Black Beans vs Pinto Beans

They’re both nutritious, and they’re both delicious but what distinguishes black beans and pinto beans from each other? Is it all in a name or are there more profound differences between the two? Is one a better option from a health perspective? Can they be used in recipes interchangeably? Today we are going to answer those questions and explore both beans in more depth!

Did you know the black bean is also known as the turtle bean?

Did you know pinto means painted in Spanish?

Black Beans vs Pinto Beans Appearance

Black beans are small and oval in shape, whereas pinto beans are larger both in width and height.

The first difference you may encounter? Black beans and pinto beans have their own unique shapes and colors! Pinto beans have light caramel or tan colored markings; looking almost painted. Remember what pinto means in Spanish?

Black Beans are small in size and black in color

Black beans are completely black in color, with minimal color deviation on their exterior. They have a light cream colored center.

Pinto beans are speckled with shades of brown and caramel

When cooked pinto beans lose some of their dark brown pigmentation whereas black beans remain consistently colored whether cooked or raw.

Flavor Profiles of Black Beans vs Pinto Beans

Probably one of the most obvious and distinctive differences you will encounter between black and pinto beans is their unique flavor profiles! While both pair well with a variety of herbs and spices like cilantro, chile, and cumin they do have rather robust flavors that distinguish them.

Black beans are denser and heartier.

Black beans have a more robust, heartier texture and a dense, rich flavor. They could be described as almost lightly crunchy or grainy in consistency.

Pinto beans are creamy and earthier.

Pinto beans are creamier and softer than black beans and have a nuttier, earthier, more rounded flavor. Pinto beans can take on the aromatics and flavors of the ingredients they are paired with.

Texture of Black Beans vs Pinto Beans

Pinto Beans are soft, making them perfect for spreads or as fillings.

Black Beans are sturdier, making them denser and perfect for thicker soups and dips.

Black beans are sturdy.

Black beans can be exposed to higher temperatures and moisture and retain their structure without getting mushy or watery.

Pinto beans are soft.

Pinto beans are mushier which makes them more susceptible to moisture exposure. This makes pinto beans the perfect choice for mashed bean dips and refried bean spreads.

Pinto beans are more than just refried beans.

Keep in mind that pinto beans in their natural form have a light, nutty texture and that refried beans (frijoles refritos) are not merely mashed up pinto beans. They usually involve the addition of ingredients like garlic, onions, and lard.

Vegetarian versions will contain oil to add more texture. If your only exposure to pinto beans has been through the consumption of refried beans, then you are missing out on the delightful world of the full, smooth, natural alternative!

Cooking with Black Beans and Pinto Beans

Black beans vs pinto beans - Cooking black beans and pinto beans
Most Americans buy a canned version of the beans which are precooked. In their dry form, both beans require upwards of an hour of boiling until they are soft and edible. Traditional methods entail soaking the beans overnight or for 6-9 hours before boiling them to speed up the boiling process.

Origins of Black Beans vs Pinto Beans

Both pinto and black beans come from South America.

The pinto bean has its origins in Peru, and it is believed that migrating tribes and inter-tribal trading spread the bean upwards to present day North America. It is thought that pinto beans have been harvested and enjoyed since 3000 BCE in South and Central America.

Black beans have their origin in South America. Black beans were brought back to Europe during the Age of Exploration in the 15th century by some of the first Spanish explorers who made contact with the Indigenous populations of South America. It eventually traveled to Asia, likely by the Silk Road. Black beans are still used in many Indian dishes today.

Black Beans vs Pinto Beans Cuisines

Both pinto and black beans are versatile in their incorporation within a wide range of national and regional cuisines. Each type of bean, however, can be used to their best effect in specific types of cuisines.

Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are a staple of Southwestern American and Mexican cuisine. Their nutty taste makes them perfect for tacos, burritos, and quesadillas.

