Black Beans vs Pinto Beans

Beans are a staple in my diet, not only are they inexpensive but you can use them in just about any dish. Yes, even desserts!

Though they’re versatile certain bean varieties are better in some dishes than others. Frequently the question comes up black beans vs pinto beans; when should I use them? And which is healthier?  

As a dietitian, I can offer you my opinion, but ultimately it’s going to come down to which bean do you like best? If you love the flavour and texture of one, then you’re more likely to consistently eat it. I’ll present you with the nutrition breakdown, but my advice is pick the one you love the most!

Both beans offer significant health benefits, including high fiber and protein content, essential vitamins, and minerals, making them excellent choices for a nutritious diet. You can’t go wrong with either pick!

black beans vs pinto beans: Which is healthier?

Where Are They From?

Both black beans and pinto beans have their origins in the Americas. Black beans, also known as turtle beans, are a staple in Latin American cuisine, particularly in Brazil, Cuba, and the Caribbean. 

They have been cultivated for thousands of years and were a crucial part of the diet of the ancient Mesoamerican civilizations​​. 

Pinto beans, on the other hand, are most commonly associated with Mexican cuisine and are widely used across the southwestern United States. They are integral to dishes like refried beans, burritos, and chili​.

What Are They?

Black beans are small, oval-shaped beans with a shiny black exterior. They are known for their dense, meaty texture and slightly sweet flavour. Black beans are often used in dishes like black bean soup, black bean salsa, and various Latin American recipes​​.

Pinto beans are medium-sized, oval beans that are beige with brown speckles when dry. When cooked, they turn a solid light brown or pale pink. They are known for their creamy texture and mild, earthy flavour. Pinto beans are commonly used in refried beans, burritos, and chili, and they are a staple in many Tex-Mex and southwestern dishes.

Are Beans a Fruit or Vegetable?

This might be the most unimportant question but it’s an interesting one (or at least the former Biological Scientists in me thought so).

The answer is beans can technically be considered both a fruit AND a vegetable. One of the rare plant species that exists in both worlds.

Beans are technically considered a legume, a subgroup of vegetables. But botanically, legumes are considered a fruit. Basically they grow in a seed which makes them a fruit.

So they actually do fall into both camps. There’s your next fun fact for a dinner party.

Either way they are loaded with vitamins, minerals and nutrients which I breakdown for you here.

Nutrition Comparison

black beans vs pinto beans comparison chart

Both black beans and pinto beans are nutritious and provide similar macronutrients. Here’s a comparison per 1 cup of cooked beans:

bowl of black beans.

Black Beans

Calories

  • Calories: 227

Macronutrients

  • Protein: 15.2 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 40.8 grams
    • Fiber: 15 grams
    • Sugars: 0.6 grams
  • Fat: 0.9 grams
    • Saturated Fat: 0.2 grams
    • Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1 grams
    • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4 grams

Micronutrients

  • Calcium: 46 mg (4% DV)
  • Iron: 3.6 mg (20% DV)
  • Magnesium: 120 mg (30% DV)
  • Phosphorus: 241 mg (24% DV)
  • Potassium: 611 mg (13% DV)
  • Sodium: 1 mg (0% DV)
  • Zinc: 1.9 mg (17% DV)
  • Copper: 0.4 mg (45% DV)
  • Manganese: 0.8 mg (36% DV)
  • Selenium: 2.1 mcg (4% DV)
  • Folate: 256 mcg (64% DV)
  • Vitamin A: 5 IU (0% DV)
  • Vitamin C: 0 mg (0% DV)
  • Vitamin E: 0.9 mg (5% DV)
  • Vitamin K: 2.8 mcg (4% DV)
  • Thiamin (Vitamin B1): 0.4 mg (35% DV)
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): 0.1 mg (8% DV)
  • Niacin (Vitamin B3): 0.9 mg (6% DV)
  • Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (15% DV)
  • Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5): 0.4 mg (7% DV)

Other Nutrients

  • Choline: 53.2 mg

Pinto beans 

bowl of pinto beans.

They have slightly more calories, carbohydrates, and protein than black beans. However, black beans offer higher levels of magnesium and antioxidants, while pinto beans provide more folate and potassium. 

