Beans are some of the healthiest, most delicious, and affordable foods you can incorporate into your diet. And they come in a range of varieties too!
If you use beans often, you may have come across recipes that tell you to use red beans. But there are many bean varieties that are red, including kidney beans. So, are red beans and kidney beans the same?
What are the differences between red beans and kidney beans? Red beans and kidney beans are two different types of beans. Not only do these beans look different but they also have texture and flavor differences too. With this said, kidney beans are not very different in terms of their nutritional value, cooking methods, and uses.
Continue reading to learn everything about red beans and kidney beans and how they compare. From visual characteristics and flavor to cooking methods and storage, we have covered it all in this article.
What Are Beans Anyway?
Beans are such a common ingredient used in cooking that we don’t even think about what they actually are. Which food group do beans belong to? Are they grains or are they vegetables?
Similar to vegetables, beans contain a high amount of fiber. But what is interesting is that they also contain a lot of protein. The latter causes confusion about whether or not beans are vegetables.
Beans are classified as members of the legume family. Legumes, in their turn, are a class of vegetables. Aside from beans, this group also includes peas and lentils.
So, beans are vegetables!
Beans come in many different sizes and shades and there are hundreds of bean varieties in nature. Beans are a staple ingredient in many cuisines, including Mexican and Indian.
The most commonly used bean varieties include black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, garbanzo beans, and fava beans.
Red Beans Vs Kidney Beans
Red beans and kidney beans are two of the most popular bean varieties. But there is a lot of confusion around these beans as many people consider them to be the same thing.
However, contrary to popular belief, red beans and kidney beans are not the same!
While many people think of red beans as something that refers to a group of red-colored beans, it is actually a standalone bean variety just like kidney beans.
So, red beans and kidney beans are different types of beans. But what makes them different? Let’s see how these bean varieties compare.
One of the key differences between red beans and kidney beans is how they look.
Kidney beans are significantly larger than red beans. They don’t have a round or oblong shape like most beans. As you can guess by the name, these beans look very much like kidney. Red beans, on the other hand, have an oval shape.
As for the color, red beans are pink-red and they look much brighter. Kidney beans are more crimson red. It should be noted, though, that kidney beans come in other shades too depending on the variety.
Flavor And Texture
Red beans and kidney beans differ in terms of their flavor. Red beans have a mild beany flavor with slight nutty undertones. Kidney beans are meaty, with light sweetness.
When cooking with these two bean varieties, consider the fact that kidney beans are better at absorbing the flavors of the ingredients and spices they are cooked with. Thus, their flavor gets toned down when cooked alongside other foods.
Red beans, on the other hand, maintain their beany flavor even when cooked with other ingredients.
When it comes to texture, an important characteristic of kidney beans is their thick and firm skin. Kidney beans are also harder and denser inside even when fully cooked.
Red beans are much creamier and smoother. If a recipe calls for kidney beans but you find their texture to be too tough for your liking, you can certainly use red beans instead.
Red kidney beans are the most common of the kidney bean varieties. White kidney beans come next. But you may also come across purple, black, and light speckled kidney beans.
As for red beans, the name is rather confusing as there are many bean varieties that come in red. Adzuki beans, for example, are beans that have a dark red color. Kidney beans can be red too.
But the name red beans almost always refers to the small beans that have a bright color and are commonly used in Cajun and Mexican cooking.
The nutritional profile of red beans and kidney beans is quite similar. A 100 grams of boiled kidney beans contains:
- Calories: 127
- Protein: 9 g
- Fat: 0.5 g
- Fiber: 6 g
- Carbs: 23 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Kidney beans also contain a high amount of potassium, as well as iron, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin B6.
Compared to kidney beans, red beans are only slightly lower in calories and the amount of fiber and other nutrients they contain.
While the nutritional profile of beans may differ from variety to variety, the health benefits they provide are very similar. Here are some of the health benefits of beans, including kidney and red beans.
- Beans are a good source of protein. If you don’t eat animal protein, then beans are an ingredient to include in your diet. Beans contain a high amount of amino acids. If you didn’t know, amino acids are the molecules that form proteins. And while beans are high in protein, they are not as high in calories as many other protein sources.
- Beans are rich in antioxidants. There is a high amount of polyphenols in beans. Polyphenols are some of the most abundant antioxidants that neutralize free radicals.
- Beans contain a high amount of folate. Folate (vitamin B-9) is an important nutrient responsible for red blood cell formation and the healthy functioning of cells in general.
- Beans are good for heart health. They lower cholesterol levels thus preventing many heart diseases. Beans are also high in fiber which lowers the risk of heart diseases too.
- Beans promote liver health. For people who have the problem of fat accumulating in their liver, beans are considered to be a better source of protein than animal proteins that contain a high amount of fat.
Uses And Pairings
Despite the differences in texture, red beans and kidney beans have similar uses in cooking. You can use them for chilies, stews, soups, salads, rice and pasta dishes, and dips.
While red beans and kidney beans can be used in the same types of dishes, both of these bean varieties are known for their uses in particular dishes.
