I want to know the difference between what I think are gastronomically identical bean varieties: kidney beans, navy beans, and black turtle beans. I know that these beans come from the same plant, have almost the same nutritional values, and differ in color and shape.

What I do not seem to find, is what is the difference in terms of cooking and flavor? Are they differently flavored? I have seen some pages saying that kidney beans take longer to cook, but I do not know how the other two compare on that. Is there truly any difference or is just a matter of dish aesthetics?

2 Answers 2


Here's a chart showing soaking and cooking times for different kinds of beans. Note that your "black turtle beans" are the same as the "black beans" on the chart.

Kidney Beans: soak 6-8 hours, simmer 60 minutes

Navy Beans: soak 6-8 hours, simmer 45-60 minutes

Black (Turtle) Beans: soak 4 hours, simmer 60-90 minutes

In practice, beans can be soaked for longer than the listed times, really as long as is convenient to you. I usually soak mine overnight on the counter if I'm sure I'll cook them the next day. If I'm not sure whether I'll get around to cooking them the next day, I soak them in the fridge and leave them there for up to several days.

Actual bean cook time can vary somewhat depending on how old the beans are. So in practice, you should expect to cook them for at least the minimum recommended time. After they've simmered for that length of time, spoon out a couple of beans and test for doneness. You can test them by biting them (if they're soft, they're cooked; if they're hard they're not). Or blow on the hot beans; the skin on cooked beans will usually crack open and roll back.

Yes, different varieties of beans taste different. Navy beans have a fairly neutral taste. Kidney beans and black turtle beans each have their own distinctive taste.

  • Are black beans very different from black turtle beans? If so how it compares to the rest?
    – Mauricio
    Sep 13, 2020 at 23:08
  • Also how is the taste of kidney and black turtle beans different from navy beans?
    – Mauricio
    Sep 13, 2020 at 23:10
  • There is one kind of beans that is variously called black beans, turtle beans, or black turtle beans. The only difference is the name.
    – csk
    Sep 14, 2020 at 15:56
  • 2
    Kidney beans taste like kidney beans. Black beans taste like black beans. If you've never had them, there's really no effective way to explain what they taste like. They taste like themselves. How would you explain the taste of a banana to someone who had never had one?
    – csk
    Sep 14, 2020 at 15:58
  • 2
    I am not asking you all to tell me how a beans taste like, but how flavor properties compare between the three. For example, one could say that one is sweeter, or crunchier, or more bitter, compared to another one.
    – Mauricio
    Sep 14, 2020 at 17:04

The taste difference between black turtle beans, white navy beans, and red kidney beans is fairly minor. Black beans have a slightly earthier taste than the other two, and kidney beans are a bit sweeter. These properties would not be noticeable in a heavily seasoned dish.

Red kidney beans, at least the ones I tend to use, are significantly larger than black or navy beans, which gives them a lower skin-to-insides ratio. They (along with navy beans) also have a relatively tender skin. Put together, this makes them creamier and smoother when mashed or allowed to dissolve. Black beans have quite a rustic texture when mashed.

And not to belabor the obvious, but the colors are different. As Apicius put it, "we eat first with our eyes." Black bean soup made with navy beans would look weird, and I think I'd have to work hard to convince myself it didn't also taste weird because of that.

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