Pinto beans are the most popular bean in commercial refried bean products, and they take on a rounded, delicious taste when mashed. They are most commonly used in Mexican dishes and offer protein and fiber to any meal and can be used as a filling meat replacement

Pinto beans are widespread throughout South America and are used in many of the dishes of Brazil; predominantly served with rice and meat as a side protein.

Black Beans

Black beans are a staple of Cajun and Creole cultures and are foundational to the hallmark recipes of the Southeastern United States like gumbo and chili! Black beans are also staple ingredients in the recipes of the Caribbean.

Black beans are popular both as a side with rice, as soup and as a main ingredient in the dishes of South and Central America in countries including Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, Venezuela, and Cuba. Black beans are also used in Brazil and form the foundation of the national dish, feijoada

Black Beans vs. Pinto Beans Nutrition Facts

Both are a healthy staple of a well-balanced diet.

One cup of black beans has 227 calories, and one cup of pinto beans has 234 calories; making them comparably low-calorie options.

Did you know that people who eat higher quantities of beans have lower incidences of heart attacks and have lower cholesterol?

Did you also know that beans are a high protein and high fiber food that keeps you satisfied while supplying you with a wealth of vitamins and minerals?

While these features are foundational to the nutritional profiles of both black beans and pinto beans they do have some distinct qualities and nutritional characteristics that differentiate them.

Black Beans come out slightly ahead in nutritional terms.

From a nutritional perspective, black beans are more nutritionally dense than pinto beans. This is not to say that pinto beans are unhealthy – not at all! Both types of bean contain manganese, iron, vitamin B1, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorous. However black beans have a higher density of these nutrients per gram than do pinto beans.

Black beans are higher in protein and fiber content per cup than pinto beans. Black beans have fewer carbohydrates and starch than pinto beans.

What about antioxidants that help us fight harmful bacteria and remain healthy? Black beans have slightly more of those too.

Pinto beans have higher sodium content.

A concern with pinto beans can be the high sodium of popular refried bean mixes. If you are watching your sodium intake, cooking your own pinto beans or foregoing them in favor of canned black beans may be a more suitable option.

Pinto beans also have a slightly higher fat content per cup than do black beans but keep in mind that these two legumes are extremely low in fat for their nutrient density and are both wonderful staples of a healthy, heart-friendly diet.

Nitty Gritty Nutrition of Black Beans

A cup of black beans had 60% of your required daily fiber and 20% of daily iron. A cup of black beans contains 28% of your daily thiamin and 64% of your daily folate intake. These nutrients are necessary for heart health and maintaining cell growth. Folate, in particular, contributes to a healthy heart, metabolism and well-running brain function.

Black beans also contain 30% of your daily magnesium, 18% of your daily copper intake, 13% of your daily zinc intake, 17% of your daily potassium intake and 24% of your daily phosphorus intake. Minerals are a vital part of any diet as they keep our immune system healthy and promote bone strength.

Nitty Gritty Nutrition of Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are also chock full of essential nutrients and are an excellent source of the trace mineral molybdenum. A cup of pinto beans has 15 grams of protein. 62% of your recommended daily fiber intake. 8% of your daily calcium intake and 20% of your daily iron intake.

Pinto beans contain 21% of your daily magnesium intake, 25% of your daily phosphorus intake, 21% of your daily potassium intake, 11% of your daily zinc intake and 19% of your daily copper intake.

Pinto beans have three times as much Vitamin B6 than black beans: 20% of your daily recommended intake in one cup. Vitamin B6 is a vital element of brain, nerve and bone function and guards against bone related degeneration


Both black beans and pinto beans are nutritionally dense and provide a wide range of essential vitamins and nutrients. They are versatile and can be used in a wide variety of dishes.

At the end of the day, the choice of pinto or black beans comes down to flavor preference and what your specific recipe calls for. If you can’t choose- add both! Both beans complement each other, and this method will ensure that you get all of the unique trace minerals each has to offer.

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