Pinto beans may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Pinto bean is one of numerous varieties of common bean—a sprawling family of legumes that originated in the Americas. Pinto means “painted” in Spanish, a moniker that alludes to the bean’s mottled skin with spots that range from beige to black to pink to purple to red. These beans have roots in the high deserts of Central America, where humans first learned to cultivate the legume thousands of years ago. As migration and trade moved northward, the Hidatsa, Mandan, and Sahnish peoples began to cultivate pinto beans on the North American high plains, where they became known as awáasha, dabas, and ómįnįk. Colonization brought pinto beans to other continents, where they were bred to create new varieties, including Alubia Pinta Alavesa, Bolita, Valena Italian, and many more.
Milo, 7 months, eats mashed pinto beans with a spoon.
Aarav, 9 months, eats flattened pinto beans.
Juliet Rose, 12 months, eats refried pinto beans with a spoon.
Yes. As with most beans, pinto beans are a complete protein, while also supplying ample carbohydrates (including excellent amounts of fiber) and healthy fats (consisting of plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids). They are a great source of B vitamins, including B6 and folate, and a good source of iron, zinc, vitamin E, choline, and calcium – nutrients that all fuel baby’s growth and development. Pinto beans are full of other minerals, too, including copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, and selenium.
Cooking dried pinto beans from scratch is more economical, but canned beans taste great, too. Just know that canned beans often have high levels of sodium, which can exceed baby’s needs, so look for beans in cans marked “no salt added” or “low sodium.” Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to line the interior of some food containers, and studies show that frequent exposure can affect baby’s neurological development among other issues. Look for cans marked “BPA-free,” when available.
Pinto beans are not named as a common choking hazard, but they can pose a risk if not cooked well enough. To reduce the risk, make sure the beans are fully cooked and soft. If you’d like to further reduce choking risk, you can press each bean between your fingers or with the back of a fork to flatten it, or simply mash the beans into a paste. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
No. Pinto beans are not a common allergen. Bean allergies have been reported in some patients with allergies to other legumes, including peanut and soybean (which are common food allergens). However, being allergic to one type of legume does not necessarily mean that an individual will be allergic to others, and most individuals with peanut or soy allergy are able to tolerate other legumes just fine. Individuals with allergies to birch tree or grass pollen and/or Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to legumes, such as pinto beans. Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching, tingling, or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
Recommended Guide: Introducing Allergens
Yes, as long as the beans are fully cooked (from dried) or canned. Plant compounds such as lectins, oxalates, and phytates are naturally present in legumes, whole grains, and even nuts. These compounds are a great source of B vitamins, protein, fiber, and fat, as well as antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. That said, they have also gained the nickname “anti-nutrients” because they can decrease absorption of other specific nutrients. However, many of these compounds break down during soaking and cooking on high heat and are generally harmless in healthy people when consumed as part of a balanced diet, so just make sure that pinto beans are fully cooked before serving.
Yes. Beans are well-known for their ability produce gas and poop. That’s because the high amounts of fibers and resistant starches interact with certain bacteria in the gut, resulting in gas, helping to move poop, and contributing to a diverse ecosystem in the digestive tract. While gas is normal and expected, excess gas can be uncomfortable for baby. To minimize digestive discomfort, introduce high-fiber foods like pinto beans gradually and regularly in baby’s diet. Remember that pooping patterns can vary significantly from child to child. If you have concerns about baby’s pooping and digestive function, talk to your pediatric healthcare provider.
Pinto beans work well to add hearty flavor and nutrients to salads, soups, and stews. The legumes taste creamy and mild—a combination that works well in frijoles refritos – a versatile dish made from beans, fat, herbs, and spices that can be eaten on its own, spread on tostadas, or stuffed into burritos, empanadas, taquitos, and more.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Crush or blend cooked pinto beans into a textured mash or smooth paste that baby can scoop up. If you prefer, serve the mash or paste with a spoon or thinly spread it onto half of a soft corn tortilla or onto thin rice cakes. To boost nutrition, stir in breast milk, formula, olive oil, mashed avocado, or even unsweetened whole milk yogurt when making the mash or paste. You can also stir the crushed or pureed pinto beans into soft, scoopable foods like corn grits, mashed vegetables, rice porridge, or stewed greens. However you decide to prepare the pinto beans, start with small portions (such as a couple of spoonfuls per meal) since any type of bean can cause gas and help move poop along.
Babies with a developing pincer grasp (where the thumb meets the pointer finger) may graduate to whole pinto beans, as long as they are cooked until soft. If you are nervous about choking, gently flatten each bean between your thumb and finger before serving. Alternatively, continue serving mashed or pureed pinto beans for baby to scoop with hands, use as a dip, or practice eating with a spoon.
By this age, toddlers should be able to chew and swallow whole cooked pinto beans, so try offering dishes you can enjoy along with the child, like bean salads, bean soups and stews, or succotash. Whole cooked beans offer a good opportunity for utensil practice—show the child how they can use a fork to pick up a bean. If help is needed, pass the utensil in the air for the child to grab from you. If the child rejects the utensil, don’t worry: learning to use utensils is exhausting for young eaters and many toddlers toggle between eating with hands and utensils. Be patient: consistent, independent utensil use may not come until closer to 18 to 24 months of age.
Our Nutrient Cheat Sheet is a one-page guide for the nutrients babies need most, ideal for keeping in the kitchen or on the fridge for a quick reference.
2 cups (480 ml)
Rinse canned beans to remove excess sodium.
Place the beans and 1 c (240 ml) of water or stock in a high-powered food processor. Blend to form a paste. Scrape down the bowl to ensure the beans are fully blended. If you don’t have a food processor, you can make the dish by hand by simply mashing the beans until they are mostly smooth. A little texture is okay.
Transfer the blended beans to a bowl. Wipe out the food processor, then add the onion, garlic, tomatoes, and herb. Blend to form a puree.
Set a skillet on medium heat and pour in the oil. Add the onion-tomato mixture and stir to coat in the oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Stir the blended beans into the onion-tomato mixture. Stir occasionally as the beans cook and thicken. They are done when the mixture begins to sputter – imagine a bubbling geyser or volcano that is about to erupt. Season the beans with lime juice, then remove them from the heat.
Set aside some frijoles refritos for your child, then season the rest with salt to taste for yourself. Serve the beans with corn tortilla, quinoa or rice, and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C, like bell pepper, spinach, or tomato.
Serve the Beans
Offer frijoles refritos, then let the child self-feed.
If help is needed, pre-load a spoon and pass the utensil in the air for the child to grab from you.
Eat some frijoles refritos alongside the child to model how it’s done.
To Store: Frijoles Refritos (Refried Pinto Beans) keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months.
J. Truppi, MSN, CNS. Certified Nutrition Specialist®
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist
K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC, CBIS, Pediatric Feeding Therapist
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
Dr. S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
Dr. R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
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