The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Perfect Substitute for Pinto Beans

The best substitute for pinto beans

Pinto beans are a popular staple in many homes and cuisines around the world. However, there may be times when you need to find a suitable substitute for pinto beans. Whether you’re looking for an alternative due to digestive issues, unavailability, or simply want to try something different, there are several options to consider. In this article, we will explore the best pinto bean substitutes in terms of taste, texture, and recipe use.

What are pinto beans?

Pinto beans are widely recognized as one of the most common beans in North America, as well as Central and South America. They are medium in size and have a mottled brown and beige appearance when dry. Once cooked, they turn a solid light tan or beige color.
While pinto beans are most commonly known as pinto beans, in South America they are also called “poroto frutilla” or “strawberry beans” due to their pinkish hue when cooked. They are sometimes confused with other beans such as cranberry or borlotti beans.

Best Pinto Bean Substitutes

When it comes to finding a suitable substitute for pinto beans, there are several options. Here are seven of the best substitutes, along with their similarities and differences:

  1. Black beans:
    Black beans are a popular alternative to pinto beans, especially in South and Central American cuisine. They have a similar flavor and are easy to prepare. Keep in mind that black beans can darken the color of foods they are cooked with.
  2. Navy beans:
    Navy beans, also known as Boston beans, are small beans with a mild and creamy flavor. They are often used in dishes such as Boston baked beans and work well as a substitute for pinto beans in recipes that don’t require the bean to be the centerpiece.
  3. Borlotti beans:
    Also known as cranberry beans or Roman beans, Borlotti beans are similar in size and appearance to pinto beans. They have a creamy texture and are popular in Italian and Spanish cuisine. They are a great substitute when a buttery quality is desired in a dish.
  4. Red beans:
    Red beans, such as adzuki beans, have a slightly sweet flavor and are often used in dishes with sweet sauces or paired with sweet root vegetables. They are small and soft, making them a good substitute for pinto beans in salads, tacos, or refried beans.
  5. Kidney Beans:
    Although kidney beans are different in size and texture from pinto beans, they are often used interchangeably in Mexican cooking. They are larger and firmer than pinto beans, making them ideal for dishes that require longer cooking times or added texture.
  6. White Beans:
    Great Northern white beans have a delicate flavor and a less firm texture than kidney beans. Popular in French and Mediterranean cuisines, they work well in a variety of recipes, especially when paired with vegetables or pureed.
  7. Cannellini beans:
    Cannellini beans, also known as white kidney beans, are similar in size and consistency to kidney beans. They are widely used in Italian cuisine and can be a great substitute for pinto beans in soups or pasta dishes, adding heart to the recipe.


While pinto beans are a versatile and widely used bean, there are several alternatives that can be substituted in recipes. Black beans, navy beans, borlotti beans, red beans, kidney beans, white beans, and cannellini beans all offer unique flavors and textures that can enhance your dishes. Whether you’re looking for a similar taste or a different culinary experience, these pinto bean substitutes are worth exploring. Experiment with different bean varieties to discover new flavors and create delicious dishes.


Why would I need a pinto bean substitute?

There are several reasons why you might need a pinto bean substitute. It could be personal preference, dietary restrictions, unavailability of pinto beans, or simply wanting to try something new in your recipes.

How do I choose the best pinto bean substitute?

When choosing a pinto bean substitute, consider factors such as taste, texture, and the specific recipe you’re making. Some substitutes, like black beans, have a similar flavor and are easy to prepare, while others, like navy beans, have a milder flavor and creamy texture.

Can I use any bean to replace pinto beans?

While many beans can be used to replace pinto beans, it’s important to consider the specific characteristics of each bean. Some beans, like black beans and kidney beans, are more versatile and can be used in a wide range of recipes, while others, like borlotti beans, have a specific flavor profile that may work best in certain dishes.

Will substituting pinto beans change the flavor of my recipe?

Replacing pinto beans with another type of bean may slightly change the taste of your recipe. Each bean has its own unique flavor profile, so it’s important to consider how the substitute bean will complement the other ingredients in your dish. In most cases, however, the change in flavor will be subtle and may even add a new dimension to your recipe.

Can I substitute dried beans for canned beans in recipes?

Yes, you can substitute canned beans for dried beans in recipes. Canned beans are precooked and have a softer texture than dried beans. Keep in mind that canned beans may have added sodium, so adjust the seasoning accordingly. Also note that cooking times may vary when using canned beans, as they require less cooking time than dried beans.

Are pinto bean substitutes as nutritious?

In terms of nutritional value, most beans, including pinto bean substitutes, provide similar amounts of protein and fiber. However, there may be slight differences in calorie content and micronutrient profiles. It’s always a good idea to check the specific nutritional information of the pinto bean substitute you’re using to make sure it meets your dietary needs.