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White Kidney Beans

Updated on June 20, 2011

White kidney beans are large, versatile beans that mix easily into soups and pasta dishes. These beans become very soft when cooked and have a mild, satisfying flavor. Also known as cannellini beans, white kidney beans are called for in many Italian recipes.

White beans / Photo by E. A. Wright
White beans / Photo by E. A. Wright
White beans / Photo by E. A. Wright
White beans / Photo by E. A. Wright
White beans / Photo by E. A. Wright
White beans / Photo by E. A. Wright
The size of a cooked white kidney bean / Photo by E. A. Wright
The size of a cooked white kidney bean / Photo by E. A. Wright
Canned cannellini beans / Photo by E. A. Wright
Canned cannellini beans / Photo by E. A. Wright

Do you use dried beans in your cooking?

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If cost is a factor

Canned beans are much more expensive per serving than dried beans.

Using prices at my local grocery store in New York City for comparison, a 1-pound bag of dried white kidney beans costs $1.29. When cooked, that makes about 13 servings at about 1/2 cup each.

Dried white kidney beans price per serving: Just under 10 cents.

Canned white kidney beans, which come precooked, cost $1.79 for 1 pound, 13 ounces. Inside are 7 servings at 1/2 cup each.

Canned white kidney beans price per serving: Just about a quarter, or just under 26 cents.

So, at these prices, I'm paying more than twice as much for the convenience of canned beans. And while exact prices will vary around the country, dried beans will remain the cheaper option.

If time is most valuable

But canned beans truly are a convenience. Canned beans save so much time and effort while cooking.

Dried white beans — unlike quicker-cooking beans like lentils — require a multi-step, multi-hour preparation regimen.

Dried white beans require overnight soaking, which in turn requires advanced meal planning. And then actually cooking the beans requires another 2 hours of being near enough to the stove to make sure nothing burns/catches fire/etc.

Only then can you start cooking whatever meal you had in mind.

Other considerations

WEIGHT: If you happen to have to carry your groceries home from the store, canned beans are much, much heavier than dried beans. (Precooked means lots of added water in the can, which means added weight.) If you can shove your groceries in the trunk of a car and be done, though, this is a non-issue.

SALT: There's also the fact that canned beans often have added table salt for flavor and other added salts as firming agents.

CHOICE: Grocery stores that assumes local cooks will prefer the convenience of canned beans will be less likely to stock a wide variety of dried beans, so if you're looking specifically for large white kidney beans, canned may be your only option.


  • Mixed into soups, such as minestrone
  • Paired with dark greens and garlic as a side dish
  • Mixed into a pasta dish
  • As a salad topping or as a bean salad


  • Cooked white kidney beans are a little larger than than the diameter of a penny: between 3/4 and 7/8 of an inch long.

  • Similar — but smaller — varieties of white beans include great northern beans and navy beans. These are acceptable substitutes for many recipes.

Garlic and white beans / Photo by E. A. Wright
Garlic and white beans / Photo by E. A. Wright

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