When I have my days of eating just vegetables and no meat, I always make sure to incorporate kidney beans or a substitute for kidney beans into my diet.
There are many types of beans that are excellent to cook with, which I absolutely love. I usually just cook with whatever type I have in the pantry. I’m not really picky.
The first thing I care about during the days when I’m not eating meat is that beans are one of my main sources of protein and fiber. This is the ingredient that gives me plenty of energy and makes me feel full and happy.
I will admit that I don’t understand people who don’t love beans, like my brother. He is the only one in the family who doesn’t eat them.
Substitute for Kidney Beans: Beans, Chickpeas, Lentils
The best substitute for kidney beans is whatever type of beans you can find to buy where you live.
There is no absolute specific kind that you have to buy in order to replace this variety.
As I’ve already mentioned, there are many types of beans around the world. I’m just going to cover some of the most popular but you can use whatever other variety you find in the food markets or stores.
1. Cannellini beans: One of the best substitute for kidney beans
Technically, these are also kidney beans. The difference is that they’re white and not red. We’ll just call them cannellini so that we can make the distinction easier. But we can also call them white kidney beans.
Among popular white beans, cannellini are the biggest.
Besides the different colors, there’s really nothing that sets these 2 types of kidney beans apart. They will just appear white in the dishes that you make instead of red.
Due to their larger size, they’re meatier than other white bean varieties.
If you’re looking for a substitute to use in chili, you might not want to use cannellini because the white might stand out too much among all that red.
However, when it comes to taste, the result will be identical. Just the visual is different.
Cannellini have a creamy texture with a mellow, nutty flavor.
2. Navy beans: Pea-sized substitute for kidney beans
Just like cannellini, navy beans are white beans. The major difference is that navy beans are the smallest of white beans.
They’re actually described as being pea sized. The great northern are in the middle, between navy beans and cannellini.
If you enjoy small beans in your dishes, these ones are absolutely perfect.
The other advantage that their small size brings is that they cook faster. I still recommend soaking them overnight but you should pay attention to cooking times if you enjoy a firmer, crunchier texture.
I enjoy my navy beans on the mushy side, I love the about them.
If you want to skip the soaking and boiling, get canned navy beans, which can be used straight out of the can.
3. Black beans: My favorite kidney beans substitute
If you don’t want to use white beans as a substitute for kidney beans for a chili, you can use these black ones.
I must confess that the chili with black beans looks even better than the one made with red ones. It’s a really beautiful combination.
Black beans are used in southern Mexico and South America but, throughout the years, they have made their way into pantries around the world.
I will admit that I love cooking with this variety because I love their color, their contrast in colorful dishes and in salads.
They’re soft, creamy, and mild. There’s no overwhelming flavor but that’s true for most bean varieties.
4. Red beans
If what you’re looking for is a substitute with the same color, then you can go for red beans.
Red beans and kidney beans are actually not the same, although it’s easy to see how that would be confusing.
There’s one main thing that sets them apart: red beans are small in size. Thus, if you see them red and small then they’re not kidney but the red variety.
However, both these varieties can be used interchangeably in absolutely the same dishes.
They have a slightly sweet, nutty, earthy flavor with a soft texture.
5. Pinto beans
I’m pretty sure that these are pretty common for a lot of people.
They are light brown (pale pinkish brown) with a creamy texture and a nutty and earthy taste. I will describe their taste as refreshing, which makes them quite versatile and appreciated by many cultures.
You’ll find them in chilis, refried beans, in fillings for burritos, in soups, etc.
They’re smaller than kidney beans but also more creamy and softer.
6. Great Northern beans
The Great Northern ones are white and medium-sized. This is a very popular white bean variety.
They’re a nice substitute for kidney beans. If this is the one you find, you can safely use them.
These have a mild flavor. Their flavor will be given when they absorb the flavors from the rest of the ingredients.
Great Northern will perfectly complement other grains, vegetables, and various meats.
7. Chickpeas: Delicious substitute for all beans
If you’re looking for a substitute for kidney beans that is totally different but belongs to the legume, pea or bean family, then you should try chickpeas.
I would mostly use them as a substitute in salads. But they also go in soups and stews and curries.
Can you make chili with chickpeas? You definitely can.
They’re quite versatile, even if some of us hear chickpeas and instantly think of hummus. Well, who could blame us?
By the way, you definitely have to try roasted chickpeas, the perfect tasty, healthy snack.
