13 Best Pinto Beans Substitutes

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Pinto beans are one of the most popular legumes around. It is medium-sized and has a brown color that lightens when cooked. Pinto is creamy with a luxurious taste that blends well with many different flavors.

Although pinto beans are pretty common, you may find yourself looking for suitable pinto beans substitutes if you want to make a recipe that calls for pinto beans, but you’re out of it.

You can use other legumes, such as black beans, cranberry beans, kidney beans, black turtle beans, chickpeas, lentils, cannellini beans, navy beans, cowpeas, Adzuki great northern beans, and lima beans as substitutes for pinto beans.

Let’s learn more about these beans and how you can use them to replace pinto beans in your dishes!

What Are Pinto Beans?

Pinto beans are one of the most popularly found beans in North America, central and south America. They are known and used throughout the entire world.

Pinto beans are average-sized, just like any other type of beans; these legumes have a mottled brown and beige appearance that looks very pretty when they’re dry. Canned or fully cooked pinto beans have a solid light tan or beige color.

Pinto beans are often confused for various beans such as cranberry or borlotti beans because they appear similar and can all be used in similar recipes.

What Does Lima Beans Taste Like?

Lima beans have a velvety, buttery, regal taste and hold flavor, unlike some other legumes.

It’s worth mentioning that dried or fresh lima beans are much better than canned lima; they are more delicious, and their creamy texture and earthy flavor become prominent when they are adequately cooked.

See Also: Kidney Beans Vs Chili Beans

Best Pinto Beans Substitutes

1. Navy Beans

Navy beans got their name after the 19th century when the US navy used them for the soldiers’ meals. They also go by Boston pea beans or haricot beans.

This substitute for pinto beans has a flat and oval shape with a mild and creamy taste but a different color. Navy beans have a white color, unlike pinto beans which are pale pink when cooked. Depending on the dish you are making, using navy beans may alter the final color.

Nevertheless, navy beans can be used for purée and soup and add a creamy and rich flavor to any sauce. It is a healthier replacement for pinto beans with high-calorie content and a high index of dietary fiber, making navy beans a great vegetarian substitute for pinto beans.

Before cooking navy beans, it is recommended that you soak them in cold water for about 3 hours; this makes them easier to cook.

The beans take about 20 to 30 minutes of cooking to soften, and the process of boiling and soaking the legumes helps remove all the anti-nutritional compounds and decrease the symptoms of flatulence.

2. Black Beans

Black beans are undoubtedly the most suitable substitute for pinto beans. They are incredibly similar to pinto beans in size, taste, and texture. They are black with a noticeable white spot called a “keel.”

Black beans are also oval-shaped and small to medium size, making them generally a bit smaller than pinto beans.

It’s worth noting that the darker colored black beans could be a problem while preparing a meal that calls for a specific look.

Excitingly, you don’t need to alter the recipe if you are replacing pinto with black beans in your dishes. That said, dry black beans are easy to undercook, so you will likely want to cook them slightly longer than dry pinto beans.

Black beans are also more nutritious than pinto beans as they have more protein, antioxidants, and fiber.

3. Chickpeas

Chickpeas also make a great pinto beans replacement. They have two types: the larger, light tan Kabuli and the variously colored desi. They are both tasty, nutritious, and beneficial to your health.

Chickpeas are commonly used in different cuisines, and their rich and nutty flavor enables them to blend well with different seasonings and dishes.

These legumes also nourish your body with their variety of vitamins and minerals. Their healthy protein and dietary fiber content make chickpeas a valuable addition to many vegans’ diets.

It helps control blood sugar and fight against a host of chronic diseases such as cancer or diabetes. If you want a more compact result, use mature chickpeas and reduce the cooking hours by soaking the chickpeas in water overnight.

4. Lentils

Lentils are used in a wide variety of Asian and North African dishes and are categorized according to their colors. The most common types of lentils are brown, black, yellow, red, and green lentils.

This gives you a wide array of options and different dishes to use lentils for. Lentils are not only incredibly versatile but very flavorful, and they can be easily found.

Their taste differs according to the type of lentils; i.e., brown lentils have an earthy taste and do not disintegrate when cooked, unlike red lentils with a nutty and sweet flavor.

Lentils also have a high nutritional value as they are a great source of calories and proteins compared to pinto beans. They also help your heart and vascular system function properly, so adding lentils to your daily diet will help prevent certain diseases like hypertension.

Unlike pinto beans and other alternatives, lentils do not need to be soaked in cold water before cooking. But give the legumes an excellent rinse to wipe out all the dirt and grits. To make the legumes more nutritious, you can add a little olive oil to the lentils as it cooks.

5. Cranberry Beans

Cranberry beans are an easily sourced substitute for pinto beans; they are also known as borlotti beans. These legumes are originally from Italy but are generally used in many countries such as Greece, Portugal, and turkey.

Cranberry berry beans have a very similar appearance to pinto beans and can be confused for one another at first sight. Still, cranberry beans are much bigger than pinto with a slightly different taste.

Using cranberry beans as a substitute for pinto beans replaces their nutty and earthy taste with cranberry’s sweet, delicate, and mildly nutty kick, giving a unique taste to your dish.

Cranberry beans have various benefits ranging from helping you build your muscles to controlling your blood sugar level, improving your digestive system, etc.

When preparing a cranberry beans dish, only add in some salt after they have cooked thoroughly to keep them soft and fluffy, or else their skin will thicken, making them difficult to digest. 

Also, keep an eye on the heat level as you cook to avoid overcooking the beans, which will cause them to disintegrate, resulting in a very soggy dish.

