Pinto beans are an essential part of Mexican cuisine. They’re also used in many American dishes, including chili and burritos.
Many people rely on pinto beans as an inexpensive and flavorful way to add protein and carbohydrates to their diet. They can be used to create a savory purée that’s a perfect complement for rice. Similarly, beans can help you add texture and flavor to salads, soups, and stews.
If you have a recipe that calls for pinto beans but don’t have any on hand at the moment, what do you do?
We’ve compiled this list of the best pinto beans substitutes so that you always have something delicious on hand when your cravings strike!
- What is Pinto Beans?
- 11 Best Pinto Beans Substitutes
- What Does Pinto Beans Taste Like?
- Are Pinto Beans and Kidney Beans the Same Thing?
- Can You Substitute Pinto Beans for Red Beans?
- Are Cannellini Beans the Same as Pinto Beans?
- How to Select Pinto Beans?
- Are Canned Beans As Good As Dried Beans?
What is Pinto Beans?
Pinto beans originated in Mexico and are a type of bean with a red or pink color. They were named pinto after the Spanish word for “painted,” because when cooked they turn a range of colors, from pale white to bright red and brown.
They have a mild taste and a soft yet firm texture. The best way to describe them is “earthy.” These beans blend well in recipes and can be plump and creamy when done properly. Pinto beans are also a good source of fiber and folate; they contain both soluble and insoluble fibers that aid in digestion and vitamin absorption.
11 Best Pinto Beans Substitutes
Navy beans are related to pinto and great northern beans. They have a soft texture and light nutty taste.
They don’t hold their shape as well as pinto beans when cooked, so they aren’t recommended for recipes that call for purées. Navy beans work best in soups, stews, and dishes that include other ingredients that will help them maintain their shape.
Navy beans are great in soups, especially white bean chicken soup. They’re also a good addition to chili recipes.
2. Great Northern Beans
Great northern beans have a mild flavor and creamy texture when cooked so they work well as an ingredient in purées or dips.
Great northerns are very versatile and can be used to make anything from a flavorful bean salad to a hearty pinto beans recipe.
Great northern beans are perfect for making vegetarian chili with baked sweet potatoes.
3. Black Beans
Black beans are dark brown, jewel tone beans that are common in Latin American cuisine. They have a sweet, earthy taste and soft texture when cooked.
Their flavor is milder than pinto beans, which makes them perfect for dishes that include ingredients with intense flavors like chili peppers or garlic.
Black beans are great in warm salads like black bean and corn salad or taco salad. They’re also delicious when mashed into black bean burgers.
4. Kidney Beans
Kidney beans are one of the most familiar types of beans because they’re used to make popular dishes such as chili, baked beans, and kidney pie. They have a strong flavor that ranges from mild to very earthy depending on their preparation.
Kidney beans are shiny, tender, and slightly sweet when cooked. They’re also the most firm of all the common bean varieties, which makes them perfect for dishes that require longer cooking times or purées.
Kidney beans are a great addition to hearty soups and stews. They also make a delicious purée when combined with sage and thyme for kidney beans recipes such as this one from FoodNetwork.com.
5. Black Turtle Beans
Black turtle beans are small black beans that have a mild flavor and soft texture when cooked. Their shape and firmness make them well-suited for dishes that call for beans in a purée or sauce.
Like other types of beans, black turtle beans are great when mashed into dips such as hummus or bean dip. They’re also delicious when blended into this Mexican soup from Martha Stewart.
6. Borlotti Beans
Borlotti beans are also known as cranberry beans, Roman beans, and Italian flat beans. They’re long, plump, and pale greenish-yellow in color. Their texture is firm yet creamy when cooked so they hold their shape very well.
Borlotti beans work well in soups with beans because of their texture. They’re also delicious when added to salads with other Italian ingredients, including olives, tomatoes, and oregano.
7. Cannellini Beans
Cannellini beans are medium-sized white beans that have a creamy texture and delicate flavor.
They hold their shape well so they work excellently in dishes that require long cooking times. Cannellini beans also provide a unique texture when puréed to make dips, spreads, and hummus.
The mild flavor of cannellini beans makes them a good addition to all types of recipes from Italian soups to vegetarian chili.
8. Anasazi Beans
Anasazi beans are also called pinto beans or mission beans. They’re large, oval-shaped white beans that have a creamy texture when cooked.
