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Black Beans vs Pinto Beans: What’s the Difference?

Black beans vs pinto beans, how do they compare? In the world of legumes, black and pinto beans are popular options. Each one is known for its taste, versatility, and nutritional benefits. Join me in looking at them side by side, exploring their flavor, texture, cooking uses, and health benefits. Plus, 10 bonus recipes!

Scattered black and pinto peans.

What are Black Beans?

Black beans, also called black turtle beans or frijoles negros in Spanish, have a small, oval shape and shiny black skin. They are are a staple in Cuba, parts of Mexico, and the American southwest. You can purchase dried or canned black beans, though dried beans retain more nutrients [1]. The dry beans also require presoaking and thorough cooking to soften the tough outer skin, whereas canned black beans are ready to go.

A small bowl of dried black beans.

What are Pinto Beans?

Pinto beans go by many names, including frijoles pintos, poroto frutilla, feijão carioca, and feijão catarino. They are medium-sized and have a spotted appearance when uncooked, with a beige coloring and speckles or streaks of reddish-brown color.

A small bowl of dried pinto beans.

Black Beans vs Pinto Beans: What is the Difference?

Flavor

Do black beans or pinto beans taste better? Don’t ask the food blogger – I love both! Black beans and pinto beans have distinct flavors to elevate various dishes. Black beans have a rich, earthy taste with a slightly sweet undertone, making them perfect for hearty stewssoupssalads, and salsas.

When deciding between black beans vs pinto beans in a recipe, you should know that pinto beans have a creamy texture and a slightly nutty flavor that works well with Mexican cuisine, chili, and refried beans.

Texture

While black beans and pinto beans belong to the same family of legumes, they differ in texture and appearance. Black beans have a firm texture and retain shape even after cooking, which is why they are often used to make fresh salads and grain bowls. Pinto beans have a softer texture and become creamy once heated, making them ideal for refried beans, spreads, and dips.

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If you love this article, try one of these dinner favorites featuring beans!  

A serving bowl of dried pinto and black beans.

Cooking with Black Beans vs Pinto Beans

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating about 3 cups of legumes, including beans, per week.

In terms of versatility in the kitchen, black beans and pinto beans shine. Black beans are a staple in Latin American cuisine, starring in meals like black bean soup, Cuban Moros, and Brazilian feijoada.

Pinto beans, on the other hand, are widely used in Mexican and American Southwest dishes like burritos, enchiladas, and chili. And since you’re looking into black beans vs pinto beans, check out this article about the best beans for chili to help you decide which bean to use and make one of 25 best chili recipes.

Recipes for Pinto Beans:

Vegetarian Skillet Chili
This one-pot small batch chili for two is ultra flavorful and bursting with spices, notes of smoky chipotle, vegetables, and plenty of pinto beans.
Photo Credit: Home Cooking Collective
Vegetarian Skillet Chili
Vegetarian chili in a skillet with topping.
Pinto Bean Soup
Enjoy creamy and delicious pinto bean soup. The easy, one-pot soup is vegan and gluten-free!
Photo Credit: Urban Farmie
Pinto Bean Soup
Pinto bean soup in a bowl.
Pinto Bean Burger
BBQ pinto bean burgers are everything you want in a veggie burger. They’re flavor-packed with barbecue sauce, garlic, green onions, and cheese.
Photo Credit: Ugly Duckling Bakery
Pinto Bean Burger
Pinto bean burger on a plate.
Instant Pot Refried Beans
These Instant Pot refried beans are full of the best flavors you will love such as fresh garlic, onion, cumin, and tender pinto beans!
Photo Credit: Flavor Mosaic
Instant Pot Refried Beans
Refried beans in a serving bowl.

Recipes for Black Beans:

Chili Con Carne with Beans
Warm up with a heaping bowl of this savory, southwest-style chili. Our authentic chili con carne with beans recipe is my take on an old classic with hearty beef chuck, black beans (gasp! I know), and a satisfying combination of chiles.
Chili Con Carne with Beans
Chili in a small bowl garnished with cheddar cheese, onions, and jalapenos.
Chipotle Black Bean Burgers
These chipotle black bean burgers are incredibly easy to make, insanely flavorful, packed with nutrient-dense ingredients.
Photo Credit: Grandbaby Cakes
Chipotle Black Bean Burgers
A black bean burger on a plate with toppings.
Feijoada
Feijoada or Brazilian black bean stew is Brazil's national dish for a good reason! It's incredibly delicious, and this version is super easy to make. Serve the savory soup with pao de sal and air fried plantains.
Photo Credit: Simple Living Recipes
Feijoada
Feijoada in a soup bowl.
Black Bean Corn Salsa
Transform boring canned black beans into a Southwest-inspired salsa with fresh grilled corn, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and loads of zesty lime and spice! 
Photo Credit: Strength and Sunshine
Black Bean Corn Salsa
Black beans and corn salsa in a bowl.
Creamy Taco Soup
This creamy taco soup comes together with a few minutes of prep work, then it simmers away on the stove while you prep any toppings you’d like. 
Photo Credit: Get Inspired Everyday
Creamy Taco Soup
Creamy taco soup in a dutch oven.
Black Bean Dip
Dig into this restaurant-style black bean dip recipe. Scoop the creamy, spicy dip with your favorite tortilla chips or my crispy air fryer pita chips, and enjoy!
Photo Credit: Chicken Fried Chicken
Black Bean Dip
A bowl of black bean dip topped with cheese.

Which is healthier black beans or pinto beans?

According to the Harvard School of Public Health and the US Department of Agriculture, beans and legumes are an excellent source of plant-based protein and other nutrients, making them a perfect addition to a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Black and pinto beans have a similar nutritional profile. They contain protein, fiber, and essential minerals like iron, magnesium, and folate. However, black beans have a slight edge in terms of antioxidants [1] due to having a darker color, and pinto beans pack more folate.

Are black beans good for you? Black Beans (100 grams)

A small bowl of dried black beans.

The black beans are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. They contain nutrients like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese.

  • Protein: 8 grams [3]
  • Fat: 2 grams [3]
  • Carbohydrates: 24 grams [3]
  • Dietary Fiber: 9 grams [3]

Pinto Beans (100 grams)

A small bowl of dried pinto beans.

Similar to black beans, pinto beans are packed with protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. Plus, they are high in folate.

  • Protein: 24 grams [2]
  • Fat: 1 gram [2]
  • Carbohydrates: 39 grams [2]
  • Dietary Fiber: 4 grams [2]

Deciding between black and pinto beans can be challenging because both are so good! Whether you prefer the hearty richness of black beans or the creamy nuttiness of pinto beans, there’s no wrong answer when selecting black beans vs pinto beans.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are black beans or pinto beans easier to digest?

Both black beans and pinto beans are generally well-tolerated and easy to digest for most people. Some individuals may find black beans easier to digest, while others may have better tolerance for pinto beans. Soaking dry beans before cooking them can enhance their digestibility.

Do black beans or pinto beans have more protein?

Both black beans and pinto beans are an excellent source of protein. However, black beans [3] contain slightly more protein than pinto beans [2].

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A pinterest pin for Black Beans Vs. Pinto Beans.

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