Here’s everything you need to know about black beans vs pinto beans. What are beans, what’s the difference between pinto beans vs black beans, what’s the health benefits of them, how do you cook them, plus 20 black and pinto beans recipes to help you incorporate more of these heart-healthy legumes into your diet.

Two bowls sitting on a table - one filled with uncooked black beans and the other with uncooked pinto beans. A knife, tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro and onions sit next to the bowls.

Beans are healthy, affordable and super easy to make. They’re also rich with plant protein and loaded with fiber. But what’s the difference between black beans vs pinto beans?

Three difference plastic bags of dried pinto beans and black beans

What Are Black Beans?

Black beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) are also called black turtle bean because of their hard exterior skin. They are a type of legume native to Latin America.

What Are Pinto Beans?

Pinto Beans (also called red Mexican beans) are a type of legume that is native to Latin America.

Pinto Beans vs Black Beans

Besides stating the obvious, pinto beans and black beans look differently, but there are a few other ways is which they differ.

  • Appearance: Pinto beans are pale pink beans with reddish-brown streaks. The streaks disappear during cooking. Black Beans are a small black bean with a thin white line on side. Even though the skin is black, the flesh is cream colored.
  • Flavor: Pinto beans have a mild and slightly nutty flavor, while black beans have a slightly sweet and earthy flavor.
  • Texture: Pinto beans have a thin tender skin with a light creamy flesh, while black beans have a firmer skin and flesh.

Two bowls of pinto beans. One bowl has cooked beans and one bowl has dried beans.

Are Beans Healthy?

The American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society recommend legumes as a key food group for helping to prevent disease and promote good health.

  • Fiber: Beans are a rich source of  soluble fiber, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). The insoluble fiber found in dried beans helps to speed up the passage of food through the intestine to eliminate waste. A diet rich in fiber, such as found in beans, also helps to support weight-management efforts by promoting the feelings of satiety (a feeling of fullness). 
  • Protein: Beans are also an excellent source of heart-healthy plant protein. For example – 3 ounces (1/2 cup) of cooked black beans has 112 calories and provides 8 grams of protein (without harmful saturated fat and cholesterol), compared to 3 ounces of beef which has 183 calories and provides 25 grams of protein, 8.5 grams of fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol. Even though beans are rich in protein, they don’t have much methionine and cystine, which are essential amino acids that are needed to make the protein complete.  However, consuming beans together with grains, such as rice, provides complete amino acids.
  • Folate: Beans are also a rich source of folate (pinto, mung, lima and cranberry providing the most amounts). Folate is important for the body in making healthy red blood cells, and it’s important in early pregnancy to reduce the risk of birth defects.
  • Minerals: Beans are a good source of iron, magnesium, potassium and selenium. Pinto beans, cannellini beans and red kidney beans provide the best sources of iron.

Which Beans Are Healthier Black or Pinto?

The nutritional value of black beans vs pinto beans are very similar. They are both rich with fiber, protein, folate and minerals. However, black beans have slightly fewer calories (about 18 fewer calories per cup), fewer carbs (about 4 fewer carbs per cup), and a little more protein than pinto beans (about 1 gram more protein per cup). 

Black Beans Nutrition (1 cup)

Calories: 227

Protein: 16 grams 

Fat: 1 gram 

Carbs: 41 grams 

Fiber: 15 grams

Iron: 20% Daily Value (DV)

Magnesium: 29% DV 

Potassium: 13% DV 

Folate: 64% DV 

Thiamine: 35% DV

Pinto Beans Nutrition (1 cup)

Calories: 245

Protein:  15 grams

Fat: 1 gram

Carbs: 45 grams

Fiber: 15 grams

Iron: 20% Daily Value (DV)

Magnesium:  21% DV

Potassium: 16% DV

Folate: 74% DV

Thiamine: 28% DV

Two bowls filled with black beans - one with cooked black beans and the other with dried black beans.

Are Beans Keto?

Most beans (such as black beans and pinto beans) are not part of a keto diet. However, green beans and black soy beans can be consumed in moderation when following a keto diet due to their low carbohydrate content.

Are Beans Gluten-Free?

Yes. Beans are naturally gluten-free. 

A white bowl filled with legumes. Cilantro, cherry tomatoes and slices of jalapeno sit next to the bowl.