6. Cannellini Beans

Cannellini beans or Italian kidney beans are a staple ingredient commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine, primarily Italian dishes.

This is a white bean with a shape and appearance that is significantly different from a pinto bean. This legume has a kidney shape, with a milk color that is very similar to the color of navy beans.

These beans have a nutty and creamy flavor and can be added to an array of Italian dishes such as bruschetta or pasta.

This ingredient is an excellent source of nutrients, especially for those on a diet. It helps lower your blood sugar and blood pressure level, thereby improving your heart health.

Cannellini beans also help protect your skin as they contain antioxidants, vitamins C and E, which protect against sun damage.

However, it is recommended to soak your cannellini beans for at least 5 hours before cooking them. The raw beans have a tough skin that will be tedious to soften without soaking.

7. Cowpeas

Cowpeas is another kind of legume you could use as a pinto beans substitute. They have a creamy color with a large black spot, which looks like an eye; this gives them the name black-eyed peas. Cowpeas is entirely different from other kinds of legumes, with a strong and salty flavor.

This pea is a great source of dietary fiber; this makes them a favorite ingredient in a vegan diet. They also contain high amounts of protein and calories compared to pinto beans, making them a suitable replacement.

Before cooking cowpeas, rinse the beans thoroughly and soak them in water for 3 to 4 hours to reduce cooking time.

8. Adzuki Beans

Adzuki beans are most famous and commonly used in Asia, especially in eastern Asia. It is also known as red beans or red mung beans and typically has a red-wine color, but some types may be black or light yellow.

This opinion beans substitute has a nutty flavor and sweet taste that pairs well with sweetened porridge or mochi, some of the most well-known dishes from east Asia.

Adzuki beans also contain a fair amount of nutrients. 100g of the legumes contain up to 329 calories and about 35% of the recommended daily protein intake. It also contains antioxidants, which act as anti-cancer and fight against osteoporosis.

Soaking the adzuki beans in cold water for 2 to 3 hours will help to remove all anti-nutritional compounds. This is highly recommended and should be done before boiling the beans for about 2 hours.

9. Soybeans

Soybeans have a milky color and an oval shape, with a rich and mildly sweet taste when cooked. It is commonly used in China, Korea, and other eastern Asian cuisines.

Soybean is very different from other kinds of beans like pinto beans because they not only make a delicious meal, but you can make a creamy cup of milk from soybeans. Soymilk has a sweet and delicate flavor and contains lots of health benefits.

Soybeans are the most nutritious in the legume family and contain many calories, twice that of pinto beans.

It is a common ingredient in many vegans and vegetarian dishes, and unlike pinto beans, you only need to soak soybeans in water for approximately 3 hours before cooking. This will reduce the cooking time considerably.

10. Kidney Beans

Kidney beans are very popular worldwide; they are flat, red, and medium-sized. They are named “kidney beans” because their appearance is similar to a human’s kidney.

These beans have a mild and nutty flavor, just like pinto beans. It can be added to many dishes like curry or soup for that tasty flavor.

Kidney beans contain a rich source of nutrients, so it is a super nutritional component for well-balanced dishes. It is excellent for those trying to lose weight and control their blood and heart pressure levels.

But you cannot eat raw kidney beans because of their anti-nutritional compounds content, which may severely affect your digestion system. So, it is advised to ensure the ingredient is cooked properly.

11. Great Northern beans

Great Northern beans are another fantastic alternative to pinto beans if you wish to enjoy a cuisine with a unique flavor. Great Northern beans are rich in flavor, and they will serve you incredibly well in recipes that require pinto beans.

These beans are commonly used in stews but can also be used in bean soup and all kinds of bean dips.

12. Black turtle beans

An exciting pinto beans alternative, black turtle beans are dark in color and will give your dish a totally different look than if you would use pinto beans, but with a similar taste and texture.

These beans are commonly used in the Caribbean and Latin American cuisine – and you can use them as side dishes, stews, and soups.

Although when using black turtle beans in your recipes, bear in mind that they might require slightly more cooking time than pinto beans.

13. Lima beans

Also known as the sieva bean, butter bean, double bean, chad bean, wax bean, or Madagascar bean, lima bean is a legume grown for its sweet, edible seeds or beans

Lima beans also make an excellent pinto beans substitute. Lima beans are popularly called butter beans due to their distinct taste and smooth texture.

While they can be used in any kind of bean recipe, they taste better when used as bean dips or side dishes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are cannellini beans the same as pinto beans?

No, pinto beans and cannellini beans are two different types of beans! Pinto beans have a pink-mauve shade and turn brown when cooked, while cannellini beans have a nutty flavor and a creamy white texture. Also called white beans, cannellini beans originated from Italy, while pinto beans came from Mexican.

Are pinto beans and kidney beans the same?

Kidney beans are different from pinto beans, even though they came from the same plant species, known as “Phaseolus vulgaris,” or the common bean. Kidney beans are larger than pinto beans. Pinto beans are oval, while kidney beans have a kidney-like shape.

Can I substitute pinto beans for black?

Yes, pinto beans will be a good substitute for black beans in almost every recipe. Pinto beans can be used to make dips, salads, casseroles, and stews.

Can I use pinto instead of cannellini beans?

Yes, cannellini beans can be substituted for pinto beans, as they share a similar taste, texture, and size. However, pinto beans are creamier but not really as firm as cannellini beans.

What’s the difference between pinto beans and black beans?

The difference between these two beans is that Pinto beans are softer and creamier than black beans and have an earthier, nuttier, more rounded flavor.

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