Beans are so popular, they have a song (you know the one). But what else is there to know about beans, which yes, are technically a fruit? Let’s start by exploring the several different types of beans available.
We call them beans, but their scientific name is Phaseolus vulgaris (no surprise that beans became the prevalent term). Beans are a great source of protein and one of the most commonly eaten foods in the world. One of the great things about beans is that they cross cuisines; they’re a staple in many countries and cultures. Gotta love ‘em for that.
They also come in a ton of varieties — there are about 400 types of beans to be exact. And that’s just what we know is edible. Perhaps the best quality about beans is that even the most novice chef can turn them into a delicious meal. There’s so much you can cook with beans using minimal kitchen skills. As if that wasn’t enough, beans have several health benefits; they’re high in fiber and protein and may help prevent disease.
But first, are legumes beans?
Actually, it’s the opposite. Legumes are defined by the fact that they grow in pods, and beans are simply a type of legume (along with lentils, peas, and even peanuts).
Different types of beans
So let’s dig in. Here’s a quick guide to some of the most common types of beans.
Great Northern beans
Great Northern beans are white and medium-sized with a mild flavor. They hold their shape well so they can be stewed or used in soups. They are good at absorbing the flavors they’re cooked with, so they can complement a variety of ingredients.
Nutritional profile: Per ¼ cup (dried) — 170 kcal, 11 g of protein, 0.5 g fat, 31 g carbohydrates, 10 g fiber, 1g sugar, 89.8 mg of calcium, 710 mg potassium, 5.1 mg sodium.
Sometimes called white kidney beans, cannellini beans are the largest type of white bean, which makes them meatier than other white beans like Great Northern beans or navy beans. However, they have a similar mild and nutty flavor. They also hold up well in soups and stews and can be tossed in salads. You may have eaten them in minestrone (but red kidney beans are also common, more on those later).
Nutritional profile: Per ½ cup (cooked, salted) — 100 kcal, 7 g of protein, 0.5 g fat, 20 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 59.8 mg of calcium, 270 mg potassium, 260 mg sodium.
Fava beans are usually found fresh at the farmer’s markets or the produce section; they’re equally bitter and sweet. You can stew them and add to soups, braise, roast, saute, or toss them into pasta. You can also eat them cold in salads. To cook, always blanch them first (after removing from pods) and then continue cooking with your preferred cooking method.
Nutritional profile: Per 1 cup (in pods, raw) — 111 kcal, 10 g of protein, 0.92 g fat, 22.2 g carbohydrates, 9.45 g fiber, 11.6 g sugar, 46.6 mg of calcium, 163 mg potassium, 31.5 mg sodium.
Fayot (Flageolet) beans
Fayot also known and flageolet beans are small, tender, creamy, and mild in flavor. They have a pale green to ivory white color. They are commonly used in French cuisine for salads, soups, and other flavorful side dishes.
Nutritional profile: Per 1/4 cup (raw) — 180 kcal, 10 g protein, 0.5 g fat, 34 g carbohydrates, 22 g fiber, 1.0 g sugar, 59.8 mg calcium, 800 mg potassium, and 0 mg sodium.
Red beans are small in size, oval in shape and have the characteristic ruby-colored skin. They have a mild flavor, earthy, slightly sweet and nutty, and soft texture. Often used in Caribbean, Latin, Cajun, and Creole cuisine. It’s great for soups, chilis, and dishes like red beans and rice.
Nutritional profile: Per 1/4 cup (dried) — 160 kcal, 10 g protein, 0 g fat, 28 g carbohydrates, 7 g fiber, 1.0 g sugar, 60.1 mg calcium, 513 mg potassium, and 0 mg sodium.
Sometimes also called butter beans, depending on your geography, lima beans are small green beans that look like seeds. They taste grainy but are also known to have a mealy and creamy texture.
Nutritional profile: Per 1 cup (cooked) — 229 kcal, 14.6 g of protein, 0.69 g fat, 42.4 g carbohydrates, 14 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 52.8 mg of calcium, 730 mg potassium, 5.46 mg sodium.
Mung beans are small, green beans that are soft and mealy when cooked. You can use them in soups and salads, and they go well in stir-fries and casseroles. Typically, you’ll soak mung beans before cooking. They have an impressive list of health benefits. For example, they’re high in protein as well as being nutrient-rich (i.e., potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamin B).
Nutritional profile: Per 1 cup (cooked, salted, sweetened) — 187 kcal, 12.6 g of protein, 0.68 g fat, 34.3 g carbohydrates, 13.7 g fiber, 3.58 g sugar, 48.6 mg of calcium, 477 mg potassium, 347 mg sodium.
Kidney beans are commonly eaten in chili and come conveniently canned. They’re a medium to large bean. Red and white kidney beans (which are also called cannellini beans) are the more common, but with some searching, you can also find purple kidney beans, black kidney beans, and even spotted kidney beans.
Nutritional profile: Per 1 cup (cooked, salted, sweetened) — 215 kcal, 13.4 g of protein, 1.54 g fat, 37.1 g carbohydrates, 11 g fiber, 4.74 g sugar, 87 mg of calcium, 607 mg potassium, 758 mg sodium.
