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. The large, humble kidney bean is heartier and is a popular addition to comfort foods like chili. The shape of the smaller, softer black bean can be altered to suit many dishes, including dips.
Visually, black beans and kidney beans have obvious differences. Black beans are medium-sized with an oval shape and a matte black color. Kidney beans are shaped like—you guessed it—kidneys, and they're larger than black beans, measuring almost 3/4-inch in size. There are two main types of kidney beans: dark red and light red, distinguished by their respective shades, as their names suggest. Dark red and light red kidney beans are often used interchangeably because they're so similar.
When to Serve Black Beans
Black beans have a mild, sweet taste, and when cooked, a soft, flour-like texture. This makes them ideal in soups and stews, particularly those that call for blending or mashing to create a creamier consistency. They're also a great addition to dips and salsas, as well as tacos, burritos, and tostadas.
When to Serve Kidney Beans
Kidney beans have a bolder, earthy flavor and a firmer texture that helps them maintain their shape, even in recipes with long cooking times. They work well in soups and stews. Simmer them with spices and serve alongside rice, or prepare them to add to cold bean salads.