Red Beans vs Kidney Beans: How Do They Compare?

Red beans and kidney beans are both commonly used legumes in many cuisines around the world. While they are often interchangeable in many recipes, they do have some notable differences in taste, texture, and appearance. Red beans are small and oval-shaped with a reddish-brown color, while kidney beans are larger and kidney-shaped with a dark red color.

Red beans and kidney beans also have a distinct difference in taste, with red beans having a milder, sweeter flavor compared to the slightly earthy flavor of kidney beans. Both are quite nutritious and high in protein, fiber, and other essential vitamins and minerals, making them a very popular choice for vegetarians and those following a healthy diet. This article will delve into the main differences between red beans and kidney beans. Keep reading to find out more!

Are Red Beans Kidney Beans?

Contrary to popular belief, red beans and kidney beans are not the same thing. They are two different types of beans, although they can sometimes be used interchangeably in cooking due to their similarities. As previously stated, red beans are reddish-brown in color, while kidney beans are typically dark red. They also have different flavor profiles, which is important to keep in mind if you want the dish you’re cooking to taste a certain way.

Kidney Beans and Red Beans Overview

While kidney beans and red beans may be similar in some regards, they have several distinct differences that set them apart. To better understand these differences, it’s important to know what kidney beans and red beans are, exactly. Let’s go over what both of these legumes actually are before we deep dive into the differences.

What are Kidney Beans?

Kidney beans are a type of legume that is native to Central and South America. They are named after their unique shape, which is similar to a human kidney. Kidney beans are commonly used in a variety of dishes, including chili, stews, salads, and a variety of rice dishes. They are an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In other words, they are very healthy for you!

Kidney beans are usually sold dried, but they can also be found canned, which makes them a quick and easy-to-use cooking ingredient. They have an earthy flavor, and a creamy texture when cooked. They are also great at soaking up flavors from other ingredients in a dish, which makes them especially versatile.

What are Red Beans?

Red beans, also known as small red beans, are commonly used in several different types of dishes. They are much smaller than kidney beans, and are oval-shaped with a reddish-brown color. Red beans are often used in chili, stews, and salads — just like kidney beans. Like kidney beans, red beans have a creamy texture when you cook them.

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Red beans also contain important vitamins and minerals, such as folate, iron, and potassium. They are quite nutritious and tasty, and make for a flavorful addition to any stew or rice dish. In fact, red beans and rice is a classic, very popular dish that folks have been cooking and serving up for decades. We love the simplicity and versatility of red beans, and we’re sure you will too.

What’s the Difference Between Red Beans and Kidney Beans?

Now that you’ve learned a little bit about red beans and kidney beans, let’s delve into some of the main differences between these two fascinating legumes. Some of these differences will probably surprise you, but that’s what makes red beans and kidney beans so interesting!


Red beans and kidney beans may look similar at first glance, but there are actually plenty of distinct differences between them. Red beans are small and shaped like ovals. They are usually reddish-brown or rust-colored, which makes them look quite similar to pinto beans.

Kidney beans, on the other hand, are larger and have a distinctive kidney shape. They have a dark red color that is almost purplish. Make sure to keep these differences in mind if you’re planning to make a dish that requires one or the other.


When it comes to flavor, red beans and kidney beans each have their own unique taste. Red beans have a mild, sweet flavor that makes them an excellent ingredient to use in dishes where you want the beans to complement the other ingredients, rather than overpower them. Kidney beans have an earthy flavor to them, which is a bit stronger and nuttier.


Red beans and kidney beans both have a lot to offer when it comes to using them in cooking. Red beans are great for recipes where you want a smaller, creamier bean, such as in salads or red beans and rice. Kidney beans are larger and have a meatier texture, making the particularly ideal for chili, stews, and other hearty dishes.

The type of bean you choose will depend on the specific recipe you’re making and the flavor and texture you’re going for. Either way, you’re in for a delicious and nutritious meal when you cook with red beans or kidney beans!

Nutritional Value

As previously stated, red beans and kidney beans are both very nutritious. Both beans are high in protein and fiber, which makes them a great option for vegetarians and vegans who are looking for a healthy source of these essential nutrients. Red beans have about 7.3 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per 100-gram serving while kidney beans are slightly higher in both protein and fiber per serving.

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Storage and Shelf Life

Both red beans and kidney beans have a relatively long shelf life, and you can store them in a variety of ways due to their versatility. Dry red beans and kidney beans can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 12 months. This makes them a great pantry staple to have on hand for when you need to add a quick and healthy ingredient to your meals.

Cooked red beans and kidney beans can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days. You can also freeze them for up to six months, which is an excellent way to preserve their unique flavors. In terms of shelf life, canned red beans and kidney beans can both be stored in the pantry for up to two years, although it’s generally recommended to use them within one year.

Can I Substitute Red Beans for Kidney Beans and Vice Versa?

Yes, absolutely. Red beans and kidney beans can often be substituted for each other in most recipes, although there may be some differences in texture, flavor, and appearance. If you decide to make red beans and rice with kidney beans, for example, your dinner guests might call you out on it. It will still taste good and have plenty of nutritional value though, which is what really matters.

Ultimately, whether or not you can substitute red beans for kidney beans or vice versa will depend on the recipe and your personal taste preferences. That said, in many cases, the substitution can be made successfully, so feel free to experiment and see what works best for you! After all, cooking is all about experimenting and having fun while also creating something delicious.

Final Thoughts

Red beans and kidney beans are both delicious and nutritious cooking ingredients that can sometimes be used interchangeably depending on the recipe and your personal preferences. Whether you’re making a salad, a stew, or a simple side dish, both red beans and kidney beans are excellent choices. They are high in protein and fiber, and are a great source of vitamins and minerals as well.

Whether you prefer the mild sweetness of red beans or the lightly nutty flavor of kidney beans, you truly can’t go wrong with either choice. Add red beans or kidney beans to your next meal and enjoy the unique and delicious benefits they have to offer! Don’t be afraid to experiment and play around with different recipes either. You might just discover your new favorite meal!