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What Are Legumes?
Legumes are the edible seeds found in the seedpods of the Leguminosae family of plants. They come in different shapes, sizes, and colors, and are most often sold canned, dried, or ground into flour. Rich in protein and fiber, the most widely-recognized members of the legume family include peas, soybeans, and peanuts.
18 Different Types of Legumes
Legumes are a large food group, encompassing a huge variety of edible seeds. Here is a list of some of the most widely cultivated types:
- Kidney beans
- Red kidney beans
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
- Navy beans
- Lima beans
- Adzuki beans
- Mung beans
- Fava beans (aka broad beans)
- Black-eyed peas (aka cowpeas)
- Green beans
- Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
- Green peas
- Snap peas
- Snow peas
- Split peas
8 Ways to Cook With Legumes
From a hot soup to a cool salad, a hearty side dish to the main course, there are almost as many ways to eat legumes as there are varieties. While legumes are one of several important sources of protein in vegan diets, many people eat legumes throughout the week. They’re a high-carb food with no saturated fat and are also a source of protein and dietary fiber.
Here are various culinary uses for different types of legumes:
- Hummus: Chickpeas are the main ingredient in hummus. They’re puréed into a creamy dip with tahini, olive oil, garlic, and lemon.
- Dal: Lentils are a staple in India, cooked up into dal, or lentil stew.
- Split pea soup: Split peas make a great soup, especially when cooked up in a pork bone broth.
- Red bean cake: Adzuki are small red beans that are mashed with sugar for dessert recipes in Asia.
- Burritos: Pinto beans make a great taco or burrito ingredient.
- Veggie burgers: Black beans can be packed into patties and made into veggie burgers.
- Chili: Make a spicy chili using pinto, kidney, and red beans.
- Edamame: Steamed and salted, immature soybeans are a popular appetizer in Japanese cuisine.
5 Tips for Preparing and Cooking Legumes
Most legumes are either canned or dried and found in the bulk section of a grocery store. The choice between the two comes down to personal preference and time allowance—dried legumes require an extra step before they can be cooked. Follow these tips to prepare and cook legumes:
- Drain canned legumes. Pour off the liquid from the can and give the beans a rinse to eliminate some of the sodium they’re packed in. Heat them up in a pan with added seasonings.
- Sift dried legumes and pick out foreign debris. Sometimes bits of debris can windup mixed in with the legumes when harvesting and packing.
- Rehydrate dried legumes in the refrigerator. Many dried legumes, except for split peas and lentils, need to be rehydrated before they are cooked to make them easier to digest. They can be put into a pot of water to soak in the refrigerator for four to 12 hours. Use three cups of water for every one cup of legumes. When ready, drain the water before cooking them.
- Rehydrate dried legumes on the stove. For a quicker rehydration method, legumes can be put into a pot of water (one cup of legumes to three cups water) and brought to a boil on the stove. Simmer for an hour or remove the pot from the heat and leave the legumes to soak for two to four hours. Drain the water, and they’re ready to cook.
- Cook rehydrated legumes in water. To cook legumes after they’re rehydrated, add them to a pot using the same ratio of one cup legumes, three cups water. Always change the water between soaking and cooking. Bring them to a boil on the stovetop, adding herbs and spices. Reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until they are soft and can be easily mashed with a fork.
2 Easy Recipes Using Legumes
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Legumes can be added to almost any meal. Try them in scrambled eggs, salads, or pureed into a creamy, filling soup. The options are endless. Here are two classic recipes that are easy to whip up at home:
- Hummus: Making hummus at home is so simple you might never buy it from the store again. Open a can of garbanzo beans and rinse well in a strainer, reserving some of the liquid from the can. Pour the beans, the remaining liquid, olive oil, tahini, salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice into a bowl and mix with a hand blender until creamy and smooth. Garnish with pine nuts (optional) and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Escarole and white bean soup: Use your own homemade broth for this traditional Italian soup. Put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a