The 8 Best Substitutes For Butter Beans

What can I use instead of butter beans? The best substitutes for butter beans are mild, creamy white, or red beans, like cannellini, pinto, borlotti, navy, and kidney beans. Other nutritious alternatives are fava beans, chickpeas, and soybeans.

Butter beans also called Gigante or Fordhook beans, are mature lima beans (different from green baby lima beans). These large white beans are creamy, mild, and available dried and canned. Low in fat but high in fiber and protein, cooked butter beans are versatile and filling, excellent in soups, stews, dips, and salads. Here are the eight best substitutes for butter beans.

The Best Butter Beans Substitutes

Cannellini Beans

Cannelini beans are an excellent substitute for butter beans.

Like most beans, cannellini beans contain high levels of protein, fiber, potassium, and magnesium.

These large white beans have a mild taste and absorb other flavors well. They retain their shape when cooked yet retain a creamy texture.

Replace butter beans with cannellini beans in vegetable soups, baked beans, campfire beans, stews, chili, and salads. The white beans have a similar appearance and texture and are interchangeable.

Use equal quantities of cannellini beans to replace butter beans.

Pinto Beans

Part of the kidney bean family, pinto beans are a delicious alternative to butter beans.

Pinto (“painted”) beans are beautiful, speckled beans that turn brown once cooked. They pack a fiber and protein punch but are also known to contain B vitamins, manganese, and copper.

The most popular bean in the US, pinto beans, were originally from Mexico and Peru and are common in South American cuisine. They’re found in Tex-Mex dishes like refried beans, chili, and burritos in the States.

Pinto beans have a delicate flavor, which makes them ideal to use with more robust-tasting ingredients. They have a slightly powdery, mashable consistency.

Replace butter beans with the same amount of pinto beans in baked beans, Mexican dishes, curries, dips, spreads, and soups.

Borlotti Beans

Borlotti beans, related to pinto beans, are a handy replacement for butter beans.

Sometimes called cranberry beans for their pretty red and brown stippled color, borlotti beans are popular in Mediterranean cuisine, especially in Italy and Portugal. You may find them labeled Romana or saluggia beans.

This versatile ingredient is typically full of fiber and protein and exceptionally high in iron and potassium.

Borlotti beans have a sweeter, nuttier flavor than other white beans, making them delicious as a stand-alone side dish dressed with lemon.

Replace butter beans with borlotti beans when you want added richness: they work well stewed with tomatoes in pumpkin soup and can stand up to flavorful garlic, chili, and bacon in braises.

Use borlotti beans to replace butter beans 1:1.

Navy Beans

Another tasty replacement for butter beans is navy beans.

Highly nutritious and with a long shelf life, these small white beans were once the staple food of the US Navy. They have been part of the American diet since the 1800s, providing protein, fiber, manganese, vitamin B, and iron.

When cooked with whole grains, navy beans are a perfect source of protein.

Navy beans are also called navy peas because of their size.

These legumes have a gentle, creamy flavor, making them perfect for sweet and spicy dishes. They are the standard ingredient in Boston baked beans and Kentucky burgoo (a hearty stew served on Derby Day.

Navy beans tend to break down more than other white beans when cooked, so they are ideal for soups – they are not suitable for salads.

Use equal quantities of navy beans to replace butter beans in dips, chowders, casseroles, and bakes.

Red Kidney Beans

With their gorgeous reddish-brown color, red kidney beans are a hearty alternative to butter beans.

Red kidney beans have been eaten for over 8,000 years, spreading across the globe and forming part of many cuisines.

These red beans are among the top 10 most nutritious legumes, especially for their fiber and folate content. They make an excellent heart-healthy addition to the diet.

Kidney beans are sweeter, meatier, and firmer than butter beans and will change the appearance of your dish.

However, they won’t overwhelm other flavors and are a delicious replacement in refried beans, chili, succotash, and Brunswick stew.

Red beans pair well with rice (as in the classic southern dish) and pork but can work well for vegetarian dishes.

Replace butter beans 1:1 with kidney beans.

Fava Beans

Fava beans can also substitute for butter beans.

Also called broad bans or horse beans, fava beans are large, light green beans that provide a nutritional boost: they contain soluble fiber, protein, folates, and manganese.

Fava beans have a robust, earthy, slightly bitter flavor and a dense texture. However, they do not hold their shape when cooked, so they are best served in a soup, spread, or purée.

Avoid fava beans in a stew or salad.

Because of the flavor difference, you may want to use a smaller quantity of fava beans than butter beans.

Note that you must remove their skins before cooking, or they will not soften. Also, allergy to fava beans is common in people of Mediterranean background.


A high-protein alternative to butter beans is chickpeas.

Chickpeas, garbanzo, or Cici beans are roundish, yellow legumes often used in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Mediterranean dishes.

They are low in calories but are filling because of their fiber content.

Chickpeas are also incredible vitamin B, iron, copper, and manganese sources. These legumes can play a role in maintaining blood sugar levels and gut-friendly microbes.

Chickpeas have a nutty rather than beany flavor and retain their shape when cooked. They aren’t a flavor match for butter beans but offer a similar texture and mouthfeel.

Substitute butter beans with chickpeas in dishes where you need whole beans, like curries, soups, and bean salads. They also make a delicious dip (hummus) and fry up as falafel for stuffing pita.

Use similar quantities of chickpeas to replace butter beans. However, take care not to overcook chickpeas as they become bitter.


Soybeans are a healthy replacement for butter beans.

The most nutritious of all legumes, soybeans have twice the protein of other beans and contain beneficial omega-3 fats, which reduce the risk of heart disease.

For the protein boost, use soybeans instead of butter beans for vegans or vegetarians.

With their bland flavor and firm texture, soybeans are incredibly versatile and can be added to most dishes.

Use soybeans instead of butter beans in hearty soups, braises, and hotpots, where other flavors will make up for the legume’s blandness.

Replace butter beans with equal amounts of soybeans. However, remove the soybean skins after cooking as they are tough and inedible.