Red beans, for example, are one of the main ingredients in the authentic Louisiana red beans and rice dish.
They are also commonly used in the Indian dish called dal. Additionally, red beans are a popular ingredient in Mexican dishes.
Kidney beans, on the other hand, are widely used to prepare chili con carne, Indian rajma, various Mexican dishes, Spanish-style rice, and much more!
As for pairings, beans pair well with thyme, rosemary, and parsley. Kidney beans pair exceptionally well with savory, oregano, fennel, bay leaf, and cumin.
Red beans, on the other hand, make great flavor combinations with Italian herbs, Cajun seasoning, paprika, cayenne, as well as cumin.
If you want to add flavor to your red or kidney beans but are not sure what are some of the safest choices, go with garlic and onion.
When it comes to side dishes, you have a lot of choices with kidney beans and red beans. Some of the easiest things to serve with cooked beans are fresh salads, rice, cornbread, mashed potatoes, vegetable casseroles, and greens.
Storage And Shelf Life
The storage rules are the same for red beans and kidney beans, and all types of dried beans in general.
You have to keep dried beans in an airtight food-safe container in the pantry, kitchen cupboard, or anywhere cool and dry. Always keep dried beans away from direct sunlight.
Dried beans have a very long shelf life. Properly stored dried beans may have an indefinite shelf life though their quality and vitamin content will start to deteriorate after 24 months.
Once cooked, kidney beans and red beans will last 3-5 days in the fridge. You can cook a larger batch in advance and add a handful to your salads as a healthy source of protein and fiber.
How Do You Use Canned Red and Kidney Beans?
Both red beans and kidney beans come in a canned variety too. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking dried beans, then buying them canned is a good idea.
Canned beans are just as versatile as dried beans. The difference is that they are easier to use and store.
As beans are cooked during the canning process, you can eat them as is right from the can if you enjoy plain beans. We do recommend rinsing canned beans before using them so that they are not too salty.
Use canned kidney beans and red beans for stews, soups, dips, salads, and whatever dish you would make using dried beans.
The general cooking instructions for beans are the same for all varieties. You either cook the beans on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker. Here are step-by-step instructions for cooking beans, including red and kidney beans.
- Put those beans in a pot.
- Pour cold water over the beans making sure it covers them.
- Turn on the heat and let the beans simmer. You should let the beans cook until they are tender but still firm. You shouldn’t cook the beans so long as to cause them to fall apart and become mushy.
- The cooking time for beans varies. Some varieties take 45 minutes to cook while others cook in 2 hours. Kidney beans, for example, may take up to 2 hours to cook.
As mentioned above, cooking the beans in a pressure cooker is also possible. Here’s how to do it:
- Put the beans in the pressure cooker.
- Add water or broth to the beans so that the liquid covers them.
- Seal the pressure cooker and cook the beans for around 30 minutes. Kidney beans usually take 20-30 minutes to cook in a pressure cooker while red beans may take up to 35 minutes.
- After cooking, allow the pressure in the pot to release naturally. This may take around 20 minutes.
- When the pressure is released, open the pressure cooker and test the beans for doneness. If you find them to be too firm, cook for another 10 minutes.
- Once cooked, drain the beans.
Do You Need to Soak Red Beans or Kidney Beans Before Cooking?
Soaking any type of beans cuts down the cooking time. It also helps reduce the gas-causing effects of beans.
While you don’t have to soak the beans before cooking them, you are often recommended to do so with kidney beans. Red kidney beans are said to contain the highest level of toxic protein found in beans.
Lectin found in raw and undercooked kidney beans can be very harmful at high levels. This is why it is a good idea to soak your kidney beans in water for a few hours before cooking them.
Soaking eliminates most of the toxic protein in kidney beans.
Can You Substitute Kidney Beans With Red Beans?
While there are certain flavor and texture differences between kidney beans and red beans, the latter works well as a substitute for kidney beans.
If a recipe calls for kidney beans or red beans but you don’t have any of them at home, there are other bean varieties that will work as substitutes for both.
Pink beans and cranberry beans can substitute both red beans and kidney beans. Pinto beans are another great substitute for kidney beans.
Can You Use Red Beans Instead Of Kidney Beans In Chili?
Chili is one of the most popular dishes that is made with kidney beans. But as mentioned above, kidney beans and red beans are interchangeable in many recipes, and chili is not an exception.
Red beans make a great substitute for kidney beans in chili alongside such other bean varieties as pinto beans and black beans.
With this said, red beans in chili yield a creamier and smoother texture while kidney beans remain firmer and add texture to the chili. For a richer flavor and texture, you can use both bean varieties in chili.
What Are The Differences Between Red Beans, Kidney Beans, And Pinto Beans?
Pinto beans are another popular bean variety. Although pinto beans are brown and speckled, they acquire a reddish color when cooked. This makes it easy to confuse cooked pinto beans with cooked red beans and kidney beans.
Texture-wise, pinto beans are much creamier than the other two. They also differ in terms of flavor. These beans have pronounced nuttiness that the other two lack.