15 Best Substitutes for Kidney Beans

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substitute for kidney beans

If you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional kidney bean, you’ve come to the right place. There are a variety of other beans that can take the place of kidney beans in recipes, and each has its own unique flavor and texture. From pinto beans to navy beans, here are 11 great substitutes for kidney beans.

Best Substitutes for Kidney Beans

1. Black Beans

Black beans are an excellent substitute for kidney beans in many recipes. Their creamy texture, slightly sweet flavor, and versatility make them ideal to use in Mexican dishes like burritos, chiles rellenos, soups, salads, and stews. 

When substituting black beans for kidney beans, it is important to consider the difference in flavors. Black beans have a milder flavor than kidney beans so you may need to adjust the seasonings used in your recipe. Instead of using the same amount of spices as you would with kidney beans, add less or opt for milder seasonings like garlic powder instead of cayenne pepper or chili powder. 

In addition to flavoring considerations when substituting black beans for kidney beans, it is also important to take texture into account. Black beans are firmer than kidney beans, so they may not break down as easily when cooked. To ensure they are just as creamy and tender as kidney beans, you may want to soak them overnight before cooking.

2. Pinto Beans

Using Pinto beans as a substitute for kidney beans can be an effective way to bring variation to recipes which call for either one. While the two types of beans have some distinct characteristics, it’s easy to swap them out when necessary. 

Before substituting pinto beans for kidney beans, it’s important to consider the size difference between the two varieties. Pinto beans are generally smaller than kidney beans, so you may need to adjust your measurements if you’re making a large batch.

Similarly, since pinto beans have a softer texture than kidney beans, it may not be feasible to use them if a recipe calls for firm bean pieces that hold their shape after cooking. 

The difference in cooking times also needs to be taken into account when using pinto beans instead of kidney beans. Since they’re smaller, pinto beans will cook much more quickly—usually in about an hour—while larger kidney beans may require up to two hours before they are soft enough to eat.

To ensure that your dish turns out just right, it is best to check the tenderness of the pinto beans periodically while they cook and add more water or broth as needed. 

Finally, when substituting pinto beans for kidney beans in a recipe it is important to remember that the flavour profile will be different. Pinto bean has a subtle earthy taste compared to the slightly sweet taste of kidney bean; therefore, cooks should consider this when adding seasonings and spices such as onion powder or cumin that would enhance and balance out these flavours. 

3. Red Beans

Red beans are an excellent substitute for kidney beans due to their similar nutrition content. Forceful and robust, yet surprisingly delicate and flavorful, red beans are much smaller than kidney beans and have a light red-pink color.

Their creamy-smooth texture further adds to the complexity of the dishes in which they are used; from salads and soups, like chili con carne, all the way to beloved plates like red beans and rice. The distinctive flavor they add creates an exciting layer to any dish it’s included in.

4. Cannellini Beans

If you are looking for a substitute for kidney beans in your favorite pasta dish or chili recipe, think about reaching for Cannellini beans instead. These classic Italian white beans offer the same size and texture as that of traditional red kidney beans.

Unlike the bolder, earthy flavor of a kidney bean, the Cannellini has a subtle, nutty taste which works well in a variety of dishes. This versatile bean is also praised for its unique ability to take on the flavoring and characteristics of other ingredients used. 

They also cook up in a similar style, making them an ideal replacement if you don’t have red kidney beans on hand. Once cooked, they easily break down and mash like regular kidney beans, or they can be quickly pureed to blend into any sauce or soup.

5. Navy Beans

Although they are smaller than kidney beans, navy beans can offer a great substitution for recipes that call for the latter. Perfect for hearty and filling salads or as-is with local fresh ingredients, navy beans have one of the most neutral flavors in the legume family, so additional spices and herbs blend well.

Some dishes that benefit from navy beans include baked beans and bean salads, soups, ham hocks, and the classic Boston baked beans. Finding navy beans is easy because they can be bought fresh and canned in most grocery stores.

6. Pigeon Beans

Pigeon beans are an often underestimated ingredient that can be used as a substitute for many common beans, such as kidney beans. Native to tropical and subtropical regions in Asia, they have an oval shape and change color from bright green to beige as they age.

Along with this delightful coloring, they also have a nutty and slightly sweet taste that makes them perfect for salads, side dishes or snacks. With their versatility, pigeon peas are the perfect replacement for other bean varieties in your next meal. All you need is a 1-to-1 substitution and you’ll enjoy their distinctive flavor without compromising authenticity.

7. Borlotti Beans

Borlotti beans are a great substitute for kidney beans in any dish. Though they are closely related, the two varieties differ in color; while kidney beans boast dark reddish brown skin, borlotti beans come with a creamy beige outer layer featuring red or purple speckles.

Often referred to as cranberry beans or Frijol Cachuate in Mexico, borlotti beans can add rich flavor and texture to a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to dips. So if you find yourself out of traditional kidney beans, don’t worry — just grab some borlotti beans and get your foodie fix!

8. Great Northern Beans

Whether you opt for dried or canned, this medium-sized bean is perfect for making soups and stews, as well as succulent baked beans. Likewise, its mild flavor works especially well if you are searching for a substitute for kidney beans in your favorite recipes. It’s easy to use since it expands considerably when cooked and absorbs other flavors easily.

