Beans are an important part of the human diet and are available in several varieties. The most common ones are kidney beans and black beans.
These two varieties are found in several recipes ranging from chili to soups, wraps, and much more. Their nutritional profile, hearty texture, and ability to absorb flavors make them go well with just about any dish.
But what is the difference between black beans and kidney beans? Kidney beans have a red color, a grainy texture, and an almost flat or slightly sweet flavor. Black beans are smaller, have a shinier exterior when uncooked, have a grainy texture, and taste a bit bland on their own compared to kidney beans.
Of course, there is more to both these beans than just their color and texture. Read on to learn more about the differences between both types of beans, their nutritional information, and how best to use them!
Kidney beans are a mainstay in both the vegan and non-vegan communities because they are extremely versatile, especially when paired with rice.
On their own, kidney beans don’t taste like much. Cooked kidney beans have an earthy and grounded flavor with a soft and grainy texture. They have a beautiful crimson exterior that makes them pop out in any dish.
If cooked properly, kidney beans will retain their shape, lose a bit of color, and also absorb the juices of whatever you add them to which is why they blend so well in almost any dish they are added to.
Take chili as an example, kidney beans add volume, fiber, and a balanced flavor to the gravy. We’ll get to the nutritional information in a bit. First, let’s understand why kidney beans are so widespread compared to other types of beans.
The reason has to do with cultivation and distribution. Historically, kidney beans have been more accessible and readily available in the North American market.
Kidney beans are also mentioned in a lot of old cookbooks which has further cemented their popularity. Central America is known to use kidney beans in many different types of vegetarian and meaty recipes.
You can find them in wraps, tacos, soups, and even in vegan healthy sloppy joes too! They can even be blended and made into kebabs, as is popular in India and other Asian countries.
How To Cook Kidney Beans
The best way to cook kidney beans is to ditch the slow cooker and opt for a plain old pot!
The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, beans contain a protein that doubles as a toxin.
It’s called phytohemagglutinin. This toxin is known to survive in small quantities when cooked in a slow cooker at high heat and shorter cook times.
Consuming just a few uncooked red beans can result in food poisoning! Cooking the beans properly in a pot of boiling water for longer will break down the toxin, thereby rendering the beans safe to consume.
Secondly, red kidney beans are known to absorb more flavor if they are cooked slowly and for longer. It will break down the fibers within the beans and will also allow the flavors to seep in.
Here’s a step-by-step for how to cook kidney beans the right way:
- Rinse the beans under tap water and then let them soak in a bowl of room temperature water for about 3-4 hours. Ideally, you should try to leave them soaked overnight. This will allow the beans to hydrate, double in size, and become easier to cook and digest.
- Drain the beans after they’ve been soaked. Then, in a large heavy-bottom pot, bring water to boil and put the soaked beans in. You will need 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of beans.
- Add 1.5 tsp of salt for 2 cups of beans to lightly season them. You can also skip the seasoning and add unseasoned beans to any recipe so that they can absorb and borrow flavor from the dish.
- As the beans cook, they will release enzymes that will form a layer of froth on top. This layer is called “scum” and should ideally be removed.
- Cover and cook the beans on low heat for about 45-60 minutes or until the water has almost evaporated and the beans are tender when you press on them.
Keep in mind that the beans must retain their shape. If they break apart while mixing, then you might have overcooked them.
You can still use these mushy beans but it won’t provide the right texture. Plus, no one likes mashed, wet beans!
Remember, they should just be soft enough to only break apart when you press down on them. Once done, take them out of the pot and allow them to cool for about 10 minutes.
You can keep both types of beans refrigerated at 40°F or if you don’t plan on using them immediately, you can also freeze them at 0°F in an airtight container.
The beans should be good for about 3-4 days in the fridge and 3-4 months in the freezer.
Recipe For Kidney Beans
This recipe will make 6-7 servings of delicious red kidney beans with tomato gravy and a side of fragrant butter rice.
- 1 lb. kidney beans
- 1 large onion
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 smoked ham hock or bacon
- Paprika to taste
- Garlic powder to taste
- 1 tsp cumin
- Oregano to taste
- Dried sage to taste
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Olive oil
- A pinch of sugar
- Hot sauce (for drizzling on top)
- Cooked rice
- Soak and cook the beans as instructed above.
- Dice the onions, pepper, and celery and then add them to a heavy-bottomed large pot with a drizzle of olive oil. Turn the heat up and sauté everything until fragrant.
- Add in tomato paste and then add the cooked beans into the mix with a quarter cup of water to prevent the sauce from burning. Fry the bacon separately and add it to the pot with the beans and tomato sauce mixture.
- You can also, alternatively, add a smoked ham hock before adding the beans and skip the bacon. Cook the ham hock for at least 15 minutes with 1-2 cups of water to extract its flavor and to cook the meat, then add in the cooked beans.
