We’re often asked about the difference between black beans and pinto beans. Even more often, we’re asked why we don’t carry pinto beans. Although pintos are one of the most popular beans in the US, we’ve opted to carry more unique heirloom varieties, ones that are not readily available in grocery stores. Several of our varieties, like Peruano and Rio Zape (pictured above), can easily be substituted in any recipe calling for pintos (and we think contribute a more rich and interesting flavor).
Whatever your interest in these differences, we share some thoughts on both these varieties so you can decide what works best for you based on your own taste and cooking and nutritional needs.
Both Pinto and black beans have been a staple of Latin American cuisine for centuries. Black beans are also known as turtle beans, black turtle beans, black Mexican beans, and Tampico beans and are most prevalent in Mexican, Brazilian, and Cuban cooking and the cajun and creole dishes of South Louisiana. Pinto beans also originate from Central and South America and are found in many Mexican and Tex-Mex recipes.
Black beans are described as having a sweet and slightly earthy or mushroom flavor that cook well with chilis, garlic, cumin, and onion. Pinto beans, on the other hand, are described as having a nuttier, subtler flavor that takes on more of the flavor of whatever it’s paired with.
Both Pinto and black beans are a good source of protein and fiber, contain several essential vitamins and minerals, and are low in fat and cholesterol. Each, however, has a slightly different nutritional profile. Whereas black beans are rich in B1 and B9 vitamins, essential for nerve health, Pintos are rich in Magnesium and Iron, essential for blood and bone health.
Black beans are oval shaped and the size of a pea. The skins are black and the insides when cooked are white and creamy. Pinto beans are slightly larger and have a mottled brown and white appearance, much like a Pinto horse but the word “Pinto” means “painted” in Spanish. Black beans retain their black appearance when cooked while Pintos turn pinkish.
Either bean works well in many of the same dishes, such as tostadas, soups, chilis, and burritos. So, in the end, the difference really does come down to preference. We love our Black beans for their rich, nutty flavor and their ability to retain their shape under extreme prolonged heat.
Also, in the event you think a black bean is just a black bean, we encourage you to try ours. Grown in the Finger Lake region, they have a deliciously earthy flavor and benefit from the incredible soil quality in that region, influenced by its glacial past. Once you start thinking about “terroir” for food and not only wine, you might pick up on different flavor notes.
For ideas on what to cook with various varieties, visit our Recipe section. And, we’re not ruling out that we’ll never carry pintos - they’re as popular as they are for good reason. Maybe we just haven’t found our right pinto. Yet.