Black Bean vs Kidney Bean: The Key Differences
Beans are a vital part of most vegan diets, as they contain an excellent source of protein and micronutrients. But you might wonder if a particular bean is better than others to maximize the nutrition benefits you get from them.
We’ll do a deep-dive into the black bean vs kidney bean to get to the bottom of this answer. Along the way, you’ll learn about the black bean and kidney bean’s physical appearance, taste, health benefits, and more.
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Both black beans and kidney beans share the Fabaceae family, the third largest plant family on the planet. If you don’t recognize the word “Fabaceae,” its common name, “legume,” will likely ring a bell.
Black beans come from Central and South America. People have been eating them for more than 7,000 years. Because of their long history, they’ve acquired several other common names, including:
- Turtle beans
- Frijoles negros
- Caviar criolla
Until the 1980s, most people in the United States didn’t incorporate black beans into their diet. But nowadays, they’ve become a popular source of protein, particularly among vegans.
You can purchase black beans in many styles, including dry, boiled, and canned. It’s also common to encounter processed and pre-made foods containing black beans, such as crackers, hummus, and spaghetti.
In contrast, kidney beans might date back to being even older in human diets than black beans, with people using them at least 8,000 years ago. Like black beans, kidney beans are also from the Americas, with an origin likely in Peru.
Farmers grew the kidney bean in the United States as early as the 1700s, although it wasn’t until 1551 that people started using the name “kidney bean” to differentiate it from the names of Old World beans. Kidney beans also go by the name cannellini.
Since its start in the Americas, chefs from across the globe have embraced the kidney bean. You can find it in everything from Indian stews to Asian ice cream.
When comparing the black bean vs kidney bean, mistaking the two is nearly impossible.
Black beans are smaller, rounder, and firmer than kidney beans. They also have a shiny appearance in their dry state before you cook them.
In contrast, kidney beans have a long, curved shape resembling a human kidney. They also have a duller appearance if you buy them dry.
Unlike black beans, which are always black, kidney beans come in several colors and patterns, including:
That said, when you cook either of these beans, they’ll lose some of their colors. In the case of black beans, they’ll also become less shiny, resembling the duller outer appearance of the kidney bean.
When you cut open black beans and kidney beans, both have a white center.
Black beans have a firmer texture than kidney beans, even after you cook them.
A fully cooked black bean is soft to chew but doesn’t melt in your mouth like a cooked kidney bean. It also has an almost flour-like feel when you chew it.
In contrast, kidney beans are notorious for their softer, almost butter-like texture. Despite their differences in texture, many people substitute these beans for each other if they don’t have the bean that a recipe calls for.
Black beans have a blander flavor profile than kidney beans. When consuming black beans without any added flavors, you’ll notice a slightly earthy taste at most.
For this reason, black beans make an excellent protein addition to meals without overpowering their taste.
On the other hand, kidney beans have a slightly stronger flavor than black beans. They have a slightly nutty or sweet flavor if you eat them on their own. But when you incorporate them into a dish, they do a beautiful job of absorbing its flavors.
So, with both black beans and kidney beans, you don’t need to worry about them changing your meal’s flavor. But it’s wise to add salt when cooking these beans to help whatever meal you make with them even more flavorful.
Black beans are a common ingredient in Latin American dishes, and it’s no wonder, given they originated from there. Some popular uses for black beans include:
- Bean burgers
Kidney beans have similar uses, so it often boils down to personal preference for the size, firmness, and flavor profile you’re trying to achieve with your dish.
Some common meals that people make with kidney beans include:
- Rice dishes
The cooking time that black beans and kidney beans require are similar, ranging from 60 to 120 minutes. Although it seems counterintuitive since kidney beans are naturally softer, people often cook them longer than black beans. Doing so helps the flavors absorb even more.
Soaking either of these beans overnight before you cook them helps reduce the cooking time.
As a word of caution, it’s crucial to book both black beans and kidney beans before you eat them. Many dry beans contain a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin that can lead to food poisoning and even death in extreme cases.
When comparing the black bean vs kidney bean in terms of calories, they’re nearly identical.
A half cup of these cooked beans contains the following calories:
So, if you’re on a diet and watching your calorie intake, there’s essentially no difference in calorie consumption between black beans and kidney beans.
Given that black beans and kidney beans have such a similar calorie content, it’s likely little surprise that their macronutrient profile is also almost identical. But first, let’s establish what macronutrients are.
Macronutrients, called “macros,” are the nutrients your body requires in large quantities to sustain health. There are three macronutrients humans need: fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
Below is the macro breakdown of cooked black beans based on a half-cup serving:
- Fat: 0 grams
- Protein: 8 grams
- Carbohydrates: 20 grams
And here’s the macronutrient profile of a half-cup of cooked kidney beans:
- Fat: 1 gram
- Protein: 7 grams
- Carbohydrates: 19 grams
The macronutrient difference between kidney and black beans comes down to a one-gram difference in each category. So, unless you’re trying to reduce the fat content in your diet, either bean is an excellent choice.
