If you are like most people, you probably don’t think of navy beans as the most delicious food in the world. In fact, you may have never even eaten them before! But believe it or not, navy beans can be quite tasty if they are prepared correctly. In this blog post, we will teach you how to make navy beans taste good using a few simple ingredients and cooking methods. So don’t be afraid to give these little legumes a try – you may be surprised at how good they can be!
Even though enjoying plain beans is acceptable, it isn’t the tastiest option. White beans are pretty bland. There’s not much flavor to them, even though they are fantastic sources of protein and fiber.
Dried or canned beans are perfect for keeping in your pantry for emergencies! They last for a long time and are full of nutrition. The real problem is how to make these beans taste so good that you enjoy eating them.
Navy beans are a perfect place to start when it comes to making beans taste good. They are small and mild, and there are many different ways to cook them. In this guide, I’ll share my favorite ways to enhance the flavors of these tiny white beans!
What are navy beans
Before we get to all the different ways to make navy beans taste better, let’s look at what navy beans are.
They are the seeds of the common bean Phaseolus vulgaris and are commonly called pea beans because they are the same size as small peas. Navy beans go by a lot of different names – pea beans, haricot beans, and Boston beans. All of them are one and the same.
So, where did the nickname navy beans come from?
If you guess the US Navy, you’d be correct! Since they are so nutritious and have such a long shelf-life, the US Navy used them as a regular part of their menu in the 19th century. In fact, navy beans have been on the menu of the US Senate Restaurant in Washington D.C. every day since 1903! They are the main ingredient in Senate Bean Soup.
Navy beans are sold in both dried and canned varieties. They look just like other common white beans – Great Northern Beans. But don’t get them confused – they are not the same thing. Great Northern beans are larger than Navy beans.
How to make navy beans taste better
When it comes to beans, navy beans don’t really have a stand-out flavor or taste. They are soft beans with a lush texture. They have a delicate, almost nutty taste.
They are mild and small but also pretty bland and boring. Thankfully, there are a few simple ways to take basic Navy beans and make them taste so good that you’ll want to put them on your weekly menu.
Soak them overnight
This first idea is a must if you buy dried navy beans. Place the dried beans in a calendar and rinse them off. Remove anything that isn’t beans – sometimes, you might find a pebble or some debris in the bag.
Then, place the rinsed beans in a pot of water with about two tablespoons of salt and cover them with water by two inches. Let them soak for at least four hours or overnight.
You don’t have to soak them overnight! You can give them a quick soak for a few hours or even cook them without soaking them at all. However, soaking dried navy beans will make them softer, which makes them taste slightly better.
Cook them southern-style
When you look up southern-style beans, you’ll find some combination of beans, a cast-iron skillet, ham, and cornbread. It’s the spices that turn regular ham and beans into a classic southern recipe.
People from the deep south – like Louisanna – add Cajun seasoning to their ham and beans. Others make their own spice combination with Chile flakes, rosemary, chopped sage, and bay leaves. Then some southern bean recipes, add a bit of sugar with Cajun seasoning.
The common theme is to make the beans slightly spicy, add some ham, and serve it with some cornbread for dipping!
Ham is a classic addition to navy beans. In fact, most ham and beans recipes use Navy beans. When you cook these beans, enhance the flavor with some ham hocks or chopped smoked ham, or simmer them with an entire ham bone.
The most popular way to make navy beans taste better is to cook them with salty ham. As the ham cooks with the beans, it makes them salty and elevates the overall savoriness of the entire soup.
Cook them in a slow cooker
This is an effortless way to make navy beans taste better! Rinse the beans in a colander and then add them to the slow cooker with a bit of water or chicken stock and a ham hock.
As they cook all day, the salty flavors from the ham will infuse into the beans. This is the perfect comfort food to make in cold weather.
Make soup in the Instant Pot
Instant Pots are a name brand of pressure cookers. They are known for cooking foods at high pressure, which injects more flavor into whatever you cook. That includes any type of soup you choose to make with navy beans.
Choosing to cook the soup in the Instant Pot will make navy beans taste better.
Add Navy beans to pasta salad
Whenever you make a pasta salad with pasta, onions, and peppers, mix in some cooked navy beans too! They will boost the overall nutrition of the dish. Since they have such a mild flavor, they won’t distract from the other tastes in the salad.
Navy beans are so small that they are unobtrusive and taste just as delicious cold as they are cooked.
Make a cold salad
You can also rinse and use canned or cooked navy beans in a cold bean salad! This is an entirely new way to eat white beans, and it is really popular with picnics and BBQs.