- Turn the heat down and let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes. This will allow the beans to absorb all the flavors. Note: you can use seasoned or unseasoned beans for this recipe. If you are using uncooked beans then cook everything for about 45 minutes or until the beans are done.
- Now add all the seasonings and add a pinch of sugar and a drizzle of vinegar at the very end. Cook for 2-3 minutes and serve hot!
- Cook 2 cups of rice on the side and add a bit of butter once cooked to give the rice a beautiful look and hearty flavor. Garnish with celery leaves and hot sauce for a unique fiery flavor!
Black beans are famous in countries like Brazil and especially in South America. These beans, much like kidney beans, taste about the same but look completely different.
They are smaller and have a black color with a shiny exterior when uncooked.
These beans are widely used in many recipes and each region has its version of how to cook black beans but like its crimson variant, black beans are also served with rice or, if you want to get indulgent, potato cakes!
Black beans are great for digestion and provide a good DV (daily value) of fiber and protein. Here’s how both these beans stack up nutritionally:
|Per 100g||Black Beans||Kidney Beans|
As you can see, both these beans aren’t that different when it comes to nutrition which is why we recommend that you freely use both or even combine them in different recipes to get mixed textures with each bite!
Also, it is important to note that after being boiled, both these beans will have lower but very similar nutrition to what we have described above. Overcooking them will significantly lessen their nutritional potency.
Texturally, black beans are firmer than kidney beans even when they are fully cooked. You can cook them using the same steps we described for kidney beans!
Black beans are known to be a bit heartier than kidney beans as they are famously used in soups, chilis, wraps, and more. Black beans also have an earthy flavor but are noticeably less sweet than kidney beans.
They provide a more satisfying bite, being a bit firmer and chewier, and pair extremely well with all types of cooked rice. You can also have them on toast or even flatbread.
Recipe For Black Beans
Here’s a great way to get the most out of black beans and their texture. This recipe is an excellent starting point for any additions or adjustments.
- Black beans 2 cups (soaked overnight)
- Water 4 cups
- Salt 1 ½ tsp or to taste
- Cooking oil 2-3 tbs
- Butter 2 tbs
- Onion chopped 3, medium
- Tomatoes chopped 3, medium
- Ginger, garlic paste ½ tbs
- Salt 1 tsp or to taste
- Red chili powder 1 ½ tsp or to taste
- Cumin powder 1 ½ tsp
- Turmeric powder 1 tsp
- Dried and crushed red chili 1 tsp
- Coriander seeds roasted and crushed ½ tbs
- Water 1 cup or as required
- Cream 2 tbs
- Fresh coriander, chopped, a handful
- Onion, cut in rings
- Lemon wedges
- Cooked rice
- In a wok, add oil, butter and let it fully melt. Then add in onions, and fry them until golden brown.
- Add tomatoes, ginger, garlic and cook everything for about 2-3 minutes. Now add salt and the rest of the spices and seasonings. Cook well for 3-4 minutes.
- Add water to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes and then turn the heat on high and let the mixture cook for 2-3 minutes or until the oil separates.
- Add the cooked black beans and let them simmer for about 5 minutes so that they absorb all the flavors.
- Turn off the heat and mix in the cream. Now bring the pot back to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Garnish with fresh coriander, a piece of butter, raw but washed onions, lemon wedges, and serve with a side of freshly cooked rice!
Now that you know the difference between black and kidney beans, how they are made and the best way to safely cook them, here are a few related questions to further your knowledge when it comes to both these tasty beans!
Can you replace kidney beans with black beans?
Yes, both beans can be interchangeably used as they share a similar flavor and can blend well with anything that they are added to. However, their slightly different textures and color will be a dead giveaway.
Black beans are firmer while kidney beans can be a bit more tender and may become mashed as they cool down and are scooped from the pot.
Are raw black beans poisonous too?
Yes, unfortunately, like kidney beans, black beans also contain the same plant protein that can cause food poisoning.
While it may be okay to cook overnight soaked beans in a slow cooker, you should always cook raw and recently soaked black beans in an open pot for at least 45-60 minutes to break down any toxins.
Can kidney beans and black beans be cooked in a microwave or steamer?
Yes, both these beans can be cooked in the microwave.
First, in a microwave-safe pot, add 2 cups of water for 1 cup of beans and then bring it to boil by setting the microwave at its highest setting for about 5-10 minutes.
Once the water is boiling, turn off the microwave, take the pot out and carefully add the overnight-soaked beans and continue cooking at medium power for 45-60 minutes, or until the beans are done.
It is inadvisable to steam the beans as they need to be cooked in boiling water and left to simmer for about 1 hour. Steaming them for that long will be extremely inconvenient and may not properly cook them as well.
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