Pinto beans are a popular option for bean lovers everywhere. With their creamy and sweet taste, it’s no wonder pinto beans are a favorite of many.
With so many bean options out there, finding pinto bean substitutes is very easy. So next time you’re making a dish with pinto beans and you find that you’re all out, or if you just want to try something different, try one of these options to fulfill your bean needs. Let’s learn about some of the best substitutes for pinto beans.
What is a pinto bean?
Pinto beans are amongst the most popular beans in the world, showing up on ingredients lists everywhere. Pinto beans have a mild taste and creamy texture, and go well with a variety of ingredients, making them very versatile.
High in protein and fiber, pinto beans are called frijol pinto meaning “painted bean” in Spanish-speaking countries. Also known as speckled beans or strawberry beans, the pinto bean has garnered lots of attention all over!
Pinto beans show up in popular dishes like refried beans and are a common ingredient in soups. Pinto beans can be used, like most beans, as a meat substitute for vegetarians in a variety of dishes.
You can easily find canned pinto beans in the grocery store, or if you prefer you can buy dried pinto beans. Keep in mind that dried beans need to be soaked overnight or at least for several hours before cooking.
How to choose a pinto bean substitute
When considering substitutes for pinto beans, there are lots of beans to choose from. It is best to use a bean that will have a similar texture to pinto beans when cooked.
Since pinto beans have a fairly mild flavor, choosing a bean that is also mild will make sure that the substitute does not change the flavor of your dish too much.
What bean is closest to pinto beans?
Black beans or black turtle beans are the best substitutes for pinto beans, as they have a similar texture, flavor, and size. They are called black turtle beans because of their hard outer shell similar to that of a turtle.
Black beans and pinto beans can be used interchangeably in recipes, except if the visual aspect of the recipe is important. Pinto beans are light brown with a speckled appearance, while black beans are black with a small white spot known as a keel.
Are cannellini beans the same as pinto beans?
No, cannellini beans and pinto beans are not the same. While pinto beans are Mexican in heritage, cannellinis are Italian. They are different in appearance, cooking time, and generally how they are used in recipes.
Cannellini beans are also called white kidney beans because they are similar in shape to regular kidney beans. Pinto beans are light brown and speckled and get darker as they are cooked. The pinto’s texture is creamy, just like the cannellini, but holds its shape better when cooked.
Cannellini and pinto beans differ in nutritional value, with the former having fewer calories and a higher percentage of protein. Still, cannellinis can replace pinto beans in many recipes.
The Best 9 Pinto Bean Substitutes
If you’re looking for a replacement for pintos in a recipe, or simply want to try other beans to replace pinto beans, there are several options that you can choose from. Below I’ve gathered a list of the best substitutes so you don’t have to search for them yourself.
Whether you’re making Mexican food or searching for the best slow cooker bean recipes, here is the list of best substitutes for pinto beans.
Black beans are the best substitutes for pinto beans because of their similar flavor and texture. Although quite different in appearance, black beans can be used in the same recipes, at the same ratio as pinto beans.
Black beans are also a very popular bean, used in many Mexican dishes. Also known as black turtle beans, black beans are featured in recipes from rice and beans to huevos rancheros to refried beans. Black turtle beans are a versatile and nutritious option to replace pinto beans.
Black beans will cook slightly quicker than pinto beans, so keep that in mind when using black beans as pinto beans substitutes in your recipes. Black beans also tend to leach their color into whatever dish they are being cooked, so remember this when using black beans.
The red kidney bean is another common substitute for pinto beans. Although kidney beans are larger in size and darker in color, they can step in as a good replacement for pinto beans, depending on the dish.
Kidney beans are high in B vitamins and iron, making them a good addition to a healthy diet. Red kidney beans are the most common, but there are also white kidney beans, as well as speckled kidney beans, which resemble pinto beans more from a visual standpoint.
When using kidney beans as a pinto beans substitute, it is best to make recipes such as chilis or stews. Since the kidney bean requires a longer cooking time, these recipes will allow for the kidney beans to soften up to a texture that more closely resembles pinto beans.
Cannellini beans are also referred to as white kidney beans and make a good substitute for pinto beans in certain dishes. Cannellini are hearty and filling in a dish, so if you are using them as a substitute for pinto beans you can expect to be satisfied when you’re done eating.
Try using cannellini beans in soups and stews, as this is typically what they are used for in Italian cooking.
Cranberry beans, or borlotti beans, are easily mistaken for pinto beans because of their speckled appearance. When cooked, the speckles disappear, similar to pinto beans, and the bean becomes a brown hue. Borlotti beans make a great substitute for pinto beans because they are creamy and smooth in texture, just like pinto beans, but with a slightly thicker skin.
Cranberry beans have a rich and nutty flavor and are common in Portuguese and Italian cooking. Try replacing pinto beans with borlotti beans in pasta dishes or salads for a delicious meal.
Great northern beans are popular white beans used in a variety of dishes. Great northern beans are larger than other white beans but smaller than pinto beans. The two beans are similar in flavor and consistency, making them an ideal pinto beans substitute.
Great northern beans can be used to substitute pinto beans in recipes like soups where the smaller size will not affect the dish. Great northern beans work well in casseroles because as they cook, the beans break down slightly and contribute a starchy binding element while soaking up the liquids and flavors of the dish.
Navy beans are another white bean that can be used as a substitute for pinto beans. Navy beans are small beans, with a mild, creamy, and nutty flavor. Just like pinto beans, navy beans make a good choice for refried beans, as they can easily be mashed into a paste-like consistency.
Navy beans are commonly used in commercially made Boston baked beans and are ideal because of their small size and texture. While they are slow-cooked, navy beans are able to withstand the heat and keep their shape without breaking down and becoming mushy. Try navy beans in a homemade version of your own baked beans and you will not be disappointed.
Red beans, or adzuki beans, are mild and sweet beans originating from China and used in lots of different Asian cooking. The texture of red beans is slightly mealy and not as smooth as a pinto bean. Red beans are commonly processed into a paste and used in desserts in Asian countries.
As pinto beans substitutes go, it is ideal to use red beans in a dish that has an element of sweetness to it like a bbq bean dish, or beans with sweet potatoes. Adzuki beans can be used in gluten free or vegan baking to replace eggs and adds some sweetness to the dessert.
Anasazi beans are brown and white beans commonly used in Mexican cooking. Anasazi beans are a nutritious pinto bean substitute discovered in the southwestern part of the United States.
Anasazi beans are slightly sweet with a meaty and hearty texture and can be used interchangeably with pinto beans in dishes like baked beans, soup, or rice and beans.
Commonly known as butter beans for their buttery texture and starchy consistency, lima beans are a worthy choice as far as a pinto beans substitute. Lima beans, which are bright green, look very different from pinto beans.
Butter beans are mild in flavor and often found in side dishes like succotash or creamed lima beans. Lima beans can also serve as the main dish being used in hearty stews with ham or beef.