Pinto Beans Substitute

12 Best Pinto Bean Substitute Picks: Taste the Difference

Many households rely on pinto beans, especially in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, for their versatility in dishes like soups, stews, salads, and dips. However, situations may arise where pinto beans are unavailable or you desire a change. In such instances, knowing suitable substitutes is beneficial. Dietary restrictions, preferences, or cost factors may necessitate alternatives to pinto beans. Having a substitute list ensures you can enjoy your favorite dishes without sacrificing taste or texture.

What Are Pinto Beans?

Pinto beans, medium-sized and brown, have an earthy taste with a creamy, nearly sweet flavor. Known as frijol pinto or “painted bean” due to their abstract design, they are also called speckled or strawberry beans. Available as canned or dry, canned pinto beans can be cooked immediately, while dried ones, being rigid, require overnight soaking or at least 5-6 hours. High in fiber and protein, pinto beans are staples in stews, soups, salads, and cuisines like refried beans. They serve as excellent fillings for tacos and burritos, working as a meat alternative and complementing beef and pork meals perfectly.

Nutritional Breakdown of Pinto Beans

Pinto beans emerge as a nutritional powerhouse, delivering diverse health benefits. For 100 grams of uncooked, fully developed seeds:

  • Energy: Providing 347 kcal, pinto beans serve as a substantial source of dietary energy.
  • Protein: With 21.4g of protein, they emerge as an excellent option for vegetarians and vegans seeking protein-rich alternatives.
  • Fiber: At 15.5g, pinto beans promote healthy digestion and create a satisfying fullness.
  • Carbohydrates: With 62.6g, they contribute significantly to a balanced diet.
  • Calcium: Provide 113mgof calcium and it supports bone health and overall well-being.
  • Iron: At 5.07mg, they aid in red blood cell production, preventing anemia.
  • Magnesium: At 176mg, pinto beans contribute to bone health and blood pressure regulation.
  • Phosphorus: With 411mg, pinto beans play a role in various physiological processes, including bone health.
  • Potassium: Offering 1390mg, pinto beans support heart health and help regulate blood pressure.
  • Sodium: Present at 12mg, pinto beans are low in sodium, contributing to a heart-healthy diet.
  • Zinc: Providing 2.28mg, a valuable mineral for overall health.
  • Vitamin C: Pinto beans Offer 6.3mg of vitamin C, which contributes to immune function.
  • Folate: At 525µg, pinto beans are a rich source of folate, crucial for fetal development and preventing birth defects.
  • Vitamin K (phylloquinone): Providing 5.6µg, pinto beans contribute to blood clotting and bone health.

This comprehensive nutritional breakdown showcases pinto beans as a versatile and nutritious legume, supporting overall health and well-being.

Top Pinto Bean Substitutes

Widely used in a variety of dishes, finding pinto beans can be challenging in some regions. When seeking alternatives that provide a comparable taste and texture, consider the following substitutes:

Kidney Beans as Pinto Bean Substitute

Kidney Beans

Kidney Beans, a Big Substitute for Pinto Beans? Though larger and darker red, kidney beans offer a similar taste and texture. Their thicker skin isn’t too noticeable after cooking. They’re often used interchangeably in Mexican dishes like tacos and casseroles. Despite their larger size, they work well in chili and stew, preferred by some in heartier dishes. Yet, be cautious; their size can dominate a meal. Nutritionally, they are equivalent to pinto beans in terms of protein, magnesium, potassium, and iron.

Black Beans: A Good Pinto Bean Replacement

Black Beans

Black beans share a similar taste, texture, and size to pinto beans, making them the preferred option when pinto beans are not accessible. They’re black with a white spot, slightly smaller than pintos, and about the size of a pea. No major recipe changes are needed when switching from pinto to black. Cooking dry black beans may take a bit longer. They’re soft, creamy, and mild, absorbing flavors from other ingredients. Nutritionally, black beans offer more antioxidants, fiber, and protein, with lower cholesterol. Keep in mind, their darker color might affect the appearance of certain dishes.

Navy Beans

Navy beans, a variety of white beans, originated along the coasts of Northern Europe. The name ‘Navy’ is likely derived from the French word ‘nave,’ meaning ship, possibly because sailors historically relied on these beans as a vital energy source during their journeys. These small beans are related to the Great Northern Bean and haricot bean found in other parts of the world. Smaller than pinto and kidney beans, navy beans tend to break down more when cooked. Commonly used in baked beans, soups, and stews, navy beans can be a suitable replacement for pinto beans in dishes like refried beans or chili con carne.

Cannellini Beans

Cannellini beans

Cannellini beans, also known as white kidney beans, hail from the town of Canelli in Italy. Though a bit larger and rougher than pinto beans, they make a great substitute. These beans have a mild taste with earthy hints, and they go well with savory ingredients like tomatoes and herbs. Their smooth texture is perfect for mashing into dips or spreads for toast or sandwiches. Cannellini beans work perfectly as a substitute for pinto beans in pasta dishes or soups, providing a good balance of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates to keep you energized and satisfied throughout the day.

Great Northern Beans

Great Northern Beans

Great Northern Beans, with their white color, share a similar shape and texture with pintos, although they are smaller despite the ‘Great’ in their name. These beans excel in soups, boasting a delicate skin and subtle flavors, and perform admirably in slow-cooker dishes. Widely used in ham-centric recipes like ‘ham and beans,’ they cook in half the time of pintos but may become tough, requiring post-cooking salting. Nutritionally, Great Northern beans offer more protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, and a variety of vitamins and minerals than pintos.

