Lentils vs Black Beans: Detailed Nutrition Comparison

L

I’ve done a general comparison of lentils vs beans, but I wanted to look specifically at how lentils stack up to black beans.

There are many reasons you might want to compare lentils to black beans.

So I did them all.

Somewhere on this page you should be able to find the difference between the 2 legumes that you’re looking for.

Whether it’s protein content, amino acid distribution, or nutritional value.

Macro Comparison: Lentils vs Black Beans

Let’s look at a high level breakdown for each legume.

The nutritional information for both is in 1 cup of cooked beans or lentils.

 LentilsBlack Beans
Calories230227
Fat (g)0.80.9
Carbohydrates (g)39.940.8
Fiber (g)15.615.0
Protein (g)17.915.2

Clearly they’re very similar.

The biggest difference is that lentils have 2.7 extra grams of protein per serving. If you’re eating 2 or 3 cups of either, this difference adds up fast.

Other than that, they have about the same number of calories and fat, and black beans have a tiny bit more carbohydrates.

Essential Amino Acid Comparison

What about protein quality?

Here’s a breakdown of the essential amino acid content for both black beans and lentils.

 RDARDABlack beansLentils
 mg per kgfor 70 kg person1 cup1 cup
Tryptophan (mg)4280181160
Threonine (mg)151050642640
Isoleucine (mg)201400673772
Leucine (mg)39273012181295
Lysine (mg)30210010461247
Methionine (mg)151050229152
Phenylalanine (mg)251750824881
Valine (mg)261820798887
Histidine (mg)10700425503

As expected, they’re similar, but there’s one amino acid in particular I would like to highlight.

The typical essential amino acid profile of a bean is low in methionine.

Black beans have about 51% more methionine than lentils.

This isn’t a huge deal as long as your other protein sources have methionine. However, methionine is the most difficult essential amino acid to get from plants, so this is a little win for black beans.

Nutritional Value: Lentils vs Black Beans

I created a table below of just the vitamins or minerals that either legume were relatively high in.

All values are in % of the recommended daily value for each nutrient:

 Lentils (% DV)Black Beans (% DV)
Thiamin22%28%
Vitamin B618%6%
Folate90%64%
Iron37%20%
Magnesium18%30%
Phosphorus36%24%
Potassium21%17%
Zinc17%13%
Copper25%18%
Manganese49%38%

Pretty similar as expected again, but there are some significant differences.

Lentils in general have more nutritional value than black beans, they have more in all but 2 of the above nutrients.

In particular, they have a lot more iron (37% vs 20%), which is probably the most important nutrient for someone eating a plant-based diet.

Which is Better: Black Beans or Lentils?

Putting that all together, we can make a few conclusions:

  • Lentils have a significant amount more protein than black beans.
  • Black beans have more methionine, an essential acid that most beans lack.
  • Both are great vitamin and mineral wise, but lentils have more overall, plus more of iron, potassium, and zinc (arguably the most important ones).

Overall, lentils have more nutritional value than black beans, so they’d be the winner if we had to declare one.

But they’re both great sources of nutrition and good sources of protein (especially for vegans).

Related comparisons:

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

13 comments

  • Thank you, exactly what I was looking for and the results are pleasant! But I have one question: are all lentils the same?

    • The data here came from the general nutrition data for “lentils”.

      If you look at different colors (i.e. red, brown, green), there are some small differences, but in general they’re almost identical nutritionally speaking.

      I do find red lentils taste different than brown or green (which both taste similarly), and red ones also cook faster. But other than that they’re quite similar.

      Here’s a brown lentils vs red lentils comparison if you’d like to see a detailed example.

      • Thank you for this. I’ve always wondered how it is that lentils seem to have the effect of good medicine on my body. I like black beans but lentils are magic.

  • Thanks for the information. I got up early in the morning planning to cook black beans but I realized I had left over lentils so I was debating whether to cook black beans or not. After reading your blog I decided to eat lentils again.

  • So incredibly helpful and detailed, yet concise. Will definitely share with to my Facebook page and group! I’m starting to learn all about sprouting, so have taken a renewed interests in the nutritional value of nuts, legumes, seeds and grains.

  • WOW, thank you! Carolynn, retired biochemist/medical technologist from California. We are “almost” vegan. Can’t seem to give up a little ice cream now and then, but…..just got our new Vitamix from Amazon! Learning to make that banana “nice cream” may help! Thanks again for the info.

  • Really handy thank you. The key take-away for me is that cobining lentils with black beans or eating both onthe same day is a good option to get the best amino profie. Feeling a chickpea-lentil-blackbean salad for tomorrow! If I want to really max the iron uptake, add a red bell pepper and some leafy green for the vitamin C. Now I’m hungry! 😅