Pinto Beans Vs Red Beans – The Differences

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Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more…you should understand the differences between and benefits of the many different varieties. 

While most legumes tend to look and taste relatively similar and, in fact, many have very similar nutritional benefits as well, but there are differences worth noting.

In this article, we’re going to take a close look at the differences between the ever-popular pinto beans and red beans.

So what’s the difference between pinto beans and red beans? The main difference between pinto beans and red beans is that pinto beans are a staple in Latin American cuisine, while red beans are more commonly used in Asia. In terms of nutrition, they are pretty similar, with only slight variations in vitamins and minerals.

Want to know more? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about these beans.

What Are Pinto Beans?

Pinto beans are a dietary staple in most Latin American countries and are also the most commonly used and grown dried bean in the US. In Spanish, “pinto” means painted, which is a reference to their light brown, speckled color as a dry bean.

Once they’re cooked, they turn a solid pinkish-brown. Part of their popularity stems from how easy they are to prepare and eat, either whole or mashed.  

We love Food to Live’s organic dry bean selection. They have both pinto beans and red beans available on Amazon.

What Are Red Beans?

Red beans are so named because they are small, red beans. They’re also called Adzuki beans, though that’s much more difficult to remember. They’re traditionally grown throughout East Asia.

In the South, red beans are most commonly found in rich and delicious Caribbean inspired or Cajun cuisine, such as the popular Louisiana Rice & Beans.

These small beans have a slightly sweet, somewhat nutty flavor and their small size makes them one of the easiest beans to fall in love with, especially if legumes are new to your diet.

Health Comparison of Pinto Beans to Red Beans

Both pinto beans and red beans are full of nutrition and make a great addition to soups, stews and even pasta or salads, but you may be wondering how they compare to each other, gram for gram, vitamin for vitamin. 

Per 1 Cup, Cooked Pinto Beans Red Beans
Calories 245 294

Grams % Daily Value Grams % Daily Value
Fat 1.1
Carbohydrates 44.8
Sugar .06
Fiber 15.4
Protein 15.4
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
22% 18%
Vitamin B6
20% 11%
Vitamin B9 (Folate)
74% 70%
8% 6%
20% 26%
21% 30%
25% 39%
21% 35%
11% 27%
19% 34%
39% 66%
15% 4%

This chart isn’t all-encompassing, but it shows the vitamins and minerals with the highest concentrations in these two beans.

As you can see, pinto beans are lower in calories and carbohydrates, but to compensate, red beans have more protein and fiber. Pinto beans score higher in the vitamins whereas most of the minerals are found in greater concentration in red beans.

They’re both very healthy overall, but with slightly different slants to their superpowers.

The fiber in both beans is one of the real secrets to health. More than 95% of Americans aren’t meeting their daily required intake for fiber, but it’s crucial for maintaining a healthy gut, and it also plays an important role in heart health and blood sugar control. 

Both beans are also very high in folate, which is an incredibly important nutrient for pregnant women especially, as it helps protect against birth defects in growing fetuses. 

Antioxidants are another healthy ingredient in both these beans, however, they don’t show up in the nutritional data. Antioxidants help protect your body against internal damage done by free radicals, one of the precursors to cancer and many other chronic diseases.

Some studies show that red beans, in particular, may have up to 29 different types of antioxidants, which is one of the richest supplies of antioxidants in all foods.

Popular Uses of Pinto Beans and Red Beans

Many people around the world are starting to embrace the idea of reducing meat consumption and integrating beans into your diet is a great way to help make this transition healthy, safe and easy.

If you’ve ever thought about starting a meatless Monday tradition, beans might just end up being your star attraction. That said, you don’t have to give up meat to enjoy adding beans to your table.

Both Pinto beans and red beans are inexpensive and very easy to prepare.

The simplest preparation is to simply soak your beans overnight and then simmer them in herbed water or broth for 2 – 4 hours. Once they’re cooked, there is a myriad of ways you can use them in your meals.

You can also grind dried beans to make flour, which makes a great, protein-rich and gluten-free flour option.