Navy beans are another type of white bean (similar to Great Northern beans but smaller). They won’t hold their shape as well as Great Northern beans but are still hearty and mealy. They have a creamy texture and taste mild. They are commonly eaten in white beans and rice (a southern dish), navy bean chowder, and Boston-style baked beans. They also taste great in salads and tossed into various pasta dishes.
Nutritional profile: Per 1 cup (cooked, salted) — 296 kcal, 19.7 g of protein, 1.13 g fat, 53.6 g carbohydrates, 13.4 g fiber, 0.734 g sugar, 123 mg of calcium, 755 mg potassium, 880 mg sodium.
If you’ve heard of just one type of bean, this is probably it. Pinto beans are light brown bean, often used to make refried beans or in chili. They are creamy and taste earthy and nutty. They’re a very versatile bean.
Nutritional profile: Per ½ cup (cooked, salted) — 110 kcal, 6.01 g of protein, 0 g fat, 21 g carbohydrates, 8.06 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 62 mg of calcium, 289 mg potassium, 208 mg sodium.
Black beans are the new pinto beans, similar in taste and texture. They can almost always be swapped in to replace pinto beans when you want to reduce carbohydrate intake. If you have dry black beans, learn how to cook them over the stove.
Nutritional profile: Per ½ cup (cooked, salted) — 120 kcal, 8 g of protein, 1 g fat, 21 g carbohydrates, 5.98 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 40.3 mg of calcium, 360 mg potassium, 350 mg sodium.
Nutritional profile: Per ½ cup (cooked, salted) — 160 kcal, 10 g of protein, 2 g fat, 26 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 80 mg of calcium, 310 mg potassium, 290 mg sodium.
Lentils become soft and creamy when cooked, which is why they can work wonders in soups by adding the right texture. I used them in this red lentil soup. You can find also find green, black, and brown lentils, and they all pack a nutritional punch.
Nutritional profile: Per 1/4 cup (dried) — 100 kcal, 8 g of protein, 0.5 g fat, 23 g carbohydrates, 7 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 20 mg of calcium, 260 mg potassium, 10.2 mg sodium.
Yep, peas are a type of bean. Those little, ground, podded green veggies have been fooling you. As a cheap and versatile veggie, it never hurt to have a bag of frozen peas on hand. I used them in everything from risotto to soup.
Nutritional profile: Per 1/4 cup (dried) — 178 kcal, 11.3 g of protein, 1.9 g fat, 30.3 g carbohydrates, 11 g fiber, 1.5 g sugar, 22.3 mg of calcium, 417.5 mg potassium, 2.45 mg sodium.
Once boiled, soybeans are considered edamame, the popular appetizer you may have ordered at your favorite sushi restaurant. Don’t eat the hull, but the beans inside are chewy with a mild flavor that makes them ideal for eating solo or mixing into salads and pasta.
Nutritional profile: Per 1 cup (cooked) — 296 kcal, 31.3 g of protein, 15.4 g fat, 14.4 g carbohydrates, 10.3 g fiber, 5.16 g sugar, 175 mg of calcium, 886 mg potassium, 1.72 mg sodium.
Black-eyed peas are denser than some other beans, and they have an earthy taste. Texture-wise, they’re comparable to chickpeas and white beans, firm yet soft.
Nutritional profile: Per ¼ cup (dried) — 170 kcal, 12 g of protein, 0.5 g fat, 30 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 55 mg of calcium, 560 mg potassium, 10 mg sodium.
These are a type of red bean (sometimes even referred to generically as red beans). They taste slightly sweet, but like most beans, are nutty and mild. Some people use them in baking, but they also go well with veggies like mushrooms and sweet potatoes that have both savory and sweet qualities.
Nutritional profile: Per ¼ cup (dried) — 162 kcal, 9.78 g of protein, 0.26 g fat, 31 g carbohydrates, 6.25 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 32.5 mg of calcium, 617.5 mg potassium, 2.46 mg sodium.
Anasazi beans are a Southwestern bean, as you may have gathered from the name. Visually, they keep it funky. They’re spotted, red, and cream-colored. They’re a little smaller than pinto beans and black beans but are a similar shape.
Nutritional profile: Per ¼ cup (dried) — 150 kcal, 10 g of protein, 0.5 g fat, 27 g carbohydrates, 9.02 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 59.8 mg of calcium, 340 mg potassium, 0 mg sodium.
*Nutritional information sourced from the USDA FoodData Central [source]. Levels will vary depending on preparation, quantity, brand, and product.
How to store beans
Go ahead, by beans in bulk. Their shelf life is one of the reasons beans are so beloved. You can store them in your pantry for up to a year(find a cool, dry place — you know the drill). Make sure they’re in an airtight container. If they go stale, according to The Bean Institute, adding baking soda may help soften them [source].
Ways to cook beans
First of all, soaking beans is always wise (either overnight in room-temp water or for an hour in hot water); it will help reduce the starches that can upset your stomach.
Avoid cooking dried beans in a slow cooker, as the low heat isn’t enough to kill the toxins. Canned beans, however, are already cooked, so no worries there. They just need to be heated. To cook dried beans, simmer them on the stove or use your Instant Pot.
How much does 1 cup of dried beans yield (cooked)?
One cup of dried beans will result in about 2 to 3 cups of cooked beans. It varies for different types of beans.