Black Beans vs Pinto Beans: Differences Explained

Both black and pinto beans are pretty common varieties of beans.

They’re also the type of beans I consume the most, especially after having transitioned to a vegan diet.

Not only are they versatile to a point you can include them in a wide variety of dishes, but they’re also nutritional powerhouses. 

With that being said, they still have a few differences when it comes to their appearance, flavor, texture, and even nutritional composition.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need about both beans, including their differences.

What are Black Beans?

Black beans are beans produced by different varieties of the legume Phaseolus vulgaris.

They also go by the name of turtle beans, and they’re small ovoid legumes with black glossy shells. 

black beans

They are commonly associated with Latin American cuisine but their versatility allows them to be used across different cuisines around the globe.

The history of black beans is ancient. They were first cultivated 7,000 years ago in the region of South America now known as Peru and since they grow efficiently in warm weather, they eventually became an integral element of South American cuisine.

Other varieties of beans also entered cultivation during this period, including pinto beans, which are now also common in Europe thanks to early explorers who brought beans back with them in the 1500s. 

Needless to say, they’re available in most grocery stores, typically in dry and canned form. 

Black beans (and other beans in general) are packed with nutrients, including protein, fiber, folate, antioxidants, vitamin B, as well as numerous other vitamins and minerals. Plus, beans are cheap to produce (unlike meat), which means they’re crucial to people in low-income countries.

Combined with a carbohydrate source like brown rice, black beans become a complete source of protein, hence why it’s a combination you’ll often see in vegetarian meals.

What are Pinto Beans? 

Pinto beans are also legumes that belong to the legume family Phaseolus vulgaris, a wide classification of beans that also includes navy, kidney, and black beans. 

Like black beans, pinto beans are also native to Central and South American. They’re present in many Mexican dishes, but it’s in the United States where pinto beans are consumed the most— though they’re also widely available in other parts of the world. 

pinto beans

“Pinto” means “painted” or “spotted”, which refers to how the beans look before they’re cooked. Many individuals believe that the beans were named after the pinto horse, which has a similar color profile. As the beans cook, the spots disappear and they end up fully brown or slightly pink. 

Also, like the black beans, the pinto beans are high in protein and fiber and are also a great source of vitamin B1, potassium, and iron. For vegans like me and my wife, they’re a great alternative to meat. 

You can typically find fresh pinto beans in farmers and local markets, but it’s more common to find them either in canned or dried form at the supermarket. 

Main Differences Between Black Beans & Pinto Beans

There are a few differences between black beans and pinto beans, but they’re not that significant— with that being said, they still exist, so we cover each one below. 

Appearance

As you may have noticed, black beans and pinto beans are aesthetically different. 

Black beans are small and oval, whereas pinto beans tend to be larger in both width and height. What sets them apart, however, is their color profile.

Black beans are completely black and remain that way even when cooked. Pinto beans are light brown but are covered in shades of dark brown.

However, pinto beans turn completely brown when cooked, as a lot of the dark brown pigments disappear. 

Flavor Profile

Despite belonging to the same family, black beans and pinto beans have a slightly distinct flavor profile. 

Some people suggest that black beans have a taste that is similar to mushrooms, however, they seem to take on the flavor from salt and the different spices and ingredients they are cooked with.

If I had to describe their flavor, I would say they have a soft, hearty, yet mild taste. They don’t have an overwhelming flavor, which is precisely why they’re so versatile. 

Pinto beans are also soft, but they’re a lot more creamy and nuttier— so it’s like they tend to be susceptible to the effects of moisture exposure and crumble in food. 

Texture

They are also quite different when it comes to texture. 

Black beans are sturdy and tend to hold their shape, regardless of the dish you include them in. They’re more resistant to higher temperature and moisture, so they’re able to retain their structure without crumbling or becoming mushy. 

This makes them an ideal option for hearty soups that offer some consistency. 

Pinto beans are the opposite. They are less sturdy, so they’re more susceptible to temperature and moisture, which means they tend to crumble and take on a mushier texture in dishes. 

This is not always the case (and it’s something you can control when cooking them), but I would say that it makes them a suitable option to make foods like veggie burgers, and other meat alternatives. 

Nutrition Facts

Both black beans and pinto beans are incredible nutrient sources, hence why they’re a staple ingredient in Latin America and show up in a wide range of dishes. 

Since meat isn’t always available in low-income countries, these beans are seen as a great protein alternative. That is not all, however.

Both are also rich in antioxidants— which are compounds that protect the cells in your body by fighting against cell oxidation— thus reducing your risk of conditions like heart disease and cancer. They also contain a variety of micronutrients such as vitamin B1, folate, iron, and potassium. 

Black beans and pinto beans are not that different nutrient-wise, but black beans seem to be slightly superior— as they’re more nutritionally dense than pinto beans. 

Black beans are higher in protein and fiber content per cup than pinto beans. Black beans also have fewer carbohydrates and starch than pinto beans, which also makes them slightly less caloric. 

In generaly, black beans also have a higher density of micronutrients than pinto beans— so they contain more vitamins and minerals, even though the difference is not staggering. 

Conclusion

Black beans and pinto beans have a few differences here and there— particularly in terms of appearance, flavor, texture, and nutrition. 

These differences, however, are not significant enough to claim that one ingredient is better than the other— so can say they’re just different. 

At the end of the day, it’s important that you have a well-balanced and varied diet, which means alternating between different beans from time to time. 

Our Recommendation For Vegans

Future Kind’s Essential Vitamins: This is our favorite multivitamin. It’s not the typical multivitamin because it was formulated to specifically address potential shortcomings in the vegan diet. It contains the essential vitamin B12, vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA & EPA) delivered in necessary doses so you don’t have to worry about potential deficiencies. Want to learn more about it? Check out the review we did on it.

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than three years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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