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Cannellini Beans – All You Need to Know | Instacart’s Guide to Groceries

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Last Updated: Apr 28, 2022

What are cannellini beans?

Cannellini beans are a kind of legume that is often referred to as “white beans.” This nickname is somewhat confusing since other kinds of beans are also referred to generally as white beans, including navy beans, baby lima beans, and great northern beans. What sets cannellini beans apart, however, is their size and shape. Cannellini beans are the largest of these four beans and have a distinct kidney shape. They are a bit meatier, with a nutty or earthy flavor. They are often tender to bite into yet retain their shape and texture after being cooked. Cannellini beans are heavily featured in Italian dishes, as well as general dishes like soups, salads, casseroles, stews, and chili.

Where did cannellini beans originate from?

The cannellini bean originates in Argentina, where it was first cultivated as a crop. Italian immigrants would later bring the cannellini bean back to Italy. Cannellini beans are now grown in central and southern Italy, where they are used in many traditional Italian dishes.

What is the nutritional value of cannellini beans?

Cannellini beans, like most beans and legumes, pack a big punch when it comes to nutritional value. This type of bean, in particular, is a great source of:

  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Folate

You can get more than 20% of your daily recommended values of these nutrients from just one serving of cannellini beans. These nutrients can help boost energy production and metabolism.

Cannellini beans also provide:

  • 15 grams of protein
  • 225 calories per serving
  • < 1 gram of fat
  • 0 cholesterol

How are cannellini beans grown?

Cannellini beans are typically sown as seeds just around the time of the last frost of the spring season. They take around 80 days to mature and require a sunny location with well-draining, slightly acidic soil. Cannellini bean seeds thrive when they are watered regularly until the bush begins to form above ground.  Farmers rotate their cannellini beans so that the beans are not grown in the same location more than once every four years to preserve the integrity of the soil. These beans grow well around corn, strawberries, and cucumber plants.

Cannellini beans grow on bushes that are sown in rows or blocks and may require the assistance of poles or some other support to hold them upright. These bushes do not need a lot of water and can actually develop fungus if the leaves are exposed to too much moisture. Farmers will typically stagger the sowing of cannellini bean seeds two weeks apart to get the most out of a growing season.

When are cannellini beans in season?

Farmers will typically begin sowing cannellini bean seeds in early spring, as soon as signs of winter are starting to fade. They take around 80 days to grow, but farmers will often stagger their plants to produce more beans overall. This means that the fresh cannellini bean season begins in spring but can last into the summer and fall months.

What should I look for when buying cannellini beans?

Picking out fresh cannellini beans at the grocery store will depend on whether you are selecting canned, dry, or fresh beans. This decision will largely depend on your intentions for using the beans; do you need to cook a dish right away, store them for a while, or do you need the cooking process to be quick and convenient? 

Dry beans

Dry beans last for years in storage. They also take the longest to cook but will taste fresh as a result. If this sounds right for your purposes, look for dried cannellini beans that show no dark or chalky spots but instead sport a consistent color overall. Dried cannellini beans should also have a smooth and shiny outer skin. Wrinkles on a dried cannellini bean may indicate they are dried out, so look for plump beans that do not look shrunken.

Fresh beans

Fresh cannellini beans will still be in the pod. This option cooks more quickly than dried cannellini beans and often tastes fresh as a result. They do not last as long in storage, however. If you are looking for this option at the grocery store, select fresh cannellini beans that have pods that are long and thin, ranging from a yellow to green color. Slightly dry or wrinkly cannellini bean pods may indicate that the shelling process will be easier.

Canned beans

Canned cannellini beans also last a long time in storage if left unopened. However, these beans have already been cooked prior to packaging, so the flavor may not be as fresh as the other two options listed here. Canned beans are very quick to cook, though, since they only need to be reheated upon opening. This option can save you a lot of time spent in the kitchen, but they also cost more. If this option sounds right for you, select a can that does not show signs of dents or rust. You can also check the expiration date printed on the can to ensure you are getting a fresh batch of beans. 

If you use Instacart to order your fresh produce, provide your shopper with the instructions best suited to your needs.

How to store cannellini beans

The best way to store your cannellini beans will depend on the type you select and whether or not they have been cooked or opened. Dry cannellini beans can last years in storage. Make sure that they are kept in a cool, dark area in your pantry and sealed tightly. While dried cannellini beans may last indefinitely on the shelf, they retain their best flavor if eaten within the first couple of years. Fresh cannellini beans still in the pod can last about three to five days when kept in the refrigerator. Canned cannellini beans can last pretty much indefinitely on the shelf, although you should take note of the expiration date to ensure you cook only fresh beans.

Cooked beans are prone to spoilage more quickly than uncooked or unopened beans, much like any other kind of food leftovers. If you have cooked your dried or fresh beans or opened a can of cannellini beans, you can store them in the refrigerator for just a few days in an airtight container before they will go bad. 

How to tell if cannellini beans are bad

If your dried cannellini beans look shriveled and dry after a while, they may still be okay to eat, although this may alter the texture. Signs of moisture, however, can point to bad cannellini beans. Condensation or small sprouts shooting out of your dried beans are good indicators that it’s time to throw them out. Mold is definitely a bad sign, and you should toss these beans immediately.

Fresh cannellini beans in the pod may begin to rot or decompose after a few days in the refrigerator. Some telltale signs that your fresh beans are no longer fresh include a strange or sour odor, a slimy texture, moisture or leakage from their container, and a sour taste.

Unopened canned cannellini beans that show signs of rust or dents on the outside might be cause for concern. Exposure to extreme heat or cold can also spoil an unopened can of cannellini beans. If the can hisses or sprays when you open the lid, the contents of the can may have begun to ferment. These cans should be tossed. 

All cooked cannellini beans that are later stored will last a few days in the fridge. Before eating these leftovers, you’ll want to first check the smell. If your cooked cannellini beans smell sour, they are likely spoiled and should be tossed. Signs of mold are also a clear indication to throw these beans away.

What can I substitute for cannellini beans?

Cannellini beans are very similar to other types of white beans in terms of look, size, and flavor. While there may be subtle differences between them, you can generally use all of the following types of white beans interchangeably:

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