beans based on your recipe or taste preference.
  • Prepare the beans by rinsing and draining them.
  • Use the selected beans in your dish as directed, enjoying their unique textures and flavors.
  • Experiment with both varieties in different recipes to discover your favorite.
Keyword Butter Beans vs Great Northern Beans
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