9 Substitutes For Black Beans [In Meat, Soups & Baking]

Black beans, also known as black turtle beans, are a small commonly used legume that is native to the Americas. They are delicious and have a high nutritional value but not everyone enjoys their soft, grainy texture. If you have a recipe that you’d like to try but you don’t like black beans or just don’t have any on hand, keep reading for a comprehensive list of the best substitute for just about everything that black beans are used in! 

There are countless substitutes for black beans and the best option just depends on what kind of recipe you are working with. For Mexican food it is best to stick with pinto beans or kidney beans. For soup you can go with lentils, great northern beans, or black eyed beans.

For dishes that use black beans as a meat substitute you can use chickpeas or cauliflower instead. For baking you can use nuts or canned pumpkin, and for Asian dishes you can use mung bean or red jujube.

Best Black Bean Substitutes In Mexican Food

1.In Tacos

Pinto beans are a great substitute for tacos because they are similar in size and texture to black beans, but a little bit more mild in flavor. They are also slightly more dry, which some people prefer. Pinto beans and black beans are the two beans most commonly used in refried beans, a popular Mexican staple for tacos.

Smaller bean varieties are better for tacos so that you can avoid the very relatable mistake of overstuffing your shell! 

Pinto beans are named for their characteristic speckled pattern, white with light brown spots like a Pinto horse. When cooked and canned Pinto beans turn a light brown, the color of wet clay. Either way, they are delicious, but the speckled variety can be a sign that the beans were harvested and dried when still fresh.

2.In Enchiladas

For enchiladas, pinto beans or kidney beans will work. You can also forgo the beans altogether because not all enchiladas include beans and they can be delicious without them. You can use just cheese, meat and cheese, or add some cooked onions and peppers. 

Enchiladas are a little less messy than tacos so you can get away with using the larger sized kidney bean if you do want to use beans. Kidney beans are red beans that are larger than black beans and more dry. They are shaped just like the vital organ that they are named after.

Best Black Bean Substitutes In Soup

3.For Black Bean Soup

Black bean soup is a filling and cost effective meal that can be easily whipped up in an instant pot or crock pot. Black beans will break down when they are slow cooked, almost as if they have been partially blended. They become part of the broth that they are cooked in and add a special flavor and thickness to this style of soup. 

The only other legume that does this quite as well as is the humble lentil. Lentils will break down and thicken when slow cooked just like black beans, and they are just as nutritious if not even more so. Lentils are full of iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Black beans provide similar nutrients, just in lesser amounts.

4.In Tortilla Soup

My favorite beans to use in tortilla soup are great northern beans. They are small, soft, white beans with a mild flavor. It is also convenient that the white hue doesn’t darken the color of the broth, so it stays nice and bright and appetizing.

I prefer using a bean with a mild flavor because it will take on the seasoning and flavor of the broth and let it shine. 

Black eyed beans are another great option because they don’t break down as much as black beans. Black eyed beans are often called black eyed peas, but they are actually beans. They are a staple in southern and soul food cooking and go great in any soup.

5.In Chili 

If you’ve ever been to a chili cook off then you know that there is really no limit to what you can throw into your pot of chili. It’s a dish that is easy to customize to your liking and whatever you have hanging out in your pantry. I’ve used kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans, black beans, great northern beans, you name it, I’ve tried it.

In the grocery store you can buy chili beans in a can, which are usually a mix of pinto and kidney beans. 

Of course there are those who firmly believe that beans don’t belong in chili. I tend to firmly disagree with these folks but I will admit that I’ve had a decent beanless chili or two. For this version of chili you can leave out the beans and let the meat be the star of the show.

Just slow cook it in spices, onions and ancho chile peppers and don’t overdo it on the liquid. It is meant to be less of a soup and more of a spread for tacos or enchiladas.

Best Black Bean Meat Substitutes 

6.In Veggie Burgers

Black beans are often used as a meat substitute to make burgers because they are moist and easy to mash. The texture provides a good base that can help the burger stay together on the grill. If you are replacing black beans it is important to use something that will provide a similar “glue” for your burgers. 

Chickpeas are a great choice for veggie burgers, especially if you mash them or blend them with a little bit of olive oil or tahini. They also taste great with a variety of spices and go well with common burger toppings like sliced tomato, lettuce, and cheese. 

Cauliflower is another good option that can be mixed in with chickpeas in veggie burgers. Cauliflower has recently become a grocery store star because it is lower in carbs than beans and other legumes. It fits well with the keto diet, or for anyone whose stomach is sensitive to beans. 

For burgers cauliflower would need to be finely diced and mixed with some form of flour or breadcrumbs and eggs. You could use gluten free breadcrumbs if need be. This low carb veggie works great for burgers because it fries up nicely in a skillet or on the grill.

You can get a delicious crust on your burger, similar to a hashbrown or a zucchini fritter.

 

7.In Salad

My favorite option for a black bean substitute in salad is also chickpeas. They can be eaten cold right out of the can and go great with any salad dressing, but you can also roast them in your oven on high and they add a lovely crunchy topping to any salad. I like to eat them roasted as a snack too!

8.Best Black Bean Substitutes For Baking

Black beans are sometimes used in healthy versions of your favorite desserts, especially in brownies. If you are looking for a black bean substitute for your next high protein dessert you can try adding nuts to a traditional brownie or cake recipe, and use applesauce to cut back on the sugar content. Nuts will provide healthy fats and protein. 

If you are slightly more adventurous with your baking you can substitute canned pumpkin or avocado for black beans. There are highly rated brownie recipes that call for just canned pumpkin and brownie mix, nothing more. The canned pumpkin gives the added benefit of healthy fiber, just like black beans.

Avocado recipes might be a little bit more expensive but they give your brownies the same great fudgy consistency as black beans do, along with a healthy dose of omega-3 fat.

9.Best Substitutes For Fermented Black Beans

Fermented black beans, or Chinese black beans, are a staple in Asian cuisine. They are also called Douchi, and are made from black soy beans. Black soy beans are very different from the black beans that you would use in Mexican or American food, but similar in the sense that it can be easily substituted for other bean varieties. 

The fermentation process gives Douchi the added nutritional benefit of live probiotics. As with most fermentation, it also leads to a salty, somewhat bitter taste. Fermented beans are used in sauces and stir fries mostly, but can also be eaten on their own or with roasted vegetables or meat. 

Black soy beans are not the only type of beans that are fermented in Asian cuisine. Natto is a similar fermented bean paste that is made with brown soybeans. Mung beans are commonly used in Japan to make pancakes and tempeh, a protein rich meat substitute that is becoming more popular in the United States. 

Korean fermented bean paste is made with red jujube, which is a highly nutritious date. The red jujube gives the Korean bean paste a sweeter flavor. Jujube is purported to have medicinal qualities as well, and is used to decrease anxiety, balance hormones, and boost immunity.

Final Verdict

There are many well loved recipes that include black beans, but you can substitute for another legume without drastically changing the taste or quality of your meal.

For those who are sensitive to legumes there are also ways to substitute vegetables for black beans. No matter what your dietary requirements, you can find a solution in your pantry when it comes to replacing black beans. 

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