Red Beans vs Kidney Beans: What is the Difference? (Plus Nutrition)

When it comes to eating healthier with a well-rounded, healthy diet rich in plants, we don’t want to forget about beans! With over 400 different types of beans, from white beans to black beans to great northern beans and lima beans, there seems to be a type of bean named for every color, size, and place you can imagine!

With so many varieties of beans to choose from, let’s narrow it down and look at two common beans in American cuisine: red beans and kidney beans.

When deciding between these two common beans, the most common questions are: What is the difference between red beans vs kidney beans? Which one is more nutritious?

Let’s dive in and find out more!

red beans are small, plump, and oval-shaped beans

Red Beans

As their name suggests, red beans are red beans. They are small, plump, and oval-shaped. Small red beans resemble kidney beans, but they are smaller and more rounded. They are about a 1/2 inch in length. Red beans are similar to and often confused with the Adzuki bean, commonly grown throughout East Asia.

The red bean has a mild flavor with a slightly sweet taste and a slightly nutty flavor, and a creamy, smooth texture. You can eat them on their own, or they make a great addition to many dishes.

Red beans and rice are a symbolic dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine and are still a part of the New Orleans culture. Red beans are also a good bean to use in chili con carne and other chili recipes in soups and bean salads.

dark red kidney beans are the shape of a kidney and bigger in size than other beans

Kidney Beans

Kidney beans come in a variety of colors and patterns. Kidney beans get their name because they are said to have a similar shape to the kidney organ in the human body. There are four main types of kidney beans, red kidney beans, light speckled kidney beans, red speckled kidney beans, and white kidney beans also known as cannellini beans.

Dark red kidney beans look similar in color to red beans; however, kidney beans are larger in size and have a kidney shape.

Kidney beans can be used in various dishes, such as chili recipes, refried beans, soups, and salads. They are usually eaten well cooked as improperly cooked or raw kidney beans are toxic.

It is recommended that kidney beans are pre-soaked and boiled for 30 minutes to destroy the toxin phytohemagglutinin they contain. Kidney beans are best cooked on a stovetop or in a pressure cooker, as cooking kidney beans in a slow cooker is not recommended as the temperature will not be high enough to destroy the toxin.

Differences Between Red Beans vs Kidney Beans

Red beans and kidney beans are different types of beans. The main difference between red and kidney beans is that red beans are small, plump, and oval-shaped, like pinto beans and red in color. Dark red kidney beans look similar in color to red beans. However, red beans are small beans, while kidney beans are larger in size and a different shape. Red beans are more of an oblong shape, while kidney beans have a kidney shape.

Red beans have a more soft texture than kidney beans which have a more firm texture. Red beans also are said to have a “beanier” taste than kidney beans.

Red beans and red kidney beans are similar enough to be used interchangeably when needed if a recipe calls for either dry beans or canned beans.

Red Beans vs Kidney Beans Nutrition

Nutritional Value for one cup cooked red beans and one cup cooked kidney beans. Note this chart is only a general guideline as nutritional varieties may vary based on the variety of red bean or kidney bean and the manufacturing brand.

This chart shows the % RDI (recommended dietary intake) for daily intake.

Red Beans NutritionRed Kidney Beans Nutrition
Calories294219
Fiber16.8 grams16.5 grams
Protein17.3 grams16.2 grams
Copper34%26%
Folate (vitamin B9)70%33%
Iron26%29%
Magnesium30%21%
Phosphorus39%24%
Potassium35%21%
Thiamine (vitamin B1)18%15%
Vitamin B611%9%
Zinc27%10%

Health Benefits of Red Beans and Kidney Beans

Red beans and kidney beans both hold many health benefits, all the more reason to eat these beans up!

Antioxidants: 

Red beans and kidney beans are both are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect against free radicals and fight disease.

Heart Health:

Red beans and kidney beans are great for heart health. The folate, antioxidants, and magnesium can help lower blood pressure. They may also lower the total amount of cholesterol and levels of “bad” cholesterol in your blood, decreasing heart disease risk factors.

Dietary Fiber: 

Red beans and kidney beans are good sources of fiber. The high fiber content helps control cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Dietary fiber also helps to improve gut health. Fiber is also important in heart health.

Low Glycemic Index: 

Red beans and kidney beans rank low on the glycemic index scale, meaning they can help stabilize blood sugar levels.

Red Beans vs Kidney Beans Protein

Both red beans and kidney beans are a good source of protein. Red beans and kidney beans have about an equal amount of protein. Red beans containing roughly 17 grams of protein per one cup, and kidney beans containing roughly 16 grams of protein per one cup of cooked beans.

Red Bean Substitutes

Red beans can be substituted with kidney beans, pink beans, or cranberry beans, also known as roman beans.

Kidney Bean Substitutes

Kidney beans can be substituted with cannellini beans, navy beans, red beans, or pinto beans.

With an array of beans, there seems to be more than one type of bean you can use for any given recipe or dish. Beans, in general, are an excellent source of protein and other important minerals and vitamins, making them a great addition to almost any meal!

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Author Biography

Karla Kueber is a Certified Evidence Based EFT Practioner and Health Coach, with a double Masters Degree in Education. She works with people to overcome emotional eating, curb cravings, and overcome resistance to eating new healthy foods. You can learn more about ending the food struggle here.