Most types of bean salad will include a combination of tomatoes, onion, pepper, and an oil and vinegar dressing. You can make it as simple or as fancy as you like. Add a hard-boiled egg to mix up the textures.
Try navy beans chili
Kidney beans are the most common type of beans to use in chili, but you can mix things up and add some navy beans to your next pot of chili. They have a slightly nutty flavor that enhances kidney beans’ chili powder and earthy flavors.
If you wanted to, you could even make an entire pot of chili with just navy beans. Simmer them all day with chili powder, tomato paste, and some hot peppers.
The longer you cook the beans, the more the flavors will infuse into the beans!
Boston baked beans
Other than ham and beans, Boston baked beans are one of the most iconic ways to cook navy beans. Simmer the navy beans with aromatic vegetables, dark molasses, bacon, mustard, and some fresh woodsy herbs (such as sage and rosemary). Then, add salt, pepper, and apple cider vinegar to taste.
You can make this in the oven or slow cooker. The idea is to slowly bake the beans in the rich sauce over low heat so that it thickens and caramelizes.
Make them spicier
Many southern bean recipes use hot peppers and Cajun seasoning to spice up the beans. Use the hottest peppers and spices that you can handle. If you have a high heat tolerance, add some ghost pepper sauce to the beans.
Make them sweeter
Navy beans have such a mild flavor that it’s really easy to enhance with a bit of sugar. Since they are white beans, you will want to use either a liquid sweetener or granulated white sugar. Brown sugar will change the color of the beans.
If you are going to make the beans with ham, then adding a bit of brown sugar will caramelize the sauce and create a deep and rich flavor!
Pan fry them
This makes them crispy! Saute the navy beans in your favorite oil on the stove with some herbs and salt. Crispy and crunchy beans are an entirely new culinary experience that elevates these beans to a whole new level.
Now that you know more about how to make navy beans taste better, here are some questions people often ask about these legumes.
Are navy beans healthy?
Yes, Navy beans are really good for you. In all my research, I found that canned navy beans are a fantastic source of essential nutrients.
One cup of them has the following vitamins and nutrients:
- 19.1 grams of fiber
- 24% daily value of iron
- 15 grams of protein
- 42% daily value of manganese
- 64% daily value of folate (vitamin B9)
They are also linked to helping adults lose weight. In one study, a group of adults who ate five cups of navy beans each week for four weeks had reduced waist circumference and lower LDL cholesterol.
How long do canned beans last?
The reason so many people prefer to stock up on canned vegetables is that they last so long. One can of navy beans lasts 3-5 years unopened.
How long do dried beans last?
Surprisingly, dried beans don’t last as long as canned beans do. According to the USIAD (United States Agency For International Development), dried beans will last up to one year.
To get the maximum shelf life from dried beans, store them in a cool and dry place. Humidity, bright lights, and moisture will ruin dried beans.
Dried beans can last longer than one year, but their quality will decrease drastically after a year. After two or three years on a shelf, dried beans will lose nutritional value and flavor.
Do you add anything to canned navy beans?
Eating navy beans right out of the can is perfectly safe – you don’t have to add anything to it to eat them. Many people add spices or other ingredients to small canned beans because it helps them taste so much better. Spices, ham, and chicken broth are commonly added to canned navy beans!
Are navy beans the same as Great Northern beans?
They have similar tastes and textures, but navy beans are not the same thing as Great Northern beans. Navy beans are much smaller and have a plumper look to them. However, it’s tough to tell them apart by flavor alone, and you can use them interchangeably in recipes.
Are navy beans the same as cannellini beans?
Navy beans look like smaller versions of cannellini beans, but they are not the same thing. Navy beans have an iconic mild flavor – cannellini beans have a nutty flavor.
They also look very different from each other. Cannelini beans have a large kidney shape, while Nnavy beans are smaller and look like white peas.
How long should I cook canned beans?
Canned navy beans are totally safe to eat right out of the can. You don’t have to cook them for a certain amount of time for them to be safe to eat.
Can you heat cooked navy beans in the microwave?
Yes, you can heat canned navy beans in the microwave! If you are going to do it this way, I suggest adding a paper towel on top of the microwave-safe bowl of beans to prevent the liquid from spitting. Then, heat it in 30-second increments, stirring after each time. This way, all of the beans will heat evenly.
Can you freeze cooked navy beans?
Yes, you can freeze cooked or canned navy beans, but I don’t recommend it. Dried navy beans will last for a year, and canned beans will last three years. Frozen beans only last six months in the freezer before their flavor start to deteriorate.
More kitchen resources
If you enjoyed learning how to make canned navy beans taste better, here are some more helpful kitchen resources you might enjoy next.