Although there is sometimes confusion over what constitutes a “black turtle bean” due to their more popular “black bean” nickname, there’s no confusion over the reasons to add this bean to your diet! Widely available, easy to cook, and boasting a slew of health benefits, this little bean proves that size doesn’t matter when picking a bean. It’s no wonder this little powerhouse is a staple of South and Central American dishes.
Black turtle beans are small, shiny, jet black, oval-shaped beans. They typically have a small white ridge on one side.
These little beans have a soft, creamy texture and a slightly sweet and earthy taste.
Black turtle beans can be purchased from most grocery stores, natural food stores, specialty stores, or online from
Dried In Bulk: When buying bulk dried black beans, be sure the store has a good turnover of the product to ensure maximum freshness and that the bins are sealed and free of moisture. Look for whole beans that are not broken or shriveled, and purchase only as much as you will use in a month.
Dried Pre-Packaged: Seek packaged dried beans in tightly sealed, moisture-free packages. Avoid any shriveled or broken beans, and check the packages for tiny pinholes in the beans, as this is an indication of bug infestation.
Canned: Canned black beans are available at most grocery stores and natural food stores and are ideal for convenience. Beans do not lose their nutritional value when canned and are therefore an easy and nutritious choice. Read the labels of all canned beans to avoid extra additives, which are both unnecessary and unhealthy. Be especially wary of purchasing canned beans with added salt and other preservatives.
Frozen: Frozen bags of beans should be pliable. Avoid bags with beans that are frozen together in a solid lump, as this is an indication that the bags have been thawed and refrozen.
Black turtle beans should be bought organic when possible. Organic foods are those that are produced without the use of artificial chemicals or fertilizers, genetic modification, radiation, or sewage sludge. Buying organic foods, in particular, minimizes exposure to harmful pesticides. Pesticides are toxic in nature and have been linked to a myriad of health problems, including cancer, hormone disruption, brain toxicity, and eye, skin, and lung irritation. Pesticides are also thought to harm the environment through the soil, water, and wildlife.
Packaged, dried black turtle beans should be stored in an airtight container in a dark, dry, cool location. Their shelf life is about one year, so make sure you don’t purchase more than you will use.
After black turtle beans are cooked, store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for three days, or keep in the freezer for up to six months.
Prior to cooking, soak black turtle beans in cold water overnight, for 8 to12 hours. Discard the soaking water prior to boiling. Add 3 cups of cold water for every 1 cup of beans in a large pot and bring to a boil. Upon boiling, turn the heat down and let beans simmer for 90 minutes, or until tender.
Black turtle beans are easier to digest than many other beans, partially because of their small size. Contrary to popular opinion about beans, black turtle beans are thought to aid in the proper functioning of the digestive tract, not cause distress. Soaking beans for several days—changing the water each day—can make them even easier to digest. Certain additives at the end of the cooking process will make beans less likely to cause gastrointestinal distress. Salt, when added near the end of the cooking time, can be a digestive aid. Cumin or fennel added near the completion of cooking can help prevent gas and bloating. Brown rice, apple cider, or white wine vinegars are all useful additives to help to break down indigestible compounds. Adding kelp or kombu seaweed to the water while cooking the beans also helps with digestion. As with all beans, black turtle beans should be chewed thoroughly.
The flavor and size of black turtle beans is most closely mimicked by pinto beans. They are also related to kidney beans, which could be a replacement in dire situations. They can also be substituted with calypso beans or appaloosa beans when necessary. It is important not to substitute black turtle beans with Chinese fermented black beans, a type of soybean. Despite the similarity in name (and the fact that both can be referred to as “black beans”), these two types of beans are extremely different.
A non-digestible carbohydrate, fiber provides a feeling of fullness, aids digestive support, helps provide the movement and excretion of bodily wastes, and aids blood-sugar stability.
Iron is an essential trace mineral that transports oxygen in red blood cells from the lungs to the rest of the body, aiding energy and endurance.
Provides structural support to DNA and RNA, works with calcium in the formation of tooth enamel and bone, helps to filter wastes out of the kidneys, and regulates energy. Phosphorus also plays an integral role in cardiovascular health and repairing cells and tissues throughout the body.
Thiamine, or vitamin B1, plays an active role in metabolizing carbohydrates into a useable form of energy. B1 also contributes toward proper nerve function and acts as a coenzyme to convert ketones into other coenzymes necessary for cell metabolism.
B9 (Folate or Folic Acid)
An important nutrient necessary for normal cell division during pregnancy and infancy, folic acid (vitamin B9) plays a powerful role in the developing infant. For adults, vitamin B9 is also essential for proper metabolism, aiding in energy and the production of red blood cells.
The black turtle bean has a winning combination of protein and fiber. Foods with this makeup are thought to have many benefits, not limited to aiding digestion, regulating blood sugar levels, and promoting heart health (specifically low cholesterol). The antioxidants found in black turtle beans are thought to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
- Black turtle beans are common in Latin America, and are often paired with fried plantains.
- There is evidence that the black turtle bean was used as early as prehistoric times.
- The black turtle bean is so named because of its shiny outer shell, which resembles that of a turtle.