Best substitute for black beans | 12 alternatives for chili, salad, stew

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  June 13, 2022

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Are you looking for a new way to add protein and fiber to your meals?

If you like Mexican food, you’re probably familiar with the mild flavor of black beans.

Black beans are a popular staple in many diets for their high fiber and protein content. However, some people may not be able to eat black beans for various reasons.

Best substitute for black beans | 12 alternatives for chili, salad, stew

The best black bean substitute is kidney beans because these beans have a dark color and the taste is so similar, that most people can’t even tell the difference between black and kidney beans.

There are plenty of other bean and legume black bean substitutes as well that you can use.

Most other legumes have similar flavors, other bean varieties have a similar texture and they’re all highly nutritious.

Here are some of the best substitutes for black beans that you can add to your meals. I’ll also share how to substitute them depending on what you’re cooking.

What are black beans?

Black beans are a type of legume that is popular in many cuisines, Mexico and Central America.

Black beans are small, oval-shaped legumes that have glossy black skin. They’re often used in soups, stews, chili, salads, and rice dishes.

The texture of black beans is firm yet tender, and the taste is earthy and nutty.

Black beans are an excellent source of fiber and protein. One cup of black beans provides 15 grams of fiber and 14 grams of protein.

Black bean recipes are also a good source of folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron.

Black beans and what to replace them with

When cooking, you can use dried black beans or canned black beans, depending on your recipe.

Cooked black beans have a soft, creamy texture and can be used as a replacement for other beans, such as kidney beans, in recipes.

But generally, black beans are used in dishes where their color and flavor can contribute, like in black bean soup or chili.

There are tons of black bean recipes as part of South American cuisines because they’re such a versatile and delicious ingredient with a unique flavor.

These beans also grow well in warm climates, so they’re easy to find fresh.

When you incorporate black beans into your dish, you’re not only getting a delicious protein and fiber-rich ingredient, but you’re also getting a good dose of vitamins and minerals.

In fact, the reason why these pea-sized legumes are so popular is for their amazing nutritional value.

Bean varieties like black beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein and they’re low in fat.

Plus, since black beans have a high protein and fiber content it helps with weight loss and digestion.

And of course, black beans are delicious (like most beans actually).

Best black bean substitutes

Replacing black beans isn’t as hard as some other foods because there are many other types of beans that you can use.

One thing to keep in mind is how much liquid these various substitutes soak up.

Some beans like black-eyed peas or lentils will absorb more liquid than others, so you may need to adjust the amount of broth or water in your recipe.

The best substitutes for black beans include:

Kidney beans

The best way to substitute black beans is to use kidney beans instead.

They have a very similar taste and texture, making them the perfect option for dishes that call for black beans.

Use red kidney beans as a substitute for black beans

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The taste of red kidney beans is best described as earthy and nutty, with a slightly sweet flavor.

Kidney beans have a similar nutritional profile to black beans, so you’ll still be getting the same health benefits.

These beans have a dark red color, so it’s not black but it’s still similar. The texture is also very similar and pasty when mashed, making it a perfect swap.

Some people call these red beans because of the color.

One difference though is that black beans are smaller than kidney beans, so if you’re using them in a dish where size matters, like a salad, keep that in mind.

Kidney beans can be used in chili con carne, taco filling, and all kinds of Mexican food.

You can use the same ratio of 1:1 when you substitute black beans with kidney beans.

Therefore, the kidney bean is a great substitute for black beans and won’t alter the flavor of your food.

Lima beans

Another great option for substituting black beans is to use lima beans.

These beans have a creamier texture than black beans, so they’re perfect for dishes where you want a creamier consistency.

Therefore, I recommend using the lima beans as a black bean substitute in recipes where you need chili beans.

Use large lima beans as a substitute for black beans

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They also have a slightly sweeter flavor than black beans and they’re slightly softer.

Unlike black beans, lima beans are green in color. They’re also larger in size, so if you’re using them in a dish where size matters, keep that in mind.

When you replace black beans with lima beans, use the same ratio of 1:1.

Lima beans can be used in soups, stews, and chili.

Pinto beans – best for chili

Pinto beans are another good option for substituting black beans. They have a slightly different taste but they will still work well in most recipes.

They’re most commonly used in chili along with black beans so you can use them instead.

Use pinto beans as a substitute for black beans

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These pea-sized beans can be used in chili, stew, and even stir-fries because they add a creamy texture.

I would say pinto beans have a mild flavor compared to black beans. However, they’re almost the same texture and the flavor profile is very similar.

Pinto beans have an orange color but they taste delicious and don’t overpower your dishes.

Pinto beans have a little less protein than black beans, but they are still a good source of fiber and other nutrients.

You can use the same ratio of 1:1 when you substitute black beans with pinto beans.

Chickpeas

You should consider chickpeas as a good substitute for black beans when planning a meal.

Although chickpeas are not a bean variety, they can be used in many of the same dishes.

Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, have a nutty flavor and a slightly sweet taste. They’re also very versatile because they can be used in sweet and savory dishes.

Use chickpeas garbanzo beans as a substitute for black beans

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If you want to use chickpeas as a black bean substitute, I recommend using them in dishes where you want a little more texture.

For example, they work well in salads and as a topping on soups.

Nearly all recipes that call for black beans can benefit from the addition of this versatile ingredient. They’re easy to come by and have an unremarkable flavor.

When it comes to texture, chickpeas are a bit firmer than black beans. They also have a nuttier flavor.

Chickpeas are great a replacement for dips and salads too. Since they have a slight sweetness, they can add a unique flavor to your dish.

