Black Beans vs Pinto Beans

Two of the most popular beans in Mexican cuisine, we’re talking black beans vs pinto beans today. Let’s discuss nutrition, taste, ways to use them and why meatless diets need to include both beans.

Cooked black beans on a spoon.

Black Beans vs Pinto Beans

If you’re a foodie, vegan, vegetarian, or just a fan of Mexican cuisine, then you’ve likely eaten both black beans and pinto beans in your culinary adventures.

So what’s the difference between these two popular legumes?

Do they have different nutritional profiles? What about taste?

Today, we’re talking frijoles and comparing black beans vs pinto beans to uncover which one is best for our health and taste buds!

Both black beans and pinto beans have been an integral part of Mexican cuisine, but are also quite popular in American and Tex-Mex cuisines, and some Latin American and South America cuisines too.

Dried lentils in a small brown bowl.
Dried Brown Lentils

What Are Legumes

The words beans, legumes, and pulses all refer to the same thing.

 …legume refers to any plant from the Fabaceae family that would include its leaves, stems, and pods.* 

Everything from black beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans, and white beans are legumes. As are chickpeas, lentils, soybeans and even peanuts!

White beans include navy beans, cannellini beans, butter beans, and great northern beans.

A brown bowl filled with cooked Mexican black beans and a sprig of fresh cilantro on top.
Mexican Frijoles Negro Recipe

What are Black Beans?

Black beans or frijoles negros (also known as black turtle beans in English) are small glossy legumes that originated in Peru and Latin America.

Frijol negro are oval-shaped beans that are black with a small white spot in the center.

They have a mild flavor with earthy undertones, a thick-ish skin and a soft texture when cooked — though they are firmer than pinto beans when cooked.

Black beans contain high levels of protein, dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin C and B vitamins making them incredibly nutritious.

They are also low in calories and fat-free – so, perfect for vegans, vegetarian or anyone wanting to follow a healthy diet.

In authentic Mexican cooking, black beans are used around the country but tend to be more commonly used in the traditional dishes of Southern and Coastal Mexican cuisine.

My family is from the central state of Jalisco and we didn’t grow up eating black beans, we grew up on pinto beans.

Dried pinto beans to make Mexican pinto beans inside a barro mug.
Dried pinto beans to make Mexican pinto beans inside a barro mug.

What are Pinto Beans?

Pinto beans (which means “painted” in Spanish) originate from Mexico and Central America.

Frijol pinto are oval shape and a cream or tanned color with speckles of darker brown tones. Don’t confuse them with cranberry beans.

Pinto beans turn an even light brown color once cooked. They have a mild flavor with nutty undertones and a creamy texture when cooked.

Like black beans, they too are a rich source of protein, dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin B and Vitamin C — but, pinto beans are slightly more nutrient-dense than black beans.

Both black beans and pinto beans can also improve blood sugar levels (great for diabetics) as well as reduce bad cholesterol levels – making them an excellent addition to any meatless and healthy diet.

Pinto beans are perhaps the most popular bean or “Mexican beans”, though there is a big variety in the country, but specially outside of Mexico pinto beans are greatly associated with it’s cuisine.

Black beans inside the vine.
Young Black Beans

Black Beans & Pinto Beans In Mexican Cuisine

Black beans and pinto beans have both been used extensively in Mexican cuisine going back centuries.

They both have been an integral ingredients in traditional dishes, and are a staple ingredient even today.

Although each type of bean has distinct flavors these two common bean varieties pair perfectly to give Mexican cuisine it’s unique flavors and traditions.

Many of the more popular dishes in Mexico include beans.

Mexican Bean Recipes

Black bean and Oaxaca cheese empanadas on a blue and white plate.

Black Beans vs Pinto Beans Nutrition

Black beans and pinto beans are both highly nutritious and low calorie legumes.

They both are an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, making them an ideal choice for vegans or vegetarians looking to supplement their diets with plant-based proteins.

Both types of beans contain high amounts of folate, potassium, magnesium, copper, iron and phosphorus.

When it comes to calories black beans have slightly less than pinto beans. In 1/2 cup cooked black beans it contains 114 calories compared to the 123 calories in 1/2 cup cooked pinto beans.

Black beans slightly more of dietary fiber and protein than pinto beans.

How to Make Mexican Beans from Scratch

Health Benefits Of Black Beans Vs Pinto Beans

Both black beans and pinto beans are known for their numerous health benefits.

Eating either type of bean regularly can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as help control blood sugar levels due to its low glycemic index (GI). The GI measures how quickly foods raise blood glucose levels after eating them; foods with a low GI release glucose slowly over time rather than all at once, thus moderating the insulin response in the body.

Both types of legumes have been linked with reductions in cholesterol levels owing to their high soluble fiber content which helps bind bile acids in the gut before they are reabsorbed into the body.

For those looking for an additional boost in certain nutrients such as copper or phosphorus levels then consuming either type of bean would be beneficial; black beans contain more copper at 0.2 milligrams per 150 gram portion size whereas pinto beans have higher levels of phosphorus at 91 milligrams per same serving size.

