What Are Borlotti Beans? Nutrition, Benefits, and Uses

Borlotti beans may not be as widely recognized as some other bean varieties, but they offer a wealth of nutrients and flavor.

So, what exactly are borlotti beans, and what do they offer in terms of nutrition?

This article explores the nutritional profile of these beans, the potential benefits they offer, and how we can use them.

What Are Borlotti Beans?

Raw borlotti beans in a wooden bowl.

Like many bean varieties, borlotti beans belong to the common bean family, which is known scientifically as Phaseolus vulgaris.

The beans are also known as cranberry bean or Roman beans, and they originated in Colombia (1).

Borlotti beans have an interesting appearance, exhibiting a creamy beige base color speckled with random burgundy patterns prior to cooking.

However, once cooked, these burgundy speckles tend to fade.

The above image showscases the dried form of borlotti beans before cooking.

How Do They Taste?

Having discussed their appearance, what do borlotti beans taste like?

Similar to cannellini beans, they have a soft and creamy texture after cooking. Their flavor profile is relatively mild, with slight notes of sweetness and nuttiness.

Like many legumes, borlotti beans readily absorb the flavors of the ingredients they’re cooked with.

Typical Uses

There are many ways in which we can use borlotti beans, thanks to their ability to soak up flavors from various dishes.

For this reason, they excel in foods like curries, soups and stews.

The Nutritional Profile of Borlotti Beans

Borlotti beans are highly nutritious and deliver a wealth of essential nutrients.

Using data from the USDA’s FoodData Central, the following tables display the full nutritional properties of cooked borlotti beans per 177-gram cup serving. Daily values have been calculated using the USDA data alongside the FDA’s recommended daily values (2, 3).

NameAmount% Daily Value
Calories241 kcal
Carbohydrates43.4 g15.8%
Fiber15.2 g54.3%
Fat0.81 g1.0%
Saturated0.21 g1.1%
Monounsaturated0.07 g
Polyunsaturated0.35 g
Omega-30.16 g
Omega-60.19 g
Protein16.5 g33%
Cholesterol0 mg0%
Table 1: Nutrition facts for cooked borlotti beans per 177-gram cup serving

As shown in the table, borlotti beans are high in protein and an excellent source of fiber.

A cup serving provides more than 15 grams of each of these important nutrients.

Vitamins

VitaminAmount% Daily Value
Choline
Folate, DFE366 mcg91.5%
Vitamin A, RAE0 mcg0%
Vitamin B1 (thiamin)0.372 mg31%
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)0.122 mg9.4%
Vitamin B3 (niacin)0.912 mg5.7%
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)0.425 mg8.5%
Vitamin B60.143 mg8.4%
Vitamin B120 mcg0%
Vitamin C0 mg0%
Vitamin D0 mcg0%
Vitamin E
Vitamin K
Table 2: Vitamin composition of cooked borlotti beans per 177-gram cup serving

Among their vitamin content, borlotti beans provide a notably good source of B vitamins.

In addition, they deliver a significant amount of folate, with a 177-gram cup serving supplying more than 90% of the recommended daily value (2, 3).

Minerals

MineralAmount% Daily Value
Calcium88.5 mg6.8%
Copper0.409 mg45.4%
Iron3.7 mg20.6%
Magnesium88.5 mg21.1%
Manganese0.655 mg28.5%
Phosphorus239 mg19.1%
Potassium685 mg14.6%
Selenium2.3 mcg4.2%
Sodium1.77 mg0.1%
Zinc2.02 mg18.4%
Table 3: Mineral composition of cooked borlotti beans per 177-gram cup serving

Borlotti beans offer a diverse array of essential minerals at relatively high levels. Among these, they are a particularly rich source of copper, iron, manganese, and magnesium.

To find out how borlotti beans compare to other popular beans, see this complete guide to legumes.

Key Point: Borlotti beans are high in protein and fiber, while also providing substantial quantities of vitamins and minerals. They are among the best dietary sources of folate.

