Great Northern beans are small or large, kidney-shaped white beans with a mild flavor. They are available dried or precooked in cans. If unavailable, substitute white (navy) beans. Dried beans require soaking to rehydrate them.
To sort and rinse dried Great Northern beans:
Spread the beans in a single layer on a platter or tray. Pick out and discard any discolored and misshapen beans and impurities such as small stones and fibers. Transfer the beans to a colander or sieve. Rinse well under cold running water.
To soak and rehydrate dried Great Northern beans: Place the cleaned beans in a bowl of fresh cold water to cover and soak for 3-8 hours at room temperature; drain well. Or, place the beans in a saucepan with water to cover, bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and soak for 1 1/2 hours; drain well. For other bean varieties, see adzuki, borlotti, cannellini, cranberry, fava, flageolet, green, Italian green, kidney, lima, pinto, red, white (navy), and yellow wax beans and chickpeas, green lentils, and lentils.