Here’s a breakdown of some key vitamins and minerals:

Calories

  • Calories: 245

Macronutrients

  • Protein: 15.4 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 44.8 grams
    • Fiber: 15.4 grams
    • Sugars: 0.6 grams
  • Fat: 1.1 grams
    • Saturated Fat: 0.2 grams
    • Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1 grams
    • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4 grams

Micronutrients

  • Calcium: 78 mg (8% DV)
  • Iron: 3.6 mg (20% DV)
  • Magnesium: 85 mg (21% DV)
  • Phosphorus: 251 mg (25% DV)
  • Potassium: 746 mg (16% DV)
  • Sodium: 2 mg (0% DV)
  • Zinc: 1.7 mg (15% DV)
  • Copper: 0.4 mg (42% DV)
  • Manganese: 0.6 mg (27% DV)
  • Selenium: 2.1 mcg (4% DV)
  • Folate: 294 mcg (74% DV)
  • Vitamin A: 0 IU (0% DV)
  • Vitamin C: 0.8 mg (1% DV)
  • Vitamin E: 0.1 mg (1% DV)
  • Vitamin K: 3 mcg (3% DV)
  • Thiamin (Vitamin B1): 0.4 mg (36% DV)
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): 0.1 mg (6% DV)
  • Niacin (Vitamin B3): 0.9 mg (6% DV)
  • Vitamin B6: 0.3 mg (24% DV)
  • Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5): 0.4 mg (7% DV)

Other Nutrients

  • Choline: 53.2 mg

Health Benefits

When people think about beans, chances are they sing that little children’s rhyme we learned as kids, “Beans beans the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot!” (See the fruit/vegetable debate above came in handy). A silly little rhyme, but it’s pretty accurate.

Beans of all varieties are loaded with fiber which will in fact make you more gassy and poop more. But they’re also a good source of protein among the other great nutrients they provide.

Here’s a breakdown of their amazing health benefits!

Black Beans:

  1. High in Antioxidants: Black beans are particularly rich in antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, which are compounds known to reduce inflammation and combat oxidative stress. These antioxidants help protect cells from damage, potentially lowering the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer​.
  2. Cardiovascular Health: The high levels of magnesium and potassium in black beans contribute to heart health by regulating blood pressure and improving circulation. Magnesium is essential for muscle function, including the heart muscle, and potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels​​.
  3. Digestive Health: Black beans are high in dietary fiber, providing about 15 grams per cup. This fiber aids in digestion by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. Additionally, the fiber acts as a prebiotic, supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria​.
  4. Blood Sugar Regulation: The fiber content in black beans also helps regulate blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. This makes black beans an excellent choice for people with diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition​​.
  5. Weight Management: The combination of high protein and fiber content in black beans promotes satiety, helping individuals feel full for longer periods. This can aid in weight management by reducing overall calorie intake​​.

Pinto Beans:

  1. Rich in Folate: Pinto beans are an excellent source of folate (vitamin B9), which is crucial for DNA synthesis and repair. Folate is particularly important for pregnant women, as it supports fetal development and helps prevent neural tube defects​​.
  2. Bone Health: Pinto beans provide higher levels of calcium compared to black beans. Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth and plays a vital role in muscle function and nerve signalling​​.
  3. Digestive Health: Like black beans, pinto beans are high in dietary fiber, which supports digestive health by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. The fiber in pinto beans also acts as a prebiotic, nourishing beneficial gut bacteria​​.
  4. Heart Health: The potassium content in pinto beans helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels, reducing the risk of heart disease. Additionally, the folate in pinto beans helps lower homocysteine levels, an amino acid linked to heart disease when found in high concentrations​.
  5. Blood Sugar Control: The complex carbohydrates in pinto beans provide a steady release of energy, preventing spikes in blood sugar levels. This makes pinto beans beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those looking to manage their blood sugar.

Common Benefits:

Both black beans and pinto beans share several health benefits due to their high protein, fiber, and nutrient content. These benefits include:

  • Weight Management: High fiber and protein content in both beans help promote feelings of fullness and reduce overall calorie intake​.
  • Improved Digestion: Both types of beans support digestive health through their high fiber content, promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation.
  • Chronic Disease Prevention: The antioxidants in black beans and the folate in pinto beans help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer​.
  • Sustainable Protein Source: As plant-based proteins, both black beans and pinto beans are environmentally friendly and contribute to a sustainable diet​.

By including black beans and pinto beans in your diet, you can enjoy a wide range of health benefits while also adding variety and flavour to your meals.

So Are Black Beans or Pinto Beans Healthier?

So after all of that, are black beans or pinto beans healthier? Well black beans has the slight edge in terms of health properties over pinto beans. Though both are incredibly healthy options with great health benefits. You can’t go wrong choosing either one.

