Pinto beans are a staple in Mexican cuisine and have become popular around the world.
They’re easy to prepare, full of flavor, and packed with protein.
But what happens if you don’t have any pinto beans on hand?
There are plenty of tasty substitutes that can be used in their place.
From black beans to chickpeas, here are 11 of the best substitutes for pinto beans that will help you create delicious dishes without breaking the bank.
What Are Pinto Beans?
Pinto beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are a type of legume native to Central and South America.
They are small, oval-shaped beans with a mottled brown and beige skin.
Pinto beans have a mild flavor and creamy texture when cooked, making them popular in many dishes around the world.
Pinto beans can be eaten on their own or used as an ingredient in soups, stews, salads, burritos, tacos, refried beans, chili con carne and other Mexican dishes.
They are also often used as an alternative to meat due to their high protein content.
Pinto beans contain dietary fiber which helps promote healthy digestion and reduce cholesterol levels.
Additionally, they provide essential vitamins such as folate and magnesium which help support bone health.
The 11 Best Substitutes for Pinto Beans
Pinto beans are a popular ingredient in many dishes, but they can be hard to find in some places.
If you’re looking for an alternative, here are eleven substitutes that will still give the same great flavor and texture:
1. Black Beans
Black beans are about the size of a pea, up to 1/2-inch long, with the slightly less pronounced boat shape common to kidney beans.
They have a satiny black skin and a white center.
Black beans are enjoyed by many cultures around the world, and are packed with flavor.
- Cooking With Black Beans: It can be helpful to make a big batch of beans and incorporate them into meals throughout the week. For breakfast, black beans are often enjoyed mixed with eggs or served alongside eggs, rice, and tortillas. Black beans are delicious cold in a salad, mashed as a dip, or mixed into a veggie burger. For heartier fare, black beans and rice is a classic, black bean chili is a popular variation on a beloved dish, and black bean soup is healthy and filling.
- Taste: Black beans are soft, creamy, and mild. They don’t have an overwhelming flavor which is why they work so well in many dishes – they take on flavor from salt and other ingredients that they’re cooked with. They also offer plenty of fiber for your diet!
2. Kidney Beans
Kidney beans are a type of legume that is shaped like a kidney.
They have a dark red skin and creamy white flesh, and can be purchased either dried or canned.
They are popular in many dishes around the world, including chili con carne, baked beans, and refried beans.
- Cooking With Kidney Beans: Dried kidney beans should be soaked overnight before cooking to reduce their cooking time. Once cooked, they can be used in salads or as an ingredient for soups and stews. Canned kidney beans are already cooked so they do not need to be soaked prior to use; simply drain them before adding them to your dish.
- Taste: Kidney beans have a slightly sweet flavor with earthy undertones. Their texture is soft but firm when cooked properly, making them ideal for chili con carne or other hearty dishes that require the legumes to hold their shape during cooking.
3. Cannellini Beans
Cannellini beans, also known as white kidney beans, are a type of legume native to Central and South America.
They have a mild flavor and creamy texture that make them popular in Italian cooking.
- Cooking With Cannellini Beans: Cannellini beans can be used in a variety of dishes such as soups, stews, salads, and casseroles. They are typically cooked with aromatics like garlic, onion, celery, carrots, and herbs. When making soup or stew they should be added at the beginning of cooking so they can absorb all the flavors from the other ingredients. For salads or casseroles they can be cooked separately before adding them to the dish.
- Taste: Cannellini beans have a mild flavor with earthy undertones that pairs well with other savory ingredients like tomatoes and herbs. Their creamy texture makes them great for mashing into dips or purees for sandwiches or toast.
Lentils are a type of legume that is small, round and flat.
They come in many different colors such as brown, green, yellow and red.
Lentils have a nutty flavor and can be used in soups, salads or cooked as a side dish.
- Cooking With Lentils: There are many ways to cook lentils. The most common way is to simmer them in water or broth until they’re tender but not mushy. This usually takes about 30 minutes for green or brown lentils and 15 minutes for red lentils. You can also add spices or herbs during the cooking process to enhance their flavor. For an easy side dish, try sautéing cooked lentils with garlic, onions and vegetables like carrots, celery or spinach.
- Taste: Lentils have a mild earthy flavor with nutty undertones that pairs well with other flavors like garlic, onion and spices like cumin and coriander. They also absorb the flavors of whatever they’re cooked with so you can get creative when it comes to seasoning your dishes!