As a high-protein and high-fiber food, these fluffy white beans can help contribute to a healthier diet and can even be used as an alternative to meat in vegetarian or vegan dishes. You don’t need to soak the beans when cooking, but if you do, you’ll find that they will cook faster and give you a softer texture.

9. Anasazi Beans

Anasazi Beans are an excellent substitution for kidney beans when creating traditional dishes. These legumes have a long history, as they were favored by the Anasazi Indian culture hundreds of years ago and are now making a comeback in modern cuisine.

Not only do they have a sweeter flavor than most other types of beans, but they also cook faster, making them amazingly convenient. Plus, they contain no cholesterol and are packed with protein and fiber. Anasazi Beans make a perfect addition to dishes like chile con carne, soups, Mexican meals or baked recipes – not to mention that each one is low in fat and sodium!

10. Lima Beans

Lima Beans beans boast a unique flavor, with a slightly milder taste and buttery texture that is sure to make any dish you add them to stand out! Also known as butter beans, they can be found in many recipes such as soups, salads and stews. Not only do they add an exciting touch to your dishes, but can also provide valuable nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals.

They can be cooked in many different ways, making them a convenient and versatile choice for many recipes that call for kidney beans. You can either simplify the cooking process by soaking them overnight and then boiling them for an hour over medium-high heat, or if you’re looking for an even easier route you can use your Slow Cooker or Multi-Cooker to get the job done. 

11. Lentils

Lentils have a fraction of the cooking time of kidney beans– some only taking twenty minutes– making them a great choice for busy weeknight dinners. Not only do they take less time, they’re also affordable and offer numerous health benefits as they are high in fiber, iron, protein, and more.

Plus, with so many types available from dark green to red split and brown lentils, there is something for every dish. Adding lentils to your routine can spice up any meal or create the tasty foundation for a new favorite dish.

You can use either canned or dried lentils depending on the recipe and your time frame. Canned lentils are already cooked, thus they just need to be rinsed before being added to salads, veggie burgers, soups or stews. If opting for the dried form, lay them flat on a cookie sheet and pick out any stones that may be present; then give them a good rinse, simmer them in low-sodium broth or water for 20-30 minutes until tender,

12. Garbanzo Beans

Not only can garbanzo beans provide a unique flavor for any dish; they are also nutrient-packed, offering a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins.

While it’s true that kidney beans may be slightly healthier overall than garbanzo beans due to their higher protein and mineral content, garbanzo beans still contain great amounts of nutrition while being lower in calories and fat than kidney beans. Plus they’re easier to find and cook with than some other legumes.

They work wonderfully well in tomato-based sauces, but can also easily replace kidney beans in olive oil-based, broth-based, or even wine-based sauces. Additionally, if you want to make your meal extra special, try pairing the garbanzo beans with caramelized onions, fresh herbs and spices as well as vegetables.

13. Mung Beans

Mung beans are often used as a substitute for kidney beans due to their mild, sweet flavor. With their versatility, they can be added to a myriad of dishes such as curries, salads and soups. In addition to these savory dishes, mung beans are also used in many traditional desserts across Asia. Whether enjoyed cooked or uncooked, cooking up these delectable legumes is easy: just pop them in boiling water until they’re done – usually between 20-30 minutes.

14. Pink Beans

With a slightly powdery texture, pink beans offer a rich and meaty flavor without the heaviness found in other types of beans. Their light color has earned them the name “pink beans,” although they are not actually related to pinto beans. These versatile legumes can be used in many dishes such as refried beans, chili con carne, soups and stews instead of using kidney beans – and their lighter texture can really add some extra flair to your favorite recipes.

15. Adzuki Beans

Adzuki beans are protein-rich and highly versatile, making them possible to use in all sorts of meals. When using adzuki beans as a replacement for kidney beans, you can use the same quantity that you would usually need of kidney beans (e.g. 1 cup). However, if you’re looking to use adzuki beans in desserts or other sweets, then there isn’t a direct replacement available; although you can get creative with flavor combinations and come up with something delicious.

Kidney Beans Facts

What Are Kidney Beans?

Kidney beans are a type of legume native to Central and South America. They get their name from their shape, which resembles a kidney. They can be found in many sizes and colors, including white, red, and black.

When cooking with kidney beans, you need to remember that red kidney beans are poisonous. To ensure they are safe to eat, you need to boil them at least 20 minutes during their initial cooking process.

After they are boiled, make sure to drain and rinse the beans before putting them into fresh water for boiling. This will help ensure that any toxins are eliminated from the water before you begin cooking your meal. Additionally, never cook the beans in the same water they were soaked in to avoid any risk of contamination.

Nutritional Benefits of Kidney Beans 

Kidney Beans are packed full of nutrition! They contain high levels of protein and fiber as well as essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, folate, manganese, potassium and vitamin B6. They also provide antioxidants which can help protect against cell damage caused by free radicals in the body.


Making substitutions is never easy but if you’re looking for an alternative to kidney beans there are plenty of options available. From black beans to lima (or butter)beans each one provides its unique flavor profile so experiment until you find the one(s) you love.

Whether it’s adding color & texture to your favorite dish or simply switching things up from time to time these 11 alternatives offer something special every time.