Alt beans: alternative names for beans

April 6, 2017 12:03 pm Published by 7 Comments

We’ve had Alt facts, we’ve had Alt news. Now, we give you: Alt beans.

Do you know your Alt beans?

Beans…and alternative beans. We know all their names.

Beans have a real variety of names – what we call a bean by in the UK can be completely different to what it’s known as in the US, or in Europe. It can make it a little difficult sometimes when you’re searching for a particular bean, although we’ve tried to build alternative names into our search engine. And online recipe forums are full of people asking ‘are garbanzo beans the same as chick peas?’ and the like.

To clear up some of the confusion, we’re showcasing some of the Alt beans we stock at Naturally Good Food, with a few of their Alt names!

Butter beans

Butter beans are great in bakes.

I say butter, you say lima: let’s not call the whole thing off.

These lovely, waxy, filling beans are also known as ‘lima’ beans. Great in bakes, where they’re a real hefty mouthful.

Haricot beans

These are haricot beans in the UK, but ‘navy’ beans in the US. They’re the classic ingredient in Boston Baked Beans.

Garbanzo beans

This wonderful name for these little round balls translates into ‘chickpeas’ in the UK, while in other parts of the world, they’re known as Egyptian peas. (If you’re having difficulty finding chickpeas on our search engine, try typing in ‘chick pea’ with a space.) And of course, the flour obtained from grinding chickpeas, when it’s not called chickpea flour or garbanzo bean flour, is best known as (Bengal) gram flour.

Aduki, Azuki and Adzuki

A magic spell or an alternative name?

Aduki, adzuki, azuki?

Sounding like a set of triplets in a children’s story, these are actually all the same bean: small and red and the perfect ingredient for one of our favourite recipes: red dragon pie.

Fava beans

These exotic-sounding Alt beans are in fact what we’re more used in the UK to calling ‘broad beans’.

Kabuki peas

Another exotic name, which translates more mundanely in British usage to ‘marrowfat peas’. As served in fish and chip shops as mushy peas (or, in urban myths, to politicians as guacamole).

Pinto beans

These are a variety of kidney bean and are often referred to as ‘light speckled kidney’ beans. We love these in vegan, Mexican-style dishes.

Black turtle beans

These distinctive brown-black beans are also known as ‘small black kidney beans’, again, due to their relationship to this pulse family.

Cannellini beans

While we’re on the subject, these beans, one of the most commonly used kinds of white bean in the UK, have as their other name ‘white kidney beans’.

We like these Alt beans in a gratin.

With or without hyphens, black-eyed beans and peas are the same thing.

Black-eyed beans

Leaving aside the question of whether to hyphenate ‘black-eye’ or not (the correct answer is yes), or whether it’s ‘black-eye’ or ‘black-eyed’ (the jury’s out), you’ll be relieved to know that black-eyed beans are just the same as black-eyed peas. And are especially tasty in a bean and vegetable gratin.

Soy beans

Soy beans, soybeans, soya beans and soyabeans are all exactly the same thing! It’s generally soy in the US and soya in the UK, though usage is beginning to alter. Baby soyabeans, meanwhile, are sold as ‘edamame beans’.

Black badger peas

We stock these British-grown peas from Hodmedod’s. It’s a great name, more evocative than the other names for these peas: Carlin peas and Maple peas.

Alt beans: why so many different names?

The Alt beans and peas above are just a taster! Look up any bean or pea online, and you’ll find a number of alternative names. There’s a very good reason for this. Pulses – beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas – are a basic nutritional element around the globe, the building blocks of ancient and modern healthy diets. No one area or country has ever had a monopoly on pulses, and in each region, they have been given individual names. While some names have become more widespread, the alternatives ones persist.

It may be a nightmare for search engines, but it’s a blessing for our bodies! Pulses are one of the best forms of protein, fibre, minerals and vitamins you can find. The fact that they’re so easy to find, wherever you are in the world, and whatever name you give them, makes them one of the very best things to add to your diet.

Click here to see all our pulses.



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This post was written by Yzanne


  • calum says:

    What do American books mean by “black beans”?

  • Mary says:

    What type of bean is ‘sugar bean’ also known as ‘Red speckled bean’.. It is popular in South Africa and African countries generally. It’s not available in that name in Ireland, UK or Europe… so what is the European name of the ‘Sugar bean?

    • Yzanne says:

      Hello Mary,

      What an intriguing question….which I’m not fully able to answer! I’ve looked into it carefully: sugar beans seem to be a kind of kidney bean. They look very similar to borlotti beans, but don’t, in truth, appear to be the same species as those. It’s possible they could be the bean known as ‘cranberry bean’ – have a google and see what you think. I suspect, however, that they are simply known here as ‘red speckled beans’ too, and that they’re not widely available. That seems a shame (although there are 40,000 different types of beans in the world, so I suppose no-one can stock them all)! I will pass them on as a suggestion to our operations manager.

      Best wishes,

      Yzanne Mackay
      Editor and Writer
      Naturally Good Food

  • Meta Powell says:

    Thanks for this super useful page! Do we know if our British runner beans go by a different name elsewhere in the world?

    • Yzanne says:

      Glad you found it useful! Our runner beans are what many people (especially in the US) call ‘string beans’. They’re also the same as the ‘green beans’ found in supermarkets. They may also have other names, of course!

      Best wishes,

      Yzanne Mackay
      Writer and Editor
      Naturally Good Food

  • Very useful article – thank you! What is a British name for what Americans call “red beans”?

    • Yzanne says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Glad you found it useful – it does seem to have struck a chord with many people! My research suggests that red beans are a particular type of bean commonly used in the US, generally in southern-style cooking, and also known as ‘Mexican red beans’. They’re not generally used in the UK, but our aduki/adzuki beans are a related variety of red bean. If you’re looking to use red beans in a recipe, aduki beans are probably your best substitute, although red kidney beans and pinto beans are also good options.

      There are, it turns out, around 40,000 different varieties of beans, which would explain why some varieties have never made it over here (yet)!

      Best wishes,

      Yzanne Mackay
      Writer and Editor
      Naturally Good Food

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