As a vegan, you likely want to use black beans and kidney beans as protein sources. While these beans are excellent options, it’s crucial to note that they’re incomplete proteins, given that they lack amino acids like methionine and tryptophan.
Nine out of 20 amino acids humans can’t get from food alone. So, when a food contains all nine essential amino acids, nutritionists label it as a complete protein.
Since animal proteins are a common source of complete protein, it can initially seem challenging for a vegan to consume enough essential amino acids. However, pairing black beans and kidney beans with other vegetable protein sources is an excellent way to get all nine essential amino acids.
Alternatively, you can mix some soy, tempeh, or edamame beans into your black bean or kidney bean recipe, which automatically guarantees you’ll receive the nine essential amino acids.
The Fiber Outlyer
Although fat, protein, and carbohydrates are traditionally the three macronutrients, we’d be remiss to leave out fiber.
Fiber is a form of carbohydrates. But unlike traditional carbohydrates, the body can’t digest fiber. So, instead of breaking down into sugar in the form of glucose, fiber doesn’t cause a massive spike in blood sugar, as your body doesn’t digest it.
Both kidney beans and black beans have seven grams of fiber. The Mayo Clinic recommends that women eat 21 to 25 grams of fiber per day and men eat 30 to 38 grams daily.
So, women eating a single half-cup portion of kidney beans or black beans will receive a third of their fiber intake. That’s a massive amount of fiber compared to many foods.
Vitamins and Minerals
Both black beans and kidney beans are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals.
Black beans have a high concentration of the following vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A
Kidney beans share many of the same micronutrient qualities but will also give your body a boost with some other vitamin and mineral varieties.
Some of the most notable micronutrients in kidney beans include:
- Vitamin B1
Black beans and kidney beans offer a range of benefits for people who eat them regularly. We’ve broken down some of their most notable nutritional attributes below.
Black Bean Benefits
Black beans are an excellent option for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes, given that their high fiber content helps regulate blood sugar levels.
According to a study performed on the glycemic response of a combination of black beans and chickpeas with rice compared to a control group of only eating rice, the bean group had a reduced glycemic response. All participants had diabetes, making the study even more meaningful.
Since black beans are high in antioxidants, they’re also excellent for protecting your eyes. Some of the eye conditions that black beans prevent include:
- Macular degeneration
Furthermore, the fact that black beans have such a high vitamin C concentration further helps their case for reducing the chance of cataracts.
The reduced risk of heart disease is another valuable health benefit of black beans and something it shares with kidney beans.
According to a study on many common beans, including the black bean, participants reduced their risk of heart disease by 11% when consuming beans regularly. The high fiber content in black beans likely significantly reduces LDL cholesterol levels, which raises bad cholesterol and can lead to adverse heart conditions.
Some other health benefits that scientists believe black beans provide include:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Prevents platelet aggregation
- Relaxes muscles
- Supports carbohydrate digestion
Black beans are also an excellent choice for people looking for low glycemic index (GI) foods, given that their GI falls into the 29 to 38 range.
Kidney Bean Benefits
Since kidney beans and black beans share a similar nutritional profile, they have many similar benefits.
Because of the kidney bean’s resistant starch content via fiber, researchers believe this bean, along with many other legumes, can help control or stimulate weight loss.
A study on the impact of regularly consuming white kidney bean extract shows that people lost an average of 2.24 kilograms after 35 days compared to the placebo group, which only lost an average of 0.29 kilograms.
The people in the white kidney bean extract group also had an average 1.53% decrease in body fat and reduced their body mass index rating by 0.79.
The reduced risk of colon cancer is another potential benefit of kidney beans. Yet again, the reason for this is fiber.
A diet high in fiber helps reduce the chances of cancerous colon polyps developing in your digestive tract. Kidney beans also have prebiotics, which ferments in your colon, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.
The fermentation process sparks the formation of short-chain fatty acids, a fancy term for compounds that encourage healthy colons.
Despite the many health benefits of black beans and kidneys, gas is one potential adverse side effect. The good news is that you can reduce the chances of this embarrassing situation by using a hot soak method.
Hot soaking beans involve boiling them for two to three minutes before moving them away from the heat and letting them soak for four hours. Doing so deters the compounds that would otherwise cause gas.
Black beans and kidney beans are both excellent legumes to incorporate into a vegan diet. They come with a long list of macro and micronutrients and have many health benefits.
If you have a recipe that calls for black beans and you only have kidney beans or vice versa, you can easily swap these beans without notable changes to the flavor of your dish. The biggest difference you’ll likely experience is the texture and appearance, given that kidney beans are softer and larger.
Given the health benefits that black beans and kidney beans offer, they’re excellent foods to incorporate into your diet regularly.