Cranberry beans and pinto beans look similar to one another, but they are not the same bean. If you are wondering what the difference between pinto beans and cranberry beans (also known as borlotti beans) you’ll find the answers to all your questions below.
You will also find when you can use one in place of the other, so if you are looking for substitution info we have you covered.
What are Pinto Beans and Cranberry Beans?
Pinto beans are spotted legumes that are native to South and Central America. They are one of the most popularly eaten beans in the US and Mexico.
Pinto beans color ranges from cream to tan with speckles or spots. In fact, this characteristic is where it’s name is derived from. Pinto means speckled or spotted so these beans are quite appropriately named.
The signature color of the pinto bean does not survive cooking though. Once heated the pinto bean displays a solid brown or slightly pink hue.
Pinto beans offer a somewhat mild flavor with notes of nuttiness with an earthy richness. This flavor makes them quite versatile in their culinary use.
Cranberry beans are small legumes with deep red spots that look similar to pinto beans. Cranberry beans, also known as borlotti beans, originate from Italy.
They are not as commonly used in US cooking but they are quite versatile.
The name cranberry bean is derived from the vibrant red spots of the bean that are a similar color to cranberries.
Cranberry beans offer a stronger flavor than pinto beans and is characterized as nutty, earthy and rich. Cranberry bean flavor works well in many types of recipes.
Pinto Bean and Cranberry Bean Uses
Pinto beans can be found in both canned and dried varieties at most grocery stores. Both can be used in many types of recipes from breakfast to dinner dishes.
Pinto beans are a popular legume used in traditional Mexican recipes as well. They are also commonly used in Central American cuisine as well as American Tex Mex recipes.
They are a great addition to breakfast burritos as well as traditional dinner style burritos. They make a great chili bean and are the most common bean used to make refried beans.
Cranberry beans are most commonly found dried in US super markets but canned varieties are available in some locations.
Cranberry beans are traditionally used in soups, salads, as well as polenta. They are also a great bean for making baked beans.
Their nutty flavor lends them to being used in similar recipes to pinto beans. In fact, these two beans are excellent stand ins for each other.
Substituting for Pinto Beans and Cranberry Beans
While pinto beans and cranberry beans are not traditionally used in the same recipes, they offer a flavor similar enough that they make excellent substitutes for each other.
Both beans provide an earthy, nuttiness that works well in many of the same dishes, though cranberry beans do have a slightly stronger flavor.
Both beans can be used in everything from burritos and refried beans to Tex Mex and polenta. When substituting either of these beans for each other use a 1:1 ratio and prepare your recipe unchanged.
Related: Borlotti Bean Substitutes
Pinto beans and cranberry beans offer a similar, nutty flavor. They also have a similar, mottled appearance and can be used in similar recipes.
Pinto beans tend to be easier to locate at most local grocery stores so if you are making a recipe that calls for cranberry beans, you can use pinto beans instead without making any other changes to your recipe.