Black Turtle Beans

Black turtle beans are a good substitute for pintos, though not as well-known. They have a sweet and savory flavor with a soft texture, facilitating easy mashing. These beans are popular in Mexican and Caribbean recipes like burritos, enchiladas, quinoa chili, and black bean soup. Keep in mind that they take longer to cook than pintos. Also, a fun fact: the darker the bean, the more antioxidants it has, and black turtle beans are the darkest with the highest level of antioxidants.

Red Beans

Red beans, also called adzuki beans, are tiny beans popular in Chinese and Japanese cooking. Their sweet flavor contrasts with the buttery taste of pinto beans, making them a hearty substitute in savory dishes like beans and rice, curries, grain bowls, and hummus. Additionally, red beans work well in recipes with a sweet element, such as sweet potato beans or barbecue beans, offering a versatile alternative to pinto beans.

Borlotti Beans

Borlotti beans

Borlotti beans, also called cranberry or Roman beans, are popular in Spanish and Italian cooking. They might look and taste a lot like pinto beans, but they are speckled, medium-sized, buttery, and delicious. These beans are healthy, containing high amounts of fiber, iron, and protein, so you’re not lacking anything compared to pinto beans. When cooked well, Borlotti beans bring extra creaminess to your dishes.

Lima Beans

Lima beans and pinto beans are similar in their nutritional benefits. Both are high in protein and fiber, low in fat, and cholesterol-free, making them a healthy choice for any diet. They also contain a lot of vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and potassium. However, lima beans are larger and creamier than the smaller and denser pinto beans. Limas have a milder flavor with a nuttier and earthier taste, but they need a longer cooking time due to their denser texture, taking more time to soften.


Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are a yummy and healthy option instead of pinto beans. They come from the Middle East and have been traded worldwide for a long time. Ancient Egyptians were likely the first to grow these bright yellow peas. They have an earthy and nutty taste, similar to pinto beans in color. However, chickpeas can be a bit plain by themselves, so add tasty flavors when cooking with them. You can use chickpeas instead of pinto beans in salads and soups.

Black-Eyed Peas

Black-eyed peas, smaller and milder than pinto beans, work well as a substitute in various recipes. They offer a slightly nutty flavor and a creamy texture that complements different ingredients. Furthermore, black-eyed peas provide a steady supply of protein, fiber, and essential nutrients.

Anasazi Beans

Anasazi beans are a great alternative to pinto beans. It has a similar taste and texture with the same nutritional benefits. What sets them apart is the mottled pattern of white, burgundy, and brown, enhancing the visual appeal of the dishes. Anasazi beans also have a slightly nutty flavor that goes well with various seasonings. When cooking, they make a tasty side dish with garlic, onions, and spices, and can be mashed for deliciously nutty refried beans.

Pinto Bean Substitutes: Key Criteria to Consider

When searching for a replacement for pinto beans, consider specific criteria to ensure the substitute suits your recipe. Here are some factors to remember:


Consider the texture when seeking a substitute for pinto beans. Pinto beans have a unique firm yet creamy texture, so choose alternatives like black beans, navy beans, or kidney beans with a similar feel.


When seeking a pinto bean substitute, consider flavor. Pinto beans have a unique nutty and earthy taste, so opt for alternatives like black beans and black-eyed peas with a similar flavor.


Size matters when choosing a substitute for pinto beans since they are medium-sized. Opt for substitutes like navy beans, great northern beans, and cannellini beans, as they share a similar size.

Cooking Time

Consider cooking time when choosing a substitute for pinto beans. Pick alternatives like black beans and kidney beans, as they have a similar cooking time to pinto beans.

Unique Flavor

For a unique flavor, try Borlotti or Anasazi beans. They have a slightly sweet and nutty taste, different from pinto beans but great in many recipes. When choosing a substitute for pinto beans, think about texture, flavor, size, cooking time, and any unique flavors. Find one that works well in your recipe with the same tasty flavor and texture as pinto beans.

Pinto Bean Substitutes in Specific Dishes: Tips for Flavorful Results

When replacing pinto beans in various dishes, consider the flavor, texture, and appearance of the dish. Here are suggestions for different cuisines and dishes:

Mexican Cuisine

Pinto beans are common in Mexican dishes like refried beans and chili. For a substitute, try black beans or kidney beans; they have a similar texture and flavor.

Italian Cuisine

Cannellini beans are often used in Italian dishes like pasta and fagioli. For a pinto bean substitute, cannellini beans work well, offering a mild flavor and creamy texture in soups and stews.

Boston Baked Beans

Navy beans are ideal for Boston baked beans, a classic American dish. They share a texture and flavor similar to pinto beans.

Quinoa Chili

For quinoa chili, black beans make a good substitute for pinto beans. They have a similar texture and flavor.

Poroto Frutilla

For poroto frutilla, a traditional Chilean dish, kidney beans work well as a substitute for pinto beans.

Frijol Pinto

In frijol pinto, a traditional Mexican dish with pinto beans, black beans can be used as a substitute, providing a similar texture and flavor.

Important Tip: When choosing a substitute, consider the dish’s flavor, texture, and appearance.


Types of Pinto Beans?

Yes, like Chico, Pawnee, Rio Zape, and Tepary. The Chico is common in grocery stores; all types taste similar.

Great Northern vs. Pinto Beans?

Great Northern beans are smaller, cream-colored, with a mild flavor and slightly firmer texture than pintos, suitable for soups, stews, and casseroles.

Pinto Beans vs. Kidney Beans?

No, kidney beans are larger, tougher-skinned, and red. Despite differences, they’re a common substitute in Mexican cuisine.

Cannellini vs. Pinto Beans?

No, cannellini beans are white kidney beans. Pinto beans are often a substitute, being more readily available.


Various beans make excellent substitutes for pinto beans in different recipes. Each bean brings its distinct flavor and texture, so picking the right one is crucial for your dish. Whether you prefer a milder or more robust bean, there’s a substitute that can suit your preferences.

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