Bottles of black and pinto beans
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Pinto vs Black Beans: Which is Better?

As a dietitian, I often recommend beans because they are versatile, affordable, and nutritious. Among the most popular and widely used varieties are pinto beans and black beans. But which one wins in a pinto vs black bean face-off? 

Let’s compare these two legumes (and clarify the difference between beans and legumes). We’ll examine their appearance, flavor, nutritional content, and uses. 

Whether you’re a bean connoisseur or just looking for a healthy source of protein, this guide is for you! So, let’s delve into the world of pinto vs black beans and discover the perfect option for your next meal!

Short on time? Don’t leave now! Scroll to the bottom for health hacks you can implement TODAY.

First things first, what the heck is the difference between a bean and a legume?

Beans vs Legumes

Legumes are plants that produce seeds inside pods. If you think of how a pea grows in a pod, the pod would be the legume and the pea is the seed (often called the pulse). Some types of legumes include beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, and peanuts. 

Beans, specifically, refer to the seeds that are produced in pods of certain legume plants. So they are actually the seed, or pulse, of the legume plant.

Both beans and legumes are known for their high protein, fiber, and nutrient content.

And now that you know the difference between beans and legumes, you may be asking, why are beans so important?

tacos with black beans and rice

Why Are Beans Important?

Dietary Staple

Did you know that beans are a dietary staple in many parts of the world? And for good reason!

Beans are nutritional powerhouses, with high levels of plant-based protein, dietary fiber, and complex carbohydrates. 

Are you vegetarian, vegan, or just seeking a healthier source of protein? Beans to the rescue!

Beans are widely available, affordable, and can be easily stored for long periods of time. This makes them a practical and convenient staple ingredient for your pantry. 

Whether you’re looking for a filling and flavorful side dish or a meat replacement for a plant-based diet, beans fit the bill! They are an excellent food choice that can help support a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

In a nutshell, beans can really give you a lot of bang for your nutritional buck!

Pinto Beans vs Black Beans: Nutrition and Health Benefits

Nutritional Value 

Nutritional value of
1/2 cup of pinto beans
Nutritional value of
1/2 cup of black beans
Calories120110
Protein7 grams8 grams
Fat0.5 grams0.5 grams
Carbohydrates22 grams20 grams
Fiber6 grams8 grams
Sugar0 grams0 grams
Sodium5 milligrams5 milligrams
Potassium305 milligrams240 milligrams
Iron1.8 milligrams1.8 milligrams
Calcium23 milligrams20 milligrams
Magnesium44 milligrams60 milligrams

Nutritional Benefits of Beans

  • High in protein
  • Low in fat
  • High in fiber
  • High in vitamins and minerals

Health Benefits

Not only are beans versatile and tasty, but they can also provide a serious boost to your overall health and well-being. 

Fiber. One of the most important benefits of beans is that they are rich in dietary fiber. Fiber supports digestive health, regulates blood sugar levels, and helps reduce risk of heart disease (1).

Protein. Beans are also a great source of protein. This makes them an ideal choice for vegetarians and vegans striving to meet their daily protein needs. It’s also great for those moving toward a more plant-based diet.

Vitamins and Minerals. Additionally, beans are loaded with essential nutrients such as folate, iron, magnesium, and potassium, which can support your overall health and wellness.

Lowfat. Notably, beans are also low in fat (with no saturated fat). This makes them a great choice if you are trying to maintain a healthy weight and improve heart health

Antioxidants. They are also a rich source of antioxidants, which can help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.

Studies have shown that consuming beans can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Therefore, adding beans to your diet can be a great way to promote overall health and wellness (2).

In fact, the American Heart Association recommends beans as part of a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle (3). 

And now that you are aware of all the many health benefits of beans, let’s dive into the specifics of pinto and black beans.

Pinto Beans vs Black Beans: Appearance and Flavor

Pinto Beans

Medium-sized with an oval shape and pinkish-beige color streaked with reddish-brown, pinto beans are quite pretty. With their mottled appearance, they look almost like tiny works of art! They are typically sold dried, though they can also be found canned or cooked. 

When cooked, pinto beans are more of a reddish-brown color similar to red beans or small kidney beans. They have a soft, creamy texture and a slightly firm outer skin. Their flavor is slightly nutty and sweet, which makes them an ideal ingredient for a variety of dishes. 

Due to their versatile nature, pinto beans are popular in soups, stews, chili, refried beans, and many other recipes. They are a staple in Mexican and Southwestern United States cuisine, where they are used in traditional dishes like burritos and tacos.

pinto beans

Black Beans

Black beans are a medium-sized bean with a matte black skin. (There are also black turtle beans which are smaller with a shiny black skin). Black beans have a cream-colored center. They are sold both dried and canned. 

Black beans have a rich, earthy flavor with a slightly sweet undertone. They also have a creamy and slightly starchy texture that is often described as “meaty.” 

When cooked, black beans retain their shape well. This makes them a great ingredient for dishes where you want some texture, such as salads, burritos, and soups. 

They can also be mashed or pureed to create a smooth and creamy consistency for dips or spreads. 

Black beans are versatile and pair well with a variety of seasonings and spices. They are particularly popular in latin american cuisine, including Cuban, Brazilian, and Mexican dishes. 

Now that you know the differences between these two beans, how do you use them when you cook?

black beans

Pinto Beans vs Black Beans: Uses

When you are choosing between pinto beans and black beans for cooking, there are some things to keep in mind. 

Are you creating a dish that requires a smooth consistency, such as refried beans, dips, or spreads? Pinto beans may be just the right thing, thanks to their mild flavor and creamy texture! They can also add a satisfying heartiness to stews, chili, and soups.

Looking for the ideal bean for salads, burritos, or tacos? Black beans are the perfect fit! They have a stronger, more earthy flavor and a firmer texture that holds up well in these types of dishes. They can also add depth and complexity to soups and stews.

However, it’s worth noting that both beans are versatile and can be used interchangeably most of the time. Don’t be afraid to mix it up! Experiment with both to find the perfect match for your taste preferences.

Pro-tip: If you use canned beans, always rinse first to remove excess salt.

bowl of refried beans

Pinto vs Black Beans: Summary

Still not clear on which bean is better? Fortunately, you can’t go wrong with either one!

Pinto beans and black beans are both incredibly versatile and healthy with unique flavors and textures that add depth to any dish. 

Both types of beans have a high fiber content and are a great source of plant-based protein. They are also packed with essential vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants.

Choose pinto beans for their subtle flavor and smooth texture, which make them ideal for recipes that require a creamy consistency. 

Consider black beans for heartier dishes, thanks to their stronger, more earthy flavor and firm texture. 

Ultimately, whether you choose pinto or black beans will depend on your personal preference and what you are cooking. 

In short, you can’t go wrong with either of these nutritional powerhouses! 

The Vitality Dietitians logo, written in script

Health Hacks

Nutrition Newbie
Don’t generally eat beans? Now that you know all the fabulous benefits, try adding a few to a favorite soup, salad, or pasta dish to bump up the nutritional value!

Health Enthusiast
Already like black and pinto beans? Expand out and try some new varieties! White beans, navy beans, or great northern beans are some of the many varieties of beans.

Wellness Guru
Really go ham (pun intended) and replace meat with beans
in one of your favorite recipes.

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