What Are Navy Beans?

Updated July 19, 2017

Navy beans, also known as white, haricot, or Norther beans, are the pea-sized, oval shaped, mature ripe seeds of Phaseolus vulgaris, or common bean, often found in U.S. recipes and commercially prepared canned-goods.

"Navy" beans

These common white beans became known as "navy beans," because they were often included as provisions on U.S. sailing vessels. Dried beans, when stored properly, resist spoilage, and are easy to rehydrate, making them ideal for use on sailing ships.


The navy, or common bean is high in protein, soluble fibre, trace minerals, and folic acid and is free of sodium, fat, and cholesterol. When combined with rice or other grains, they remain a widespread substitute for meat or animal protein.

Common uses

Many of the staple bean dishes in the U.S. contain navy beans. Bean soups, baked beans, and chilli, whether canned or homemade, are familiar parts of our diets.


The common bean had been domesticated in Central and South America for thousands of years and was introduced to Europe by Spanish traders in the 15th century.

"Three Sisters"

The navy bean, along with maize (corn) and squash, made up the common Native American companion planting strategy, known as the "Three Sisters." Beans act as a fertiliser by adding nitrogen to soil, the corn stalks function as poles to support the beans and the squash acts as a living mulch to control weeds.

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Not university trained himself, Mike Boda honed his professional chops in the mid-90s, cranking out college writing assignments for others. Boda has also been a staff writer and member of the New People editorial collective. A long-time resident of Pittsburgh, he writes a regular column for