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a type of legume that is native to the Mediterranean region.
They have a nutty flavor and creamy texture when cooked.
They come in both dried and canned forms, making them a versatile ingredient for many dishes.
- Cooking With Chickpeas: Dried chickpeas need to be soaked overnight before cooking. After soaking, they can be boiled or pressure cooked until tender. Canned chickpeas can simply be rinsed and used in recipes without having to cook them first. Chickpeas are often used in salads, soups, stews, curries, hummus and falafel. Roasted chickpeas make an excellent snack when seasoned with salt and spices like cumin or chili powder.
- Taste: Chickpeas have a mild nutty flavor with slightly sweet undertones. Their texture is creamy yet firm when cooked properly which makes them great for adding to salads or using as an alternative to meat in veggie burgers or tacos.
6. Cranberry Beans
Cranberry beans, also known as borlotti beans, are a type of legume that originated in Central and South America.
They are medium-sized, with a mottled pinkish-brown color and white streaks.
The beans have a creamy texture when cooked and an earthy flavor.
- Cooking With Cranberry Beans: Cranberry beans can be used in soups, stews, salads, chili, or other dishes where you would use pinto beans. Dried cranberry beans must be soaked before cooking; it’s best to soak them overnight so they cook faster and more evenly. Once soaked, the cooking time is about 1 hour for dried cranberry beans on the stovetop or in an Instant Pot®. You can also buy canned cranberry beans which will cut down on your cooking time significantly.
- Taste: Cranberry beans have an earthy flavor with nutty undertones and a creamy texture when cooked properly. They pair well with bold flavors like garlic and herbs such as rosemary or thyme.
7. Great northern beans
Great northern beans are a white, oval-shaped bean that is larger than navy beans, but smaller than lima beans.
They have a mild flavor and creamy texture when cooked.
They are an excellent source of dietary fiber and protein, making them a great choice for vegetarians or vegans looking to add more plant-based proteins to their diet.
- Cooking With Great Northern Beans: Great northern beans can be used in place of other white beans such as cannellini or navy beans in recipes. For added flavor, soak the dried beans overnight before cooking them with herbs and spices like bay leaves, garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, oregano leaves, cumin seeds, and red pepper flakes. When cooking with canned great northern beans it’s best to rinse them off first before adding them to your recipe. This helps reduce the sodium content of the dish.
- Recipe Ideas: Great northern beans can be used in soups and stews like chili or minestrone soup; they also make a delicious side dish when cooked with aromatics like onion and garlic; they’re perfect for salads; they can even be blended into hummus! Try making some baked falafel using great northerns as an alternative to chickpeas!
8. Navy beans
Navy beans, also known as haricot beans, are small white legumes that have a mild flavor and creamy texture.
They are about the size of a pea and have a slightly oval shape.
Navy beans are versatile and can be used in many dishes such as soups, stews, salads, casseroles, side dishes and more.
- Cooking With Navy Beans: Soaking navy beans overnight before cooking is recommended to reduce cooking time. When ready to cook them they should be boiled for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Once cooked they can be added to any dish you like such as soups, stews, salads or side dishes. You can also mash them up with some seasonings to make delicious bean burgers or dip recipes!
- Where To Buy: Navy beans can be found at most grocery stores in the canned goods section or dry goods aisle. You can also find them online from specialty food retailers like Amazon or local farmers markets if available in your area.
9. Adzuki beans
Adzuki beans, also known as azuki beans or aduki beans, are small red legumes that have been a part of Asian cuisine for centuries.
They are a type of bean native to East Asia and their name is derived from the Japanese word for “small bean”.
Adzuki beans are most commonly used in sweet dishes but can also be used in savory dishes.
- Cooking With Adzuki Beans: Adzuki beans can be cooked on the stovetop with water and salt, or they can be pressure-cooked to reduce cooking time. Once cooked, they can be mashed into a paste and used as a filling for dumplings or pastries. The paste can also be sweetened with sugar and served as a dessert. Additionally, adzuki beans can be added to soups or stews for extra flavor and texture.
- Where To Buy: You may find adzuki beans at your local health food store or international market if you live near one. You may also find them online at specialty stores such as Amazon or Thrive Market.
10. Anasazi beans
Anasazi beans, also known as Jacob’s Cattle Beans, are a type of heirloom bean that is native to the southwestern United States.
