Bean Varieties

A guide to US dry beans and cooking suggestions.


Appearance:small, reddish brown
Flavor:nutty, sweet
Culinary:often used in Asian cuisine; particularly popular in Japanese cooking for confections
Cooking Time:3/4 to 1 hour

Baby Lima

Appearance:flat-shaped, creamy white
Flavor:rich, buttery
Culinary:soups, stews and casseroles; or simply cooked with herbs and spices
Try them in this sweet onion apricot limas recipe.
Cooking Time:1 hour

Black Bean

Appearance:small ovals with deep black skins; dark-cream-to-gray flesh
Flavor:mild, sweet, earthy; soft texture
Culinary:sometimes called turtle beans; used in classic Latin American,Caribbean and Southwestern (U.S.) cooking in soups, stews, sauces
Try them in black bean brownies or Mexican black bean and spinach pizza.
Cooking Time:1 to 1½ hours


Appearance:kidney shape; white skin with small black eye, very fine wrinkles
Flavor:scented aroma, creamy texture, distinctive flavor
Culinary:originally from Africa, still very common there; also called cowpeas or black-eyed peas; cook rapidly with no pre-soaking needed
Try in stir-fried blackeyes & beef or turkey & bean salad with apricot-ginger dressing.
Cooking Time:½ to 1 hour


Appearance:small rounded beans, ivory color with red markings that disappear on cooking
Flavor:creamy texture; subtle, nut-like taste
Culinary:a favorite in northern Italian, Spanish and Portuguese cuisines
Try them in cranberry bean pizza.
Cooking Time:3/4 to 1 hour

Dark Red Kidney

Appearance:large, kidney-shaped, deep reddish-brown
Flavor:robust, full-bodied, soft texture
Try them in a quick and easy cassoulet or a refreshing chicken, bean, and wild rice salad.
Culinary:often used in chili; popular in salads; paired with rice
Cooking Time:1½ to 2 hours


Appearance:beige to pale yellow
Flavor:nutlike taste, buttery texture
Try them in a grilled tuna & bean salad or make your own falafel.
Culinary:called chickpeas; especially popular in Middle Eastern,Indian dishes — hummus, falafels, curries
Cooking Time:1 to 1½ hours

Great Northen

Appearance:flat, kidney-shaped, medium-sized, white
Flavor:mild, delicate, take on flavors of other foods with which they’re cooked
Culinary:popular in France in cassoulet (a white bean casserole); in U.S., traditionally prepared as Boston baked beans
Try them in pasta with beans & greens or sage-roasted pork tenderloin with beans.
Cooking Time:3/4 to 1 hour

Large Lima

Appearance:flat shape, ivory color
Flavor:smooth, creamy, sweet
Culinary:sometimes called “butter beans”; used in American succotash; good substitute for potatoes or rice; excellent in soups, casseroles
Try them in tomato butter bean bok choy or white bean chili.
Cooking Time:1 to 1½ hours

Light Red Kidney

Appearance:large, kidney-shaped
Flavor:robust, full-bodied flavor, soft texture
Culinary:popular in Caribbean region, Portugal, Spain; most often used in chili, salads; often paired with rice
Try them in fettuccine, chicken & bean alfredo, or Asian bean and rice rolls.
Cooking Time:1 to 1½ hours


Appearance:small white ovals
Flavor:mild flavor, powdery texture
Culinary:called pea beans; most often used in pork and beans, baked beans; also used in soups and stews; are great pureed
Try them in navy bean oatmeal chocolate chip cookies or pasta e fagioli.
Cooking Time:1½ to 2 hours


Appearance:small, pale-pink; turn reddish brown when cooked
Flavor:rich, meaty with slightly powdery texture
Culinary:related to kidney beans; often used in chili; a favorite in Old West (U.S.) recipes
Try them in pink beans with chicken breasts, oranges & walnuts or cajun bean, corn & shrimp bisque.
Cooking Time:1 hour


Appearance:medium ovals; mottled beige and brown
Flavor:earthy flavor, powdery texture
Culinary:closely related to red kidney beans; when cooked, lose natural mottling on skins and turn brown; most often used in refried beans, Tex-Mex, Mexican dishes
Try them in pinto bean applesauce raisin cookies or southwest lasagna.
Cooking Time:1½ to 2 hours

Small Red

Appearance:dark red color, similar to red kidney but smaller
Flavor:similar to red kidney
Culinary:also called Mexican red beans; hold both shape and firmness when cooked; most often used in soups, salads, chili, Creole dishes
Try them in kidney bean & cheesy rice casserole or shrimp & red beans creole.
Cooking Time:1 to 1½ hours