How do I choose the best white beans?

White navy beans.

Several different types of common beans can be called white beans, including white beans, large northern beans, and cannellini beans. The best specimens of all varieties have smooth, creamy skin when fresh or dry, without wrinkles, dark spots, or holes, and are tanned when cooked. The husk should be thin and delicate, while the inside of the bean should be relatively starchy, with a slight nutty flavor. These beans work best in stews, soups, and salads, accompanied by fresh herbs, meat, or dairy.

Great Northern beans, a type of white bean.

Navy, Northern, and Canelini beans are slightly different in size and shape, but share their light color and slightly nutty flavor. You can usually substitute one variety for another in recipes, although canelini beans are slightly larger than the other types and are used in traditional Italian recipes, while sea beans are almost as small as peas and are traditional in Italian recipes. baked beans. Northern beans are medium in size and texture, which makes them very versatile in cooking.

Cannellini beans.

These beans can be purchased fresh, dried or canned, with fresh beans producing the best results, dry beans costing the least and canned beans providing the most convenience. If you buy fresh or dried white beans, look for samples with whitish to cream-colored skin, with no holes, cracks, or wrinkles. Avoid discolored beans, which may be spoiled, as well as beans with very hard shells, as they can be difficult to cook. When buying canned beans, make sure the can is intact, with no rust or dents.

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Assorted beans including hyacinth or lablab beans in the top left and cannellini beans in the center right.

All white beans can be cooked by boiling them or boiling them in water, with the canned beans cooking the fastest, followed by the fresh and dried types. The beans are fully cooked when the husk turns a light cream to brown and is slightly transparent, covering a soft, starchy interior. The beans are undercooked if they remain crunchy or resist being bitten, and overcooked if they start to lose shape or crumble.

White beans go well with onions and garlic.

These beans work best in dishes that emphasize their softness and delicate flavor, including salads, baked dishes, and soups. Traditionally, white beans are often paired with sweet flavors like brown sugar or maple syrup, meats like pork or bacon, and fresh herbs like sage, bay leaf, and rosemary. They also go well with butter or cream in some soups, and alliums like onions and garlic. White beans work best in European and North American cuisines, but are not a good choice for chili peppers, fried beans, and similar dishes.

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