Great Northern, red kidney or navy beans are good substitutes for cannellini beans. Cannellini beans are a white kidney bean frequently found in Italian recipes. Other white beans substitute well in recipes that call for cannellini beans.
The Great Northern bean is usually the recommended substitute for cannellini beans. The great northern bean is smaller than cannellinis and resembles a white lima bean in shape; this bean also holds its shape well when cooked and has a similarly mild flavor. The great northern beans’ texture is a little grainier than cannellini beans' texture.
Navy beans are another popular form of white beans, despite its misleading name. Navy beans are a good substitute for cannellinis, though they are noticeably smaller in size and cook more quickly. Use of these beans as a cannellini substitute is preferred for dishes that do not need the beans to retain their shape. Navy beans work well in purees, soups or stews and baked bean recipes.
As a last resort, the red kidney bean can substitute. Cannellinis and red kidney beans are similar in size, shape and taste, though cannellinis have a creamier texture and different color.
Native to Italy's Tuscany region, cannellini beans are also called fagioli. These beans are large, creamy white and kidney-shaped with a smooth texture. The bean holds its shape well when cooked.