Benefits

Beyond their essential nutrients, here are some other potential benefits of borlotti beans worth consideration.

Borlotti Beans Are a Rich Source of Polyphenols

Borlotti beans contain high levels of polyphenols, bioactive compounds often referred to as “antioxidants.”

While the term ‘antioxidants’ isn’t completely accurate (not all polyphenols have antioxidant properties), polyphenols can have a variety of beneficial effects, including antioxidant properties and potential improvement of cardiovascular health (4, 5, 6).

Research indicates that borlotti beans are particularly rich in flavonoids and hydroxycinnamic acids, two classes of polyphenols (7, 8, 9).

Though further research is necessary to better understand the diverse effects of polyphenols, diets high in these compounds are strongly associated with beneficial health effects and a reduced risk of chronic diseases (10, 11).

Key Point: Borlotti beans contain large quantities of polyphenols, compounds that may confer health-protective properties.

Potential Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Research has demonstrated that borlotti beans can exhibit anti-inflammatory effects in mice suffering from colitis. A diet comprising 20% borlotti bean led to several improvements compared to a control diet (12):

  • Decreased severity of colitis and colonic damage.
  • Increased activity of genes promoting gut barrier function.
  • Lower circulating levels of inflammatory cytokines, which are immune system messengers that indicate inflammation.

Additionally, otherwise healthy mice exhibited a heightened expression of genes related to microbial (beneficial gut bacteria) activity and gut barrier function.

It is important to note that while animal studies are useful, their results may not necessarily translate directly to humans. Therefore, further research involving human participants is necessary to better understand the potential anti-inflammatory effects of legumes.

That said, a growing body of research in this area suggests that legumes, including borlotti beans, may have such properties (13).

Key Point: Borlotti beans demonstrate anti-inflammatory effects in mice. The same may be true in humans, but more research is necessary to confirm these effects.

May Help To Lower the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular diseases are a major health problem, representing the leading global cause of death (14).

However, incorporating legumes such as borlotti beans may help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In this regard, a 2023 systematic review and meta-analysis of 26 observational studies found that legume consumption is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease incidence. Researchers observed that “an intake of 400 grams per week seemed to provide the optimal cardiovascular benefit” (15).

In addition to their vitamin, mineral, and polyphenol content, borlotti beans may positively impact cardiovascular health through their high fiber content.

The beans are a rich source of soluble fiber, with consistent research highlighting a correlation between higher intakes of soluble fiber and reduced levels of LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) (16).

Elevated levels of LDL-C indicate higher levels of LDL particles in the blood, which can increase the risk of plaque formation in the arteries (17).

Given that LDL-C levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, foods capable of lowering them may benefit cardiovascular health (18).

Key Point: Studies link legumes such as borlotti beans to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Hence, the beans may be beneficial for heart health.

Potential Downsides

No food is 100% “good” or “bad,” and generally beneficial foods may have context-dependent drawbacks.

Here’ is’s an overview of some potential downsides of borlotti beans.

Anti-nutrient Content

Like other legumes, borlotti beans contain phytic acid (19).

While phytic acid has antioxidant properties, it also has some anti-nutritional effects. For example, phytic acid can bind to essential minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc, thus reducing their absorption from the meal (20).

In an otherwise balanced diet, this isn’t usually a significant issue to worry about, especially in omnivorous diets that contain high levels of these minerals.

However, in the context of plant-exclusive (vegan) diets where each meal may feature foods with high phytic acid content, this may warrant attention.

Rare Legume Allergies

As a legume, borlotti beans have the potential to trigger allergic reactions in individuals with a legume allergy due to specific proteins present in legumes (21).

Although legume allergies are less common than allergies like nut or soy allergy, they can still trigger potentially serious allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.

Anyone who suspects they have an allergy to legumes should avoid borlotti beans and seek guidance from their healthcare team.