Mexican terracotta plate filled with refried black beans and Mexican purslane dish called verdolagas.
Verdolagas en Salsa Verde (made vegan)

Why Should Vegan and Vegetarians Eat Black Beans and Pinto Beans

If you’re asking yourself, “should I incorporate both types of beans as part of a meatless diet plan”?

Definitely, yes!

Legumes generally offer a great source of plant-based proteins which makes them an ideal choice for those looking to supplement their vegetarian and vegan diets with essential nutrients & vitamins!

A white and blue bowl filled with Mexican frijoles charros which is a cowboy bean stew.
Frijoles Charros Recipe

Benefits to Vegans and Vegetarians Who Eat Beans Regularly

There are many benefits to regularly eating beans for vegans and vegetarians.

Beans are a great source of plant-based protein, providing essential amino acids that the body needs.

They’re also high in fiber, which helps promote regular digestion, and can help keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Eating beans helps provide important vitamins and minerals, such as iron and zinc. And since they’re packed with antioxidants, beans can help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals.

Black beans and pinto beans are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
  • Vitamin B6
  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Phosphorus
  • Folate
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
A vegan mollete Mexican open faced sandwich with refried beans and melted cheese and topped with salsa.

How to Use Black Beans

In Mexican cuisine, black beans are most commonly used in the costal cuisines and also those of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Dishes like frijol negro colado is quite common in the states of Yucatan and Campeche. These are cooked beans which are blended to create a very smooth and almost a black bean soup like texture. These are served as a side dish.

Black beans are also popular for making frijol con puerco (a pork-bean stew), or they are also mashed and used on panuchos, salbutes, spread on tortillas for tacos and tostadas.

Additionally, in Veracruz there is a dish called huevos tirados, which are scrambled eggs cooked with refried black beans. It’s quite the delicious and filling breakfast.

Another common use for black beans is enfrijoladas, which are like enchiladas but instead of a chile sauce, a creamy bean sauce is used.

Black beans make an excellent filling for empanadas and also to salads, soups, or stews due to their soft yet firm texture when cooked.

One of my favorite lazy meals when I have refried beans in the refrigerator, is to make arroz con frijoles. It’s a common dish in the city of Chetumal, where it’s white rice with black beans and the rice cooked in coconut milk. Being a border city with the country of Belize, it’s a dish shared by those neighbors.

Finally, they make an amazing burger patty – either mashed up with seasoning or whole – served on buns with all your favorite fixings!

Try These Black Bean Recipes

Authentic Mexican refried beans inside a small yellow bowl.
Authentic Mexican refried beans inside a small yellow bowl.

How to Use Pinto Beans

Similar to black beans, pinto beans can be used in soups, stews, enfrijoladas, and refried beans.

Serve them as a side dish or as a main dish. These beans too can be used for making veggie burgers.

In the United States these beans are highly associated with Mexican cuisine. Perhaps one of the most popular way eaten there is as refried beans.

You can also add them into burritos, use as a vegan tacos filling, make and American 7 layer vegan bean dip.

Try These Pinto Bean Recipes

F.A.Q About Black and Pinto Beans

Are Black Bean and Pinto Beans Good for You?

Absolutely! Both types of beans offer essential nutrients like protein, dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and C and B. Additionally, they help reduce bad cholesterol levels, improve blood sugar levels due to their lower glycemic index rating so helping to manage diabetes better too!

Are Black Beans Better Than Pinto Beans

Nutritionally speaking they are very similar. Pinto beans are slightly healthier than black. But either are an excellent choice for healthy lifestyles. It really comes down to personal preferences.

Which Tastes Better Pinto Beans or Black Beans

Again this is a personal choice. I think the better question is what the beans will be used for. One is interchangeable for the other, but it’s up to you.

What Takes Longer to Cook Black Beans or Pinto Beans

Black beans take slightly longer to cook than pinto beans because they are generally harder beans. On the stovetop un-soaked pinto beans can take 2 hours, whereas un-soaked black beans can take up to 3 hours. Even in the pressure cooker, they have different cooking times.

What’s The Best Way to Store Cooked Pinto Beans and Black Beans

Allow them to come to room temperature first, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They’ll keep fresh for 5 days. Alternatively they can be frozen in a freezer safe container for 3 months.

How to Store Dry Black Beans and Pinto Beans

Dry beans are best stored in airtight container in a cool and dry kitchen cabinet. Try to use them within a couple of months of purchasing. While they won’t go bad, the longer they sit the longer their cooking time will be.

Where Can You Buy Black and Pinto Beans

Most grocery stores will carry both beans in dry and canned form. Even Amazon carries both forms too.

A plate of vegan enfrijoladas with vegetables and cheese.
How To Make Vegetarian and Vegan Enfrijoladas

So Which Bean is Better

Both black beans and pinto beans offer incredible nutrition benefits – but with slight variations in their respective nutritional value.

The type of bean you choose is up to you as well as what recipe you want to use it for, ultimately the options for cooking methods are endless and all depends on your personal preferences.

That being said, both bean types offer amazing nutritional benefits that make excellent additions to any healthy vegetarian and vegan meal plan.

So go ahead and explore all the different ways of cooking using both types of beans, and don’t just stick to Mexican flavors, explore international ones too.

Buen provecho, amigos!

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