Their flavor is similar to cannellini beans but slightly stronger so they work well in recipes that include other strong-tasting ingredients. Anasazi can be used interchangeably with cannellini beans in most recipes.
Anasazi beans are a great choice for dishes that include Mexican ingredients like chilies and cilantro. They’re also delicious when puréed into dips such as white bean dip or made into this hearty vegetarian chili from Kalyn’s Kitchen.
9. Adzuki Beans
Adzuki beans are small, red-brown colored beans that have a sweet vanilla flavor when cooked. They’re firm yet tender when cooked so they hold their shape in most dishes.
Adzuki beans make delicious additions to Asian dishes because of their mild flavor. They also work well in baked desserts like chocolate chip adzuki bean cookies and in baked goods like this gingerbread cake with adzuki beans from VeganBaking.net.
10. Lima Beans
Lima beans are also called butter beans or baby limas. They’re eaten whole and have a firm texture when cooked with a slightly nutty flavor. Lima beans can be used interchangeably with other types of white beans in most recipes because they hold their shape very well.
Like other types of beans, lima beans are a great addition to soups and stews. They’re also delicious when added to salads, especially those with sweet ingredients such as corn or cilantro.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a type of legume that’s high in protein and fiber. They have a slightly sweet flavor when cooked so they’re often used in Mediterranean dishes. Chickpeas work well either whole or mashed into dips and spreads.
Chickpeas can be added to salads to make them more filling. They’re also great in Mediterranean-style dips like hummus or spreads like this white bean hummus from VeganYumYum.
What Does Pinto Beans Taste Like?
The pinto bean is a warm, nutty bean that has a slightly meaty taste. The best way to describe it would be “hearty.” It’s often used in Tex-Mex dishes, soups and even some Italian recipes that are now featuring the pinto.
Suggested use: Pintos are not as popular as kidney beans, black beans or even navy beans. However, they have a unique flavor that works well in many bean dishes including beef and pinto bean chili from Skinny Ms. Pintos also work very well when pureed into dips.
Are Pinto Beans and Kidney Beans the Same Thing?
The pinto bean and the kidney bean are very similar in flavor; however, they come from different species of beans. They both have a meaty, nutty taste along with earthy undertones.
Pintos also look like kidney beans on the inside because they’re both deep red-colored. This is where their similarities end, however.
Pinto beans are actually smaller in size than kidney beans, which makes them more versatile when cooking with them. They’re larger in size compared to black beans and navy beans, but they offer a similar flavor profile.
Can You Substitute Pinto Beans for Red Beans?
The red bean has a slightly sweeter taste compared to pinto beans that are similar in flavor to kidney beans. Red beans are often found in many recipes because of their mild taste and versatility.
Pintos can be substituted for red beans in most recipes, but the reverse isn’t true. While pintos work well in chili, some recipes will use red beans as the main ingredient.
Are Cannellini Beans the Same as Pinto Beans?
Cannellini beans and pinto beans are also very similar in taste. They both have a meaty, nutty flavor with earthy undertones as well as a white coloring inside. They’re both small in size with a bean-like shape.
Cannellini beans can be cooked and pureed into dips like hummus, however; pinto beans cannot. They also taste more “beany” compared to pinto beans. Cannellini beans are more popular for this reason as well as their similar flavor profile.
How to Select Pinto Beans?
Pinto beans should be purchased dry and then soaked before cooking unless you’re using them for a recipe that calls for canned pinto beans. Here is how to select pinto beans:
Color is the best way to select pinto beans, but weight and firmness are also important. Beans should be firm without any noticeable discoloration or bruising. Also, avoid beans that are wet, old, or won’t snap easily when broken in half.
Are Canned Beans As Good As Dried Beans?
Most canned beans contain excess amounts of sodium — as much as 400 milligrams in a single cup. While this level isn’t harmful to most people, it’s still higher than the daily recommended amount of 600 to 1,000 mg.
Canned beans also have a softer texture compared to those that are soaked and cooked from dried beans. Cooks often add additional salt to canned beans, which makes them even saltier. Dried pinto beans can be substituted for canned pintos in most recipes.
Canned beans can be used if you really don’t have time to soak and cook dried pintos. However, the flavor of the canned ones will vary depending on the brand and the salt content.