Navy Beans vs. Pinto Beans: Differences & Which Is Better?

Navy Beans vs. Pinto Beans
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Many times seen as the same, navy and pinto beans are two different types of legumes you should include in your daily diet. Brownish when cooked (pinto beans are a tone darker than navy beans), these two legumes are very similar nutrition-wise. If that is the case, what are the differences between the two, and which ones are better: navy beans or pinto beans? 

The main differences between navy and pinto beans are related to appearance (mainly when uncooked), taste, how we use them in the kitchen (in other words, preparation), and nutrition (even though they are very similar, they have their differences). Navy beans have a mild flavor, while pinto beans have an earthy taste.

To answer the question of which one is better, and given that they are both incredibly interesting in terms of nutritious values, we will break down these two legumes into their differences. We will then tell you which of the two is the best (at least we will try). 

Navy Beans vs. Pinto Beans: Differences 

Similar in many aspects, like appearance, preparation, and nutrition, navy and pinto beans are different legumes. With a difference in taste and health benefits, these two beans are a lovely addition to your daily diet if you are searching for healthier ways of eating. 

To better understand these beans, let’s analyze them in terms of appearance, taste, preparation, and nutrition. 


When dry, navy beans are pearl white oval-shaped and flattened beans, smaller than other white beans.  

Pinto beans are the true magic beans. Why? Because they change their appearance during the cooking process. Before you cook them (when they are still dry), pinto beans are beige and have small brown marks, which disappear when cooked. 

Navy Beans vs. Pinto Beans


When it comes to taste, navy beans have a mild flavor, while pinto beans have an earthy and nutty taste. Navy beans tend to absorb the flavor of the sauces they are cooked in, so they don’t have an intense taste if, for example, you decide to boil them in water with a pinch of salt.

Both these beans are creamy in texture but while navy beans are soft, pinto beans, on the other hand, tend to be a little bit heavier and thicker.  


Navy beans are mostly used in the kitchen as BBQ beans or baked beans. 

Pinto beans are commonly used in Mexican cuisine, and you’ve probably found them as a filling for burritos, tostadas, or tacos. Being the most popular dried beans in the United States, pinto beans can also be eaten whole or mashed as a side dish. 

You may ask, what if I don’t have pinto beans? Can I use navy beans instead? And what about the other way around? Can I bake pinto beans if I don’t have any navy beans? The answer is yes and yes. Navy beans and pinto beans can be used as a replacement for the other without impacting your dish. Just remember that because navy beans are quite bland in flavor, by using these instead of pinto beans, you will be losing the earthy and nutty flavor characteristic of the second. 

Navy Beans vs. Pinto Beans


Nutritionally speaking, navy and pinto beans are very similar. They have roughly the same number of calories per cup, they are both high in protein and fiber, and even though they are both rich in carbohydrates, they are low in sugars. 

Navy Beans are a great source of fiber, calcium, and B vitamins, like folate and thiamine. [1] The 19,1 grams of fiber per cup means navy beans are an interesting legume that helps reduce metabolic syndrome symptoms. Recent studies have also suggested that regular consumption of navy beans can improve HDL cholesterol (the healthy one) in children and reduce waist volume in adults. [2]

Regarding health benefits, pinto beans are most likely at the top of the list of the most nutritious beans. Packed with vitamins and minerals and high in protein and fiber, these beans offer curious health benefits such as: [3][4]

– High in fiber, 1 cup of pinto beans represents around 50% of the daily recommended intake of fiber per day, which is a great way of keeping a healthy gut.

– Source of antioxidants known for their anticancer benefits.

– Low Glycemic Index, which means they contribute to better blood sugar control. 

– Contribute to weight loss as their high amounts of proteins and fibers will help you feel fuller for longer. 


Inexpensive Meal Ideas for Your Next Party

Navy Beans vs. Pinto Beans: Which Is Better?

Taste and preparation aside, we will focus on nutrition to answer this question. However, it is a very difficult question to answer as they are both very good sources of protein and fiber, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, all of which are essential for a healthy diet. 

For the sole reason that pinto beans are slightly higher in terms of some vitamins and minerals, and also they are richer in both protein and fiber and lower in sugar, we are going to say pinto beans are the better of the two. Still, both these two legumes are great foods with proven health benefits that we should regularly include in our diet. 

Independently of the ones you choose, remember to go for the dried beans option, as the canned options may contain unnecessary sugars and salt that will change the nutritional values and health benefits discussed in this article.

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