What Type of Bean Should I Use?

When it comes to cooking with beans, home cooks and chefs have a lot of options. You can choose dry or canned beans, and you can choose from among tens of types of beans.

The following chart describes nine of the most common varieties of beans available in both dry and canned form in U.S. supermarkets. The cooking time refers to the time needed to cook dry beans after you soak them.

If a recipe calls for white beans, you can use Great Northern beans, navy beans, or white kidney beans (also called cannellini beans).

DESCRIPTION COOKING TIME (minutes)
 black Black Beans are medium-size, oval-shaped beans with matte black skin. They are also called Turtle Beans or Turtle Mountain Black Beans. Black beans are sweet-tasting with a soft texture. They are popular in Central American, South American, and Caribbean cuisine. 60-90
cranberry Cranberry Beans are medium-size, oval-shaped beans with mottled tan and red skin. They are also called Roman beans. Cranberry beans are known for their creamy texture with a flavor similar to chestnuts. The red specks disappear when these beans are cooked. Cranberry beans are a favorite in northern Italy and Spain. 45-60
 great-northern Great Northern Beans are medium-size, oval-shaped beans with thin white skin. They have a mild, delicate flavor. Great Northern beans are very popular in France for making cassoulet (a white bean casserole) and in the Mediterranean where many beans of a similar appearance are cultivated. 45-60
 dark-red-kidney Dark Red Kidney Beans are large, kidney-shaped beans with a deep, glossy red skin. They have a firm texture, and they hold up well in soups or other dishes that cook for a long time. Dark red kidney beans are used in soups, cold bean salads, and chili. 90-120
 light-red-kidney Light Red Kidney Beans are large, kidney-shaped beans with light red/pink glossy skin. They have a firm texture, and they hold up well in soups or other dishes that cook for a long time. Light red kidney beans are popular in the Caribbean region, Portugal and Spain. 90-120
 navy Navy Beans are small, oval-shaped beans with white skin. They have a mild, delicate flavor. These are the beans used for the famous Boston Baked Beans. These white beans were named Navy Beans because of their inclusion in the U.S. Naval diet during the second half of the 19th Century. 90-120
 pink Pink Beans are small, oval-shaped beans with a pale, pink skin. Pink Beans are very popular in Caribbean countries. They are used to make Caribbean Pink Beans, a dish made with no added fat and flavored with sofrito, a mixture of tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, and garlic. 60
pinto Pinto Beans are medium-size, oval-shaped beans with mottled beige and brown skin. Like cranberry beans, pinto beans lose their mottled appearance when cooked. Pinto beans are the most widely produced bean in the United States and one of the most popular in the Americas. Pinto beans are used to make Mexican refried beans. 90-120
 small-red Small Red Beans are small, oval-shaped beans with red skin. They have a more delicate flavor and softer texture compared to kidney beans. Small red beans are particularly popular in the Caribbean region, where they normally are eaten with rice. Small red beans are used to make Louisiana Red Beans & Rice. 60-90