Do You Have To Soak Dried Beans Overnight Before Cooking Them?

You don’t have to soak dried beans overnight before cooking them, but in order for the beans to be fork tender after cooking, they will need to soak for at least 8 hours or you can give them the quick soak method

How Do You Soak Dried Beans?

Place your dried beans in a colander and discard any shriveled and broken pieces, stones and pieces of debris you may find. Rinse under cold water then transfer beans to a large bowl. Fill the bowl with water covering the beans by 2 inches or more.  The beans double in size after soaking so give them some room to expand in the water. Let the beans soak in the bowl at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.

Is There A Quick Way To Soak Dried Beans?

If you’re in a hurry and don’t want to soak your beans for 8 hours or overnight – you can do a quick-soak method. 

  • Cover the beans with water (the water should be about 2 inches above the beans).
  • Bring the water and beans to a rapid boil, then turn the flame off and let the beans sit in the hot water for about an hour.   
  • Then cook as usual, checking  on your  beans every 30 minutes while they’re cooking and add more water or broth if needed.

Do You Have To Cook Canned Beans?

Canned beans have already been cooked, so you can heat them through to serve as a side, add them to soups, stews and burritos, or serve them straight from the can. Drain and rinse canned beans (except refried or baked) to reduce some of the sodium before adding to your dish.

What Is The Best Way To Store Dried Beans?

When shopping for beans, check the bags to make sure the beans aren’t broken and powdery. They should be whole. If you purchase beans in the bulk section, label and date the beans when they’re purchased. Dried beans should be kept in airtight containers in a cool dry place like a pantry.

How Long Do Dried Beans Last?

If dried beans are stored in a cool dry place like a pantry, they can last for a minimum of 1 year.

A white bowl filled with cream colored legumes. Cilantro, cherry tomatoes and jalapeno sit next to the bowl.

How Do You Cook Dried Beans? 

If you haven’t cooked black beans or pinto beans from scratch before, you are in for a treat. They’re quite a bit more flavorful than canned beans and they are so easy to make!

  • Rinsing. All dried beans should be picked over before cooking. You can spread them out on paper towels so you can easily pick out any pieces of dirt, debris or broken beans.  Then rinse them under cold water.
  • Soaking. Soak the dried beans overnight in water. This helps them cook quicker. Reserve half of the water the next day and discard the rest. After beans have soaked, drain and rinse.
  • Add Beans to Pot. Add pre-soaked beans, onion, garlic and bay leaves to pot.  Cover with water. Cover the beans with water. 
  • Simmer. Simmer on the stovetop for about 2 hours (if you leave the lid on = creamier beans, leave the lid off = richer flavor).  Simmer the beans a little longer if you like your beans creamy soft. Stir the beans every 30 minutes or so. Beans should be soft but still whole after cooking.
  • Drain. Drain excess liquid before using.
  • Season. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

How Long Does It Take To Cook Dried Beans? 

There’s two methods of soaking – either in a bowl of water for 8 hours or overnight, or the quick soak method in a pot of hot water for an hour. After they have been pre-soaked they can be cooked in a pot on the stove (I like to use a Dutch oven), in an Instant Pot or in a slow-cooker (Crock Pot).

  • Cooking Beans on the stove. It’ll take between 1-1/2 to 2 hours to cook the beans. If you over-cook the beans, they will start to break apart and if you under-cook them, they will still be firm.
  • Cooking Beans in an Instant Pot. It’ll take about 1 hour to cook the beans in an Instant Pot until they’re tender.
  • Cooking Beans in a Crock Pot. Cook in a Crock Pot for 4 hours on high or between 6-7 hours on low. Stir about every hour and add more water or broth if needed.

A pile of black beans sits next to a pile of pinto beans for black beans vs pinto beans.

Black Bean Recipes

Black beans from a can or cooked from scratch can be used in a variety of ways. Add them whenever and wherever you can for the nutritional benefits they provide. If you’re looking for ways to add more of heart-healthy legume to your diet, here are 15 black bean recipes to give you inspiration.

Pinto Bean Recipes

Pinto beans from a can or cooked from scratch can also be used in a variety of ways. Add them to Enchiladas, tostadas, taco bowls and Mexican Casseroles

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