Black beans generally contain more protein and fiber per serving, which can be advantageous for muscle maintenance and digestive health. Black beans also have higher levels of certain antioxidants. However, pinto beans are a great source of folate and slightly more carbohydrates, which can be beneficial for energy. 

Ultimately, the “healthier” option is whichever one you will eat more of. My personal preference is pinto beans. I find they have a softer taste to them and I tend to digest them better than black beans.

How to Use Them

Both black beans and pinto beans are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. Black beans are excellent in Latin American cuisine, including soups, salsas, and salads. 

Their firm texture holds up well in hearty dishes and pairs well with spices. Pinto beans, with their creamy texture, are perfect for Mexican-inspired dishes like refried beans, burritos, and chili. 

They are great for mashing and blending into dips and spreads. Both types of beans can be used interchangeably in many recipes, depending on the desired texture and flavor profile. 

Whether you prefer the robust flavor of black beans or the mild, buttery taste of pinto beans, incorporating these beans into your diet is a delicious way to boost nutrition​​.

refried beans in a blue bowl.

Cooking

Both black and pinto beans can be prepared in various ways, including boiling, soaking overnight, or using a pressure cooker. Here are some common cooking methods:

  • Boiling: The classic method that softens beans for various dishes. You can also simply boil them and eat them by themselves.
  • Soaking Overnight: Rehydrates beans and reduces cooking time; also removes indigestible sugars, making beans easier to digest.
  • Quick-Soak Method: Boil the beans for a few minutes, then let them sit for a few hours as a faster alternative to overnight soaking.
  • Slow Cooking: Ideal for tenderizing beans over several hours, perfect for stews.
  • Pressure Cooking: The fastest way to soften beans and it works even without soaking.
  • Baking: Suitable for recipes that require a firmer texture, like bean cakes or casseroles​. Some people will bake black beans into brownies, personally I’m not a huge fan of black beans brownies. They are very dense and heavy. But I’d say it’s worth a try because you may like it.

If you’re having canned beans, make sure that you rinse them VERY WELL! The liquid that they’re stored in tends to make people very gassy. By rinsing them very well in water you can get rid of most of this extra effect.

Taste

Black beans have a robust, earthy flavor that makes them suitable for heartier dishes. They are often used in Latin American cuisine, where their strong flavor complements spices and other bold ingredients. 

Pinto beans have a milder, more buttery taste, which makes them versatile for various recipes without overpowering other ingredients. They are a staple in Mexican cuisine, where their creamy texture enhances dishes like refried beans and burritos​​.

Texture

Black beans have a dense, chewy texture that holds up well in dishes requiring a firmer bean, such as soups, salads, and salsas. Pinto beans, on the other hand, are softer and creamier, making them perfect for mashing into dips or spreading in burritos and tacos. 

The difference in texture can help determine which bean to use depending on the dish you are preparing​.

Final Thoughts

You can get some great health benefits from both types of beans, so don’t feel like because black beans have a slight nutritional benefit that that’s the only choice.

If you like one more than the other then that’s the one that should be in your grocery cart. For myself, I like pinto beans. I could have 10 cans of black beans at home and may only use them once a month. If I want to reap the health benefits, than pinto beans is my better option.

Experiment with both types to see which you prefer in terms of taste and texture, and enjoy the unique benefits each one offers. Let me know in the comments which one you like best!

Frequently Asked Questions

Which bean is more gassy and how to reduce gas from beans?

Black beans tend to produce more gas because they contain higher levels of oligosaccharides, which are broken down by gut bacteria, producing gas. However, soaking beans overnight and discarding the soaking water can reduce these sugars and make both types easier to digest​​.

Are black beans or pinto beans easier to digest?

Both black beans and pinto beans are relatively easy to digest when cooked thoroughly. However, black beans contain higher amounts of fiber and resistant starch, which can make them harder to digest for some individuals. Pinto beans have more lectins, which some people find harder to digest​​.

Can you substitute one for the other in recipes?


While black and pinto beans can sometimes be substituted for each other in recipes, it’s important to consider how the texture and flavour differences will affect the dish. For recipes requiring a firmer bean, black beans are preferable, whereas pinto beans are better suited for dishes needing a creamier consistency​.

By incorporating these additional details and sections, your article will offer a more comprehensive and informative comparison of black beans and pinto beans, catering to a wide range of readers’ interests and needs.

Michelle saari dietitian
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Michelle Saari is a Registered Dietitian based in Canada. She has a Master's Degree in Human Nutritional Sciences and is a passionate advocate for spreading easy to understand, reliable, and trustworthy nutrition information. She is currently a full time online entrepreneur with two nutrition focused websites.

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