5 Health Benefits of Pinto Beans—and 6 Recipes to Try

Turns out beans really are good for your heart.

The humble pinto bean is much more powerful than it looks. A super common small bean in the United States and Mexico, pintos are packed with nutrients, and boast a rich interior and a pale color that makes them essential in many recipes, and adaptable to swap in for other legumes. 

Pinto beans’ creamy texture makes them a shoe-in for blending (bean dip, anyone?) and their neutral, almost earthy flavor adds nice notes to comfort food from a range of cuisines. Sold dry and in cans, pinto beans are ubiquitous, and should be included in a balanced diet for so many reasons. Here are a few of the best health benefits of pinto beans.

Related: The 30 Healthiest Foods to Eat Every Day

<p>Xamtiw/Getty Images</p>

Xamtiw/Getty Images

Pinto Bean Health Benefits

Just how nutritious are pinto beans? Check out some health benefits below.

Pinto beans are good for the gut, heart, and muscles

Want to improve your gut health? Add some pinto beans to your diet. “Since pinto beans primarily provide protein, carbohydrates, and fiber, they provide health benefits specific to gut, heart, and muscle health,” says Megan Meyer, PhD. Eating an intentional diet is an easy way to improve gut health, and including fiber-rich foods can help your microbiome. 

Pinto beans are packed with potassium

“Pinto beans are also good sources of key vitamins and minerals, such as potassium,” says Meyer. “Potassium is essential for muscle function and blood pressure.” 100 grams of pinto beans (about ⅓ of a can) has about 275 milligrams of potassium, which is considered high, similar to other potassium-rich foods such as spinach, sweet potatoes, and avocados.

Pinto beans are rich in essential nutrients

Pinto beans are also a great source of phosphorus, an essential mineral. “Phosphorus helps with the formation of teeth and bones,” says Meyer. “It is also involved in helping make ATP, a key molecule needed for the body’s energy.” Pinto beans are also high in iron. “Iron is used by the body to make hemoglobin—a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body," adds Meyer. ”Iron is also used to make some hormones.”

Pinto beans can help energy levels

Low energy? Try pinto beans. Not only will the protein help fuel you, but the magnesium content may make you feel more energized. “Magnesium is key for muscle and nerve function, as well as energy production,” says Meyer. Also in pinto beans: Thiamine, a B vitamin that provides energy for the body. “It also helps the body produce new cells,” Meyer notes.

Pinto beans are a good source of antioxidants

“Pinto beans contain antioxidants such as polyphenols, including catechin, kaempferol, and quercetin,” says Meyer. Antioxidants are known to fight free radicals in the body, which helps protect your cells from damage and can reduce the risk of cancer. 

Related: The Top 10 Superfoods, According to More Than 1,100 Registered Dietitians

Delicious Ways to Enjoy Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are easy to cook with, and neutral enough in flavor that they can adapt to any flavor profile. The small, light tan beans are super versatile, and can be enjoyed in a range of cuisines or swapped into recipes for another bean of a similar size. If you want to reduce the sodium content, drain and rinse your canned beans thoroughly, or cook dried pinto beans (usually cheaper by volume) on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker, to control flavor and salt levels. 

But don’t let the arduous process of soaking and slow-cooking beans stop you from including pinto beans in your diet. “If you value convenience and want to save time, canned beans may be a better option, since it can take anywhere from several to 24 hours to prepare dried beans,” says Meyer, noting the nominal nutritional difference between dried and canned pinto beans. Adding pinto beans to your weekday meals can be as easy as cracking a can open and indulging in all their health benefits. 

Ready to eat some pinto beans? Try these recipes.

Spicy Chorizo and Pinto Bean Soup

Victor Protasio
Victor Protasio

Part-chili, part soup, this rich and satisfying dish comes together in 20 minutes and is so satisfying in brisk weather. If you don’t eat meat, try a vegan chorizo substitute and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

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Sweet and Tangy Baked Beans

Greg DuPree
Greg DuPree

Sticky, savory, and packed with flavor, these baked beans are the ideal side at any barbecue. Pintos are the perfect size to coat in the tangy sauce, and this recipe yields good leftovers for days.

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Related: 20 Easy Party Sides That Work For Any Occasion

Refried Bean and Cheese Melts

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

This comforting mollete, a Mexican toast, starts with a baguette or roll rubbed with garlic, and then layered with so much goodness and flavor. Refried beans made with pintos work so well for this recipe, which covers the beans in melted cheese. 

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Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

Victor Protasio
Victor Protasio

Add another superfood to your pinto routine with these twice-baked sweet potatoes. After the sweet potatoes are soft and baked, you’ll fill them with a mixture of pinto beans, cheese, and spices for a nutritious and tasty center to be re-baked in the potato.

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White Bean and Farro Salad

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

Top your grain bowl with beans for a chic neutral hue, and of course, plenty of texture and nutrients. If you buy pre-cooked farro or meal prep with a big batch, this tasty lunch can come together in minutes. Top with crumbled feta, or a can of tuna for extra protein.

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Skillet Pork Chops and Beans

Greg DuPree
Greg DuPree

A can of pinto beans perhaps never looked so elegant as in this dinner party-worthy one-pot meal. Boneless chicken breasts or even fish or tofu can also work as the main protein in this recipe, which will soak up flavor in the oven.

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