Both black beans and kidney beans are excellent sources of fiber and protein, but each are distinct from one another in appearance, taste and texture. A heartier bean, the large, humble kidney bean is a popular addition to comforting dishes like chili, whereas the smaller, softer black bean benefits dishes like dips where its shape can be altered to suit the dish.

Visually, black beans and kidney beans are easily distinguished from one another. Black beans are medium-sized with an oval shape and dark, matte black exteriors. Kidney beans, as their name suggests, are shaped like kidneys and are larger than black beans, measuring almost 3/4-inch in size. There are two main types of kidney beans, dark red and light red. Dark red kidney beans are known for their dark red, glossy exterior, whereas light red kidney beans are more pink in appearance. Dark red and light red kidney beans are often used interchangeably because they are so similar.

Black beans have a mild, sweet taste, whereas kidney beans possess a bolder, earthy flavor. When prepared, black beans have a soft, flour-like texture while kidney beans have a firmer texture that lends well to seasoning and maintain their shape, even in dishes with long cooking times.

Because kidney beans maintain their shape and texture when cooked, they are an ideal addition to soups and stews. Simmer them with spices and serve alongside rice, or prepare them for use in cold bean salads. Since black beans become soft when cooked, they are a great addition to soups and stews, particularly those that call for blending or mashing to create a creamier consistency. They are also a great addition to dips and salsas, and make a great addition to tacos, burritos and tostadas.