Key Point: The phytic acid content of borlotti beans will lower the bioavailability of several minerals they contain. Additionally, rare legume allergies represent a further potential downside.

Can Borlotti Beans Aid Weight Loss?

When evaluating the merits of particular foods, people often wonder about their efficacy for promoting weight loss.

Firstly, there are no magic foods for weight management, and it mostly depends on the overall dietary pattern and other lifestyle factors.

That said, borlotti beans are high in both fiber and protein, two nutrients thought to promote satiety levels (22, 23, 24, 25).

Satiety is the feeling after eating of having had enough food, with a lack of desire to eat further.

Therefore, including foods in the diet that promote satiety could support weight loss efforts by prolonging the feeling of fullness and helping to control food cravings.

Key Point: It is the overall diet that matters most for weight loss. However, including satiety-promoting foods like borlotti beans in the diet may help to reduce overall food intake.

How To Cook Borlotti Beans

When it comes to cooking borlotti beans, there is a clear difference between canned and dried varieties in terms of cooking time.

So, how long does each variety take to cook?

Canned

Canned borlotti beans are precooked and only require re-heating before eating.

Thus, boiling them for 5-10 minutes should suffice.

They can also be directly added to dishes like curries, soups, and stews.

However, they tend to be more expensive per serving compared to dried beans.

Dried

Dried borlotti beans are raw and yet to be cooked, thus necessitating a longer cooking time.

Here is a quick guide to cooking dried borlotti beans:

  • Soaking: Soak the beans overnight to partially rehydrate and soften them. This will result in a reduced cooking time and softer texture when cooked.
  • Boiling: Rinse the soaked beans and add them to a pot of water. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for around one hour or until the beans are soft and taste good.
  • Using/eating: After draining, the borlotti beans can be added to various dishes or served as a side dish.

While dried borlotti beans take significantly longer to cook compared to canned beans, they offer a more economical cost per serving.

Can You Eat Raw Borlotti Beans?

Genuine raw borlotti beans contain a compound called phytohemagglutinin that can cause gastrointestinal side effects like nausea and abdominal pain.

Thoroughly cooking borlotti beans inactivates their phytohemagglutinin content, thus making the beans safe to consume.

In the case of canned borlotti beans, these are not really ‘raw’ since they have been pre-cooked. However, reheating the beans to a temperature above 165°F (74°C) is advised for the following reasons (26):

  • It will kill any potential bacteria that may have grown either within the can or after opening.
  • Reheating the beans improves their taste and texture, particularly when combined with different ingredients and seasonings.
Key Point: The cooking process varies depending on whether dried or canned borlotti beans are used. While canned beans are significantly quicker to cook, dried beans offer a more cost-effective option per serving.

Final Thoughts

The main nutritional benefit of borlotti beans is their substantial protein, fiber, and folate content.

Additionally, the beans provide a diverse range of essential nutrients and, as a legume, are associated with several potential health benefits.

Incorporating borlotti beans into one’s diet is a relatively affordable way to increase our intake of a wide range of beneficial nutrients.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cranberry_bean
  2. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173736/nutrients
  3. https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/daily-value-new-nutrition-and-supplement-facts-labels
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8882865/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9776652/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6160559/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31978996/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26479447/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25952872/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627994/
  11. https://bmcendocrdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12902-024-01556-x
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26878790/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35042569/
  14. https://www.who.int/health-topics/cardiovascular-diseases#tab=tab_1
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36411221/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10201678/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9468243/
  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28444290/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325021/
  20. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/anti-nutrients/
  21. https://www.allergyuk.org/resources/reactions-to-legumes/
  22. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41430-018-0295-7
  23. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07315724.2013.791194
  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7539343/
  25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32768415/
  26. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/leftovers-and-food-safety
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Michael Joseph, MSc

Michael works as a nutrition educator in a community setting and holds a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. He believes in providing reliable and objective nutritional information to allow informed decisions.