Soaking, Sprouting, and Fermenting Beans

All dried beans should at the very least be soaked before eating, When dried, beans have antinutrients that make it difficult for your body to absorb the minerals from the beans, however soaking, sprouting or fermenting beans reduces the antinutrients and makes all the nutritional value much more easily available, not to mention easier to digest. 

To sprout beans:

  • You must first soak them for at least 8 hours but preferably 12 or even longer.
  • Rinse the beans and then add them to a jar with a wide mouth, such as a Wick jar.
  • Cover the top with cheesecloth or sprouting mesh and secure with a rubber band.
  • Prop the jar at an angle, with the mouth facing downwards to allow any remaining moisture to drain out.
  • Rinse and drain them twice per day, leaving the jar propped like this, for 3 – 4 days or until the beans are sprouted nicely.
  • At this point, you can give them one final rinse and drain and then store them in a sealed container in your fridge.
  • It’s best to eat them within a few days.

Dishes Traditionally Made With Pinto Beans

  1. Mexican Pinto beans are made by cooking your beans in a stew of tomatoes, spicy peppers, garlic, onion, chili powder, and some vegetable broth
  2. Southern pinto beans are made similarly in a stew-like fashion, but flavors with ham hocks or smoked turkey, as well as some onion, garlic, and chicken stock
  3. Refried beans are a standard side or companion to any Mexican dish and are made by mashing cooked beans into hot fat and frying them until they’re the perfect consistency

Common Red Bean Preparations

  1. Traditionally, the beans are boiled with sugar and then mashed to make a sweet red paste that is used as filling in a variety of East Asian desserts
  2. Natto is traditionally made from fermenting soybeans, but can also be made with a lighter flavor using red beans
  3. Authentic Louisiana red beans and rice is a classic, savory Cajun stew of red beans, andouille sausage, bell peppers, onions, and celery and served over Tobasco spiced rice

Dishes Suited To Any Bean

  1. Chili
  2. Bean dip
  3. Soups, stews, pasta, and even salads
  4. Veggie burgers
  5. Falafel, though traditionally prepared with chickpeas, can really be made with any bean

Frequently Asked Questions about Beans

Are red beans the same as kidney beans?

No, red beans are much smaller than kidney beans and have a slightly different flavor and nutritional makeup.

Kidney beans are slightly lower in calories and, for the most part, they don’t have as high of a concentration of vitamins and minerals as red beans do, though they are higher in Vitamin K.

Flavor-wise, they’re similar enough to be substituted for one another in recipes though cook times may vary slightly.

Which beans are the healthiest?

All beans are powerhouses of nutrition, so it’s difficult to choose one as the healthiest. They all have slight edges over each other in specific areas.

Some will argue for soy though many are against, and others will put navy beans, black beans, kidney beans or mung beans at the top of their list, it really depends on the exact goal you’re trying to achieve through beans.

Our final decision: the healthiest bean is the one you eat!

Which beans have the most flavor?

Chickpeas have a very distinct flavor and texture, and you’d probably be able to tell one from any other kind of bean with your eyes closed.

Many other beans are slightly more interchangeable. Fava beans also have a substantial flavor and might be the bean most often found on the polar ends of either love or hate.

Do beans make you fart? (and how to avoid this?)

Beans are well known for causing gas, mainly due to a large amount of fiber and a particular type of sugar, called oligosaccharide.

The sugar doesn’t break down during normal digestion, but rather needs your gut bacteria living at the end of your large intestine to do the work, which can cause undesirable results. 

To reduce the effects of beans, soaking them for at least 8 hours and changing the water frequently can help. 

You can also find digestive enzymes that help digest the sugar and fiber without the gaseous side effects. 

Are beans good for losing weight?

Beans are definitely a great addition to any well-balanced weight loss diet plan. They’re high in fiber and protein, both of which help make you feel satiated for longer, helping to curb cravings and overeating.

The fiber will also help regulate your digestive system to make sure you’re not carrying waste any longer than necessary, and the protein will help your body repair after those weight loss motivated workouts.

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