The 6 Best Substitutes For Pinto Beans

Whether you enjoy them dried or out of a can, Pinto beans are loved all around the globe. They have a slightly sweet flavor and a velvety texture that goes well in many recipes. 

However, if you can’t find pinto beans at the grocery store, or run out while you’re making a recipe, you may need another ingredient that works in its place. 

The good news is that as there are endless types of beans on the market, it’s relatively easy to find a pinto beans substitute. 

You’ll find six of the best pinto beans substitutes in this post, as well as some more information about this popular South and Central American ingredient. 

Keep reading to discover the best pinto beans substitutes to use in your recipes!

The 6 Best Substitutes For Pinto Beans

More About Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are legumes that come from the Phaseolus vulgaris family, a group which also includes black, kidney, and navy beans. 

Pinto beans are thought to originate from South and Central America and are often seen in several Mexican recipes. Pinto beans are enjoyed in the U.S. more than in other countries, but they are readily available in most areas around the world.

The term ‘pinto’ means ‘painted’, which relates to the way the beans look before they cook. Pinto beans tend to be creamy or tan with red-brown patches. This is why some also call them mottled or painted beans. 

The spots give the beans a unique appearance, but these are normally lost after they are cooked. When the beans are ready to eat, they look brown with a gentle pink undertone.

Where To Find Pinto Beans?

You can find fresh pinto beans available from local markets and farmers, but it’s more usual to find them dried or canned.

Canned pinto beans have been preserved or pre-cooked, so they have lost their original spotted appearance. These are very convenient as you just need to open, drain, and rinse the beans from their can. 

Some believe that the canning treatment affects the beans’ taste. The use of salt water and chemicals may also be an issue for anyone on low-sodium diets, as well as those who want to avoid additives. 

Dried pinto beans allow you to enjoy the taste of fresh beans without traveling to the farm. The disadvantage here is that preparing dried beans takes more time. 

Dried pinto beans will need to be soaked overnight, then boiled for over an hour. There’s a noticeable difference between canned, reheated pinto beans and ones that were soaked and boiled. 

Most cooks prefer the boiling procedure as they can control the way it tastes with more ingredients, like cured meats and spices. This wouldn’t be possible with ready-to-eat beans. 

The 6 Best Pinto Beans Substitutes

Now that you know more about pinto beans, here are some ingredients that can work well in their place. These all have different advantages depending on the recipe you’re trying to make.

It’s best to choose a bean with a comparable consistency to pinto beans (after they are cooked). As the beans have a light flavor, selecting a mild-tasting bean will ensure that your dish doesn’t take on a different flavor. 

1. Black Beans

Black beans are more common than pinto beans in Central and South American countries, but they can work well in place of each other in many dishes.

As the name suggests, black beans are black. This is significant if you’re swapping pinto beans in recipes where color is a factor. Black beans will add color to any ingredients they are cooked with. 

For example, dips can turn into a dark, eggplant shade, while stews and soups turn several shades deeper than their initial color. 

Regardless of color, black beans have a sweet flavor and soft texture that works well in place of pinto beans. Mexican dishes, like burritos and tacos, do particularly well when using black beans as a pinto beans substitute. 

An advantage of using black beans as a pinto beans substitute is that they cook very quickly, Their skin will become soft without much work or soaking.

2. Navy Beans

In the 19th century, navy beans were a staple ingredient in the United States Navy, which is where their name originates from.

These are very small beans that have a similar consistency to pinto beans. They also have a light, creamy taste, which is ideal for recipes where the beans aren’t the main star. 

Navy beans work well when mashed, so they’ll be a nice pinto beans substitute for refried beans. Still, as they are white, they won’t give off the classic color you’d originally expect.

Navy beans will turn soft while they cook, the same way pinto beans do. They’re a nice supplement to fast veggie soup recipes that need some more protein.

As they are soft and white, you can puree navy beans with some more spices, garlic, and milk to form a rich, high-protein sauce.

3. Kidney Beans

Kidney beans and pinto beans are often used in place of each other, even though they are different in consistency and size. 

Both these types of beans are a popular sight in Mexican dishes, so they are regularly used with one another. You can substitute for each bean in tacos, refried beans, and chili, without noticing the difference.

Kidney beans are bigger and firmer than pinto beans. They are best used in recipes that need to be simmered or cooked for a while, as well as when they need to give a recipe some texture.

Stews, soups, and chilis that need pinto beans will taste just as great when using kidney beans as a substitute.

4. Cannellini Beans

Also known as white kidney beans, cannellini beans look and feel more like kidney beans than pinto beans. Despite this, they can still work well as a substitute in the right conditions.

Cannellini beans are commonly used in Italian dishes. If you’re making pasta or soup that needed pinto beans, cannellini beans would do well in their place.

These beans will make a recipe rich, so whether it’s vegan or vegetarian, you’ll leave the table feeling full and satisfied. 

Cannellini beans are bigger and a little tougher than pinto beans. If you want to make them softer, soak their dried form the night before, then cook the beans before using them in your recipe.

5. Great Northern White Beans

These beans are used all over the globe, thanks to their light flavor and soft consistency. White beans are used in a variety of cuisines, but their gentle taste is why they are often used in Mediterranean and French dishes.

The beans handle the hearty nature of French sauces, but remain light enough to enjoy cold in salads. 

You can use Great Northern beans in place of pinto beans in any dish, but they taste best when mashed or next to vegetables. 

6. Red Beans

Also known as adzuki beans, red beans have a mild, sweet flavor that’s popular in Asian dishes. 

They have a light grainy consistency which isn’t as smooth as pinto beans. Red beans are often ground into a paste for use in Asian dessert recipes.

This is a small, lightly soft bean with a similar consistency to pinto beans. This means that they work well in tacos, refried beans, and salads. 

Red beans also work well in pinto bean recipes that need sweet sauces or sweet root vegetables. Examples include BBQ sauces, hearty potato stews, and sweet and sour dishes.

The Bottom Line

Those were six of the best ingredients you can use in place of pinto beans! 

Each of the substitutes above is slightly different in size, texture, and taste. Some of these will taste better in your recipe than others. 

For instance, black beans can be used in a variety of pinto beans dishes, while cannellini beans work best in Italian recipes. If possible, try a few of these alternatives out and see which ones you prefer. 

We hope you enjoy trying some of these pinto beans substitutes at home! 

The 6 Best Substitutes For Pinto Beans

Recipe by AubreyCourse: Substitutes


Prep time


Cooking time





Pinto beans are used in many Mexican recipes, but if you can’t find any at the store, here are the best pinto beans substitutes to use in their place.


  • Black Beans

  • Navy Beans

  • Kidney Beans

  • Cannellini Beans

  • Great Northern White Beans

  • Red Beans


  • Decide on what substitute you need
  • Pick a substitute from the list above
  • Read what you need to substitute with
  • Create the recipe and enjoy
Scroll to Top