They are small and oval-shaped with a mottled pink and white color.
Anasazi beans have a nutty flavor and creamy texture when cooked.
- Cooking With Anasazi Beans: Anasazi beans can be used in many dishes such as soups, stews, salads, chilis, burritos, tacos, or refried beans. They cook quickly compared to other types of dried beans so they don’t require pre-soaking before cooking. To cook them simply rinse the beans then add them to boiling water or broth and simmer for about 45 minutes until tender.
- Common Uses: Anasazi beans are often used in southwestern dishes such as chili con carne or posole stew. They can also be used in place of pinto beans in recipes such as refried beans or black bean dip. The creamy texture makes them great for baking into breads or muffins too!
11. Lima beans
Lima beans, also known as butter beans, are a type of legume that grows in pods.
They are about the size of a fingernail and range from light green to creamy white in color.
The most common variety is the Fordhook lima bean which has a mild flavor and starchy texture.
- Cooking With Lima Beans: Lima beans can be cooked on their own or used in soups, stews, salads, casseroles, or side dishes. They can be boiled or steamed for 10-15 minutes until tender and then seasoned with salt and herbs such as rosemary or thyme. For an added flavor boost they can also be sautéed with garlic and onions before boiling.
- Common Uses: Lima beans are often used as a thickener for soups and stews due to their high starch content. They are also commonly mashed into dips such as hummus or pureed into sauces like pesto. In addition to being eaten on their own they can also be mixed into other dishes such as quinoa bowls or burrito fillings for added protein and fiber content.
Are cannellini beans the same as pinto beans?
No, cannellini beans and pinto beans are not the same. Pinto beans are Mexican in heritage and have a mottled, red-brown skin.
Cannellini beans, on the other hand, are Italian and have a creamy white color. Pinto beans typically take longer to cook than cannellini beans, and they are typically used in Mexican dishes like refried beans, while cannellini beans are used in more Italian-style dishes such as soups and stews.
While both types of beans are a great source of protein, the flavors and textures of cannellini and pinto beans are distinct and different from one another, making them ideal for different types of recipes.
Are pinto beans the same as kidney beans?
No, pinto beans and kidney beans are not the same. Kidney beans have a dense, meaty texture and a slightly sweet flavor, while pinto beans have a creamy texture and a more earthy flavor.
Despite these differences in taste, you can still substitute one bean type for the other in recipes, depending on the desired flavor.
Because of their diverse flavors, pinto beans and kidney beans are both featured in a variety of recipes, making them popular choices in many kitchens.
Are pinto and borlotti beans the same?
No, pinto beans and borlotti beans are not the same. Borlotti beans, also known as cranberry beans or cacahuate beans, are a type of bean related to kidney beans. They are popular in Italy and Mexico, and are recognizable for their dappled white and pink color when dried.
When cooked, they resemble pinto beans in color and look similar to a pinkish brown. However, the taste and texture of borlotti beans are distinct from pinto beans, with a nuttier flavor and a firmer, meatier texture.
Can you substitute pinto beans for chili beans?
Yes, you can substitute pinto beans for chili beans in recipes. Pinto beans offer a healthier alternative to canned beans, as they are lower in sodium and have a one-to-one ratio when used as a substitution. They are also a great option for those who prefer to use a more natural ingredient in their meals.
Pinto beans are a great substitute for chili beans and can be used in a variety of recipes to add flavor and nutrition.
In conclusion, pinto beans are a great option for adding flavor and texture to your dishes.
But if you don’t have pinto beans on hand, there are plenty of other beans and legumes that can be used as a substitute.
The best substitutes for pinto beans are black beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, lentils, chickpeas, cranberry beans, great northern beans, navy beans, adzuki beans, anasazi beans, and lima beans.
Each of these substitutes has its own unique flavor and texture, so you can experiment to find the perfect bean for your dish.
Using beans and legumes as a substitute for pinto beans allows you to explore the wide variety of flavors and textures available in the world of vegetarian cuisine.
The 11 Best Substitutes for Pinto Beans
- Black Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Cannellini Beans
- Cranberry Beans
- Great northern beans
- Navy beans
- Adzuki beans
- Anasazi beans
- Lima beans
- Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
- Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
Jenny has always been passionate about cooking, and she uses her platform to share her joy of food with others. Her recipes are easy to follow, and she loves giving tips and tricks to help others create their own unique culinary creations.