Black Beans vs. Pinto Beans: What Is the Difference between These Beans?


Holding up the line at Chipotle is a national epidemic, which is a problem because all you want to do is get in and out ASAP. So, what’s the holdup? The puzzling dilemma of black beans vs. pinto beans: Which is healthier?

Nutritionally speaking, you can’t go wrong with either. Both varieties of legume are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein that can all contribute to healthy diet.

Black Beans vs. Pinto Beans: Appearance

On the surface, the most distinguishing factor between black and pinto beans is their color. Raw pinto beans have a pinkish-mauve color that turns brownish when they’re cooked. Black beans, on the other hand, are neon green! Just kidding, their name is self-descriptive. And the beans maintain their shiny black appearance during the cooking process.

Another difference between the beans is their shape. Black beans, also called “turtle beans,” are medium-sized ovals. Pintos are a little bit longer and wider.

Origins of Black and Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are a staple of Mexican cooking, yet it’s believed they originated in the South American country of Peru. Through trade and migration, they entered North America.

Black beans are also popular in South and Central America, but they’re common in cuisines from the Caribbean and India as well. They seem to have originated in South America and made their way around the world during 15th century colonialism.

What Is the Flavor Difference between Black and Pinto Beans?

Other than color, the biggest difference between pinto and black beans is their taste. The best thing, however, is that they are versatile and go well with many of the same pairings—hence the difficulty at the Chipotle counter!

If you’re looking for something a little more rich, dense, and hearty, black beans are the better choice. If you’re after a creamier, earthier, and more rounded flavor, pick up the pinto. Both go well with many of the same spices, seasonings, and veggies, so mix and match if you like.


Black Beans vs. Pinto Beans: Texture

Depending on what you’re making and the experience you want when dining, you’re going to want to choose your beans rather carefully. Pinto beans will lend themselves better to items like spreads, fillings, and dips because of their soft, creamy texture. Pinto beans are also the go-to option for refried beans.

Black beans are harder, sturdier, and maintain their shape and consistency at high temperatures and moistures. They’ll have a little more of a “meatiness” to them and are often included in rice, soups, salads, dips, and more to add texture.

Of course, you can always add both to get the best of both worlds!

Black and Pinto Beans Nutrition Facts

Beans are extremely healthful and nutrient-dense, so you really can’t go wrong by choosing one over the other. Both feature nutrients that promote heart health and proper digestion, lower cholesterol, and contain muscle-building protein and plenty of vitamins and minerals to aid optimal body function.

When it comes to the calories in pinto beans vs. black beans, the difference is negligible. Pintos have 18 more calories per cup, rendering them effectively equal.

Here’s a breakdown for each.

Black Beans Nutrition per 1 Cup* Pinto Beans Nutrition per 1 Cup*
227 calories 245 calories
15 grams protein 15 grams protein
60% fiber 62% fiber
20% iron 20% iron
5% calcium 5% calcium
64% folate 74% folate
24% phosphorus 25% phosphorus
6% vitamin B6 20% vitamin B6
17% potassium 21% potassium
30% magnesium 21% magnesium
13% zinc 11% zinc

*Percentages represent recommended daily intakes.

As you can see, the two beans are both nutrient dense, and really, there isn’t a better choice unless you’re really looking to slightly boost your intake of certain mineral or vitamin. Neither will make or break a healthy diet, and if you don’t really like the taste of one, choose the other.

If you like both, the next time you’re at Chipotle, just ask for some of each!

Cuisines for Black and Pinto Beans

Both pinto and black beans can be used in a variety of ways and fit nicely into cuisines from around the world.

Pinto beans are mainstays of South American and Mexican cuisines and are used in refried beans. They are commonly used as a meat substitute in tacos, or as side dish along with meat and rice.

Black beans are steeped in the food history of Cajun, Creole Caribbean, and South and Central American cultures. They are also a popular item in the Southeastern United States (taking root from the above cultures) and used in regional dishes like gumbo.

Black beans are used as a side with rice in many dishes, and are somewhat of a staple in many Central American and South American dishes.

Benefits of Black and Pinto Beans

Both black and pinto beans provide nutrition that can lead to a number of health benefits. The fiber content alone can help with blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.

Let’s take a closer look at why you might want to start including each of these beans into your diet.

Pinto Beans

  • Reduce the risk of heart disease: Pinto beans may help reduce cholesterol, which is a risk factor in heart disease. Studies have shown that one cup each day can lower “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels.
  • Lower breast cancer risk: Fiber may play a big role in cancer risk, and a study on premenopausal women tracking fiber intake suggested that eating more fiber in adolescence and early adulthood offers a significant reduction in breast cancer risk.
  • Fight diabetes: The complex carbohydrate content in pinto beans (or any bean) can prevent fast spikes in blood sugar and insulin response. They also create a feeling of satiety (fullness) that can regulate appetite, glucose, and insulin levels.
  • Boost your fiber intake: Fiber is an extremely important part of a healthy diet, yet many Americans don’t come close to hitting the 20- to 30-gram recommended daily intake. Fiber is a major contributor to the health benefits of both black and pinto beans

Black Beans

  • Improve cardiovascular health: Black beans offer numerous cardiovascular benefits, and a key one is that they reduce inflammation. The high number of antioxidants in black beans, as well as their richness in fiber, contribute to this food being one of the top for heart health.
  • May help protect against cancer: The antioxidants in beans can also make them beneficial in cancer prevention efforts. Black beans in particular seem to have benefits for colon cancer. The deep black color of black beans indicates a high level of antioxidants that can prevent tissue damage from free radicals.
  • Good for digestion: The high fiber content of black beans can aid digestion by keeping your digestive tract clean. It helps push waste out of your system and encourages a healthy balance of gut flora. This can prevent conditions like constipation and IBS, while black beans have also been shown to block oxidative damage (due to free radicals) in the digestive system.

Both black and pinto beans offer several health benefits that will be relatively consistent between the two. Try eating both if you can, but if you don’t like one variety, avoiding it won’t put you at risk of health troubles.

Pinto Beans vs. Black Beans: It’s Not a Competition

When it comes to choosing one over the other, going pinto vs. black bean should come down to personal taste. Each is loaded with nutrition that promotes great health, and each may carry a little more of one or two nutrients than the other.

Both of these beans have plenty to offer and are valuable as part of a healthy diet. So, next time you’re at Chipotle, ask for both or go with whatever you prefer—your health will not suffer by choosing one over the other.

Also read:

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