Another substitute that’s quite different is lentils. They belong to the same family as chickpeas.
These work perfectly in soups because they add the perfect texture and they can also be used for thickening soups.
But you can also make chili with lentils and so much more.
Lentils will cook much faster than dried beans and they don’t require soaking.
They will cook in 25-30 minutes, while chickpeas can take as long as 45 minutes up to 1 hour.
Canned beans are definitely faster and the same goes for canned chickpeas and lentils.
9. Pigeon peas
If you want to use a bean variety that looks like black-eyed peas, I recommend using pigeon peas as a kidney beans substitute.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to this variety, you can buy canned/frozen/dried pigeon peas. Harvest time is in the autumn.
It is a favorite legume in Caribbean kitchens. It is frequently consumed in tropical and semitropical regions: India, Africa, South Asia, South East Asia, and Latin America.
Pigeon peas have a delicious nutty flavor. If you buy them dry, you’ll have to soak them for about 6 hours.
10. Fava beans: One of the tastiest bean varieties
What I love the most about fava beans is that they’re incredibly versatile. We can eat them raw when they’re young pods, we can buy them canned or dry when they’re out of season.
Just like all the other bean varieties, dry fava beans should be left overnight to soak for a quicker cooking.
I love cooking with fava beans because they’re one of the tastiest bean varieties. If you want to learn more about this legume, read my article on fava bean substitutes.
Short introduction to kidney beans
Kidney beans are awesome for chili, this is the preferred variety for this dish. However, as I’ve said, any other variety can serve as an awesome substitute for kidney beans.
If you want to buy them, you’ll find them canned, which means that long cooking times won’t be a problem at all.
There are actually different types of kidney beans:
- red, which is the most prevalent and probably what you’re used to cooking
- white, which are also called cannellini beans
They’re all medium to large, oval in size and all colors look beautiful. Their shape is what gives them their name.
The large shape and the overall texture makes them perfect for absorbing the flavors from the other ingredients.
Kidney beans are perfect for rice and peas, soups, chili, dips, salads, curries, pasta, and so many other dishes. There are particular herbs and spices that work really well with them, like bay leaves, chilies, parsley, thyme, oregano, ginger, garlic, cumin, and cilantro.
Well, that applies to all beans, including those that I’ve recommended above as substitutes for kidney beans.
Canned vs dried beans
There’s one single aspect you must pay attention to when picking your perfect substitute for kidney beans: choosing between canned or dried beans.
I recommend draining and washing the canned beans before cooking with them.
Between these two types, there’s one notable difference: the canned ones are already cooked so they won’t take more than 30 minutes on the stove or in the oven until they’re completely done.
Depending on what you’re cooking, as little as 10-15 minutes cooking time can be enough.
There’s no doubt that the canned ones are fast and convenient, just the perfect ingredient for making a plentiful, nutritious meal in under an hour.
However, they’re more expensive than dried beans. Well, with dried beans, the cooking time is boosted to 1 to 2 hours cooking time. That involves plenty of gas or electricity used for cooking them until they’re soft, buttery, and melty in the mouth.
If you do decide to cook with dried beans as a substitute for kidney beans, just remember that 1 cup of dried beans yields about 2-3 cups of cooked beans, the exact quantity varies for the different varieties.
Delicious Kidney Beans Recipes
If we want to know where we will have to use a substitute for kidney beans, we should see which are some of the most popular recipes made with this beautiful bean variety.
We can’t talk about beans without mentioning chili.
In short, you can use whatever bean variety you want. What I absolutely prefer is using black beans for chili. But you can even use pigeon peas, whatever you have available.
You can even make it with lentils or chickpeas. It’s a very flexible recipe and you’ll find many variations for it.
Jamaican rice and peas
This dish looks beautiful with the red kidney beans. But it can look just as beautiful if you cook it with black/red beans, pinto beans, pigeon peas, black-eyed peas, yellow eye beans or whatever variety you have in the house.
You can make Sloppy Joes without beans, too. That’s in case you don’t really like beans in your Sloppy Joes. Otherwise, pick whatever bean variety you have.
If you want a vegan version, you can make Chickpea Sloppy Joes.
Pasta e fagioli
Making this recipe with cannellini will work very well. But you can use all the other bean varieties that are easily available where you live.
Kidney bean salad
If you want a change of taste for this recipe, I would use chickpeas as the best substitute for kidney beans, they’re a favorite of mine for salads.