Grocery Guides

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



Last Updated: May 19, 2022

What are great northern beans?

Great northern beans are medium-sized white beans that are quite popular in North America. They have a fairly delicate, somewhat nutty flavor and a smooth texture that virtually “melts” in your mouth. Great northern beans are commonly used in soups, stews, and casseroles. It’s also common to find great northern beans in multicooker recipes. 

Where did great northern beans originate from? 

It’s thought that South American Indian farmers are responsible for originally cultivating great northern beans. Later, migrating farmers brought the plant, which was nicknamed the “common bean,” to Central and South America. Then, Spanish explorers brought them back home and eventually introduced them to Africa through trade.  

How are great northern beans grown?

Great northern beans belong to the family Phaseolus vulgaris. The plants themselves are tall, spindly, and have round, flat leaves. These hardy plants thrive in cold environments but can also withstand warmth and temperature fluctuations. This makes them easier to grow than some other types of beans. 

The plants are known as “bush” beans rather than “pole” beans. This means that they’re able to grow without any outside support to keep them upright. They grow to be about two feet tall and produce bean pods that hold approximately six beans each. When they’re mature, the pods are collected then opened to reveal the white beans inside. 

When are great northern beans in season?

Since they’re sold either dried or preserved in a brine solution, there’s no need to worry about great northern beans being “in season.” They’re available at just about any grocery store year-round, and there are little to no seasonal price fluctuations. 

What should I look for when buying great northern beans?

When buying great northern beans, you’ll want to start by deciding which form you prefer. Dried beans are the most inexpensive option. However, before you can eat them, you’ll have to either soak or simmer them for quite some time. This means that you’ll have to plan ahead before you can enjoy them in a recipe. You can store dried beans in your pantry for a long time, making them a cost-effective option that’s perfect for buying in bulk.

Your other option is to purchase great northern beans in a can or a jar. While these are more expensive than their dry counterparts, they can be far more convenient. When you want to eat these beans, all you need to do is open up the container, and you’re ready to go – no soaking needed. Shop for canned great northern beans.

Choosing the best dried great northern beans

When choosing dried great northern beans, look for ones that have a light, creamy color. They should appear plump, and the color should be even. The beans should also be free of wrinkles, cracks, or holes. 

Choosing the best canned or jarred great northern beans

When buying great northern beans in a can or jar, be sure to inspect the packaging for damage. Avoid buying cans that are rusted or severely dented. If a jar has a tamper-proof top, make sure the button is still intact. It’s also a good idea to check the “best by” date. If it has passed or is coming up soon, you’ll want to choose a different can or jar. 

Thinking about ordering a grocery delivery? You can easily shop for great northern beans via Instacart. After adding the product to your cart, simply use the “Instructions” option to notify your Instacart shopper about any preferences or specific directions on how to choose the best products. Shop for great northern beans on Instacart.

How to store great northern beans?

You can store dried great northern beans in an airtight container in your pantry for up to two years. After this time, they won’t necessarily go “bad,” but the quality might start to deteriorate. It’s fine to keep dried beans in the pantry in their original packaging. Once you’ve opened them, though, you’ll want to keep them in a resealable plastic bag or a covered, airtight container. 

Canned and jarred great northern beans can be kept in a cool, dark place for two to three years. After the “best by” date, the beans aren’t necessarily spoiled. However, they may not be of optimal quality. When storing canned beans, you’ll want to rotate them on a first-in, first-out basis. 

If you want to pre-cook your dried beans, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to three days. Be sure to place them in an airtight container and keep them in the liquid you cooked them in. 

How to tell if great northern beans are bad

If you’re worried that your great northern beans might have gone bad, start by taking a close look at them. If you notice mold or insects, you’ll definitely want to throw them away. Beans that have gone bad may also have an “off” odor or may become discolored. Even if they look and smell okay, if they have an off flavor, they may have gone bad. 

What can you substitute for great northern beans? 

You can typically substitute any type of white bean in a recipe that calls for great northern beans. Some of the best options include Cannellini beans, navy beans, or pinto beans. 

Try some great northern beans today! 

Are you ready to add some great northern beans to your diet? It’s easy to experiment with new foods when you have Instacart! All you have to do is visit and add them to your shopping list. A professional shopper will gather everything for you and either prepare your order for you to pick up at your favorite store or deliver it right to your home. Try it out today! 



Instacart is the leading online grocery platform in North America, partnering with more than 750 beloved national, regional and local retailers, including unique brand names, to deliver from more than 70,000 stores across more than 5,500 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

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