And also, because of the high protein and fiber content of chickpeas, your dish will retain its nutritional value.

As long as they’re allowed to soak overnight and then boiled to your liking, they’ll be ready in no time. Or, you can use canned chickpeas.

The substitution ratio is 1:1, so if a recipe calls for one cup of black beans, use one cup of chickpeas instead.

Navy beans

Navy beans are another type of bean that makes a great black bean substitute.

They have a similar taste and texture to black beans, so they’re perfect for many recipes.

Navy beans (also called haricot beans) are small, white beans that have a mild flavor. They’re often used in soups and stews because they absorb the flavors of the dish.

Navy beans as a substitute for black beans

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These small beans are great for replacing black beans because they have a similar texture. When they’re cooked, they become soft and creamy.

Navy beans are also a good source of protein and fiber. In fact, they have more fiber than black beans.

If you’re looking for a black bean substitute that has a similar taste and texture, navy beans are a good choice. They can replace black beans at a 1:1 ratio.

So, if you’re making a dish that calls for one cup of black beans, use one cup of navy beans instead.

Great Northern Beans

You might’ve heard of great northern beans salads but did you know you can also use these large beans for baked beans, soups, and chili?

Great northern beans are a type of white bean that has a mild flavor. They’re often used in dishes where you want the bean flavor to be subtle.

Great northern beans as a substitute for black beans

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Great northern beans are a good black bean substitute because they have a similar texture. When they’re cooked, they become soft and creamy.

And like black beans, great northern beans are a good source of protein and fiber.

Therefore, even though there’s a size difference between these beans, the great northern beans are an excellent substitute for black beans.

Lentils

Lentils are a great source of protein and fiber, which makes them even more nutritious than black beans. They’ll add a stronger flavor to any dish.

Various types of lentils can be substituted for black beans, and they all work just fine. Red lentils, green lentils, yellow lentils, and black lentils all make great substitutes.

Green brown black and red lentils pack as a substitute for black beans

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The flavor of lentils is earthy and nutty, with a slightly sweet taste. When they’re cooked, they get a bit mushy.

Dried beans and dried lentils can be used interchangeably in recipes. If you’re using dry lentils, you’ll need to soak them overnight before cooking.

The ratio for this substitution is 1:2, so if your recipe calls for one cup of black beans, use two cups of lentils instead because lentils are very small.

Cannellini beans

Cannellini beans are one of the more underrated substitutes for black beans. They have a similar flavor and can be used in many of the same dishes.

Cannellini beans are a type of white bean that has a mild, nutty flavor. They’re often used in Italian recipes because they absorb the flavors of the dish.

Cannellini beans as a substitute for black beans

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Cannellini beans work well for Mexican food too because they’re full of dietary fiber and protein.

This makes them a great alternative to black beans. The substitution ratio is 1:1, so if your recipe calls for one cup of black beans, use one cup of cannellini beans instead.

Black-eyed peas

Black-eyed peas are a popular choice for black bean substitutes. They have a similar flavor and can be used in many of the same dishes.

These look like black beans, but they’re actually a type of cowpea. They have a nutty flavor and are often used in soups and stews.

Black eyed peas as a substitute for black beans

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Black-eyed peas look similar to dried black beans too so you can definitely use them, the only difference is that black-eyed peas are slightly larger.

Black-eyed peas are a good black bean substitute because they have a similar texture.

When they’re cooked, they become soft and creamy and they also have a similar nutritional value.

The substitution ratio is 1:1, so if your recipe calls for one cup of black beans, use one cup of black-eyed peas instead.

Cauliflower florets

Ok, I know this one isn’t a bean or pea, but it’s a good substitute for black beans if you’re looking for a low-carb option.

Cauliflower florets can be used as a black bean substitute in dishes like rice, quesadillas, and tacos.

Cauliflower florets as a substitute for black beans

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The thing is that cauliflower has a meaty texture, much like black beans.

The florets have a mild flavor so they won’t overpower the dish. And when they’re cooked, they have a similar texture to black beans.

Cauliflower is a good source of dietary fiber and essential vitamins.

Cashew nuts

Cashews are a good black bean substitute if you’re looking for a nutty flavor.

They have a similar texture to black beans and can be used in many of the same dishes.

Cashew nuts as a substitute for black beans

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The thing is that cashews are a bit sweeter than black beans. So if you’re using them as a substitute, you might want to add a bit more seasoning to the dish.

Cashews are a good source of protein and they can be used for baking too.

The substitution ratio is 1:1, so if your recipe calls for one cup of black beans, use one cup of cashews instead. You’ll have to grind the cashew nuts into a powder before using them.

Sunflower seeds

If you’re allergic to nuts and don’t like legumes, sunflower seeds are a good black bean substitute.

They have a similar flavor and can be used in many of the same dishes.

Use sunflower seeds as a substitute for black beans

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Sunflower seeds are a good source of protein and they’re also high in fiber.

The substitution ratio is 1:1, so if your recipe calls for one cup of black beans, use one cup of sunflower seeds instead.

Sunflower seeds aren’t the best for chili, stew, and other liquid foods since they lose texture. Use them to replace cooked black beans in salads and as toppings.

Takeaway

Now that you have a list of suitable substitutes for black beans, you can experiment with different flavors and textures in your meals.

I prefer to use other beans like kidney beans and pinto beans to replace black beans because they have a similar flavor and texture.

But, if you’re looking for a low-carb option, cauliflower is a good choice.

The important thing to keep in mind is the size of the beans or peas.

You don’t want to make a stew and then have too many large beans in there as these can absorb the liquids.

Next, check out this Japanese mung bean bun recipe that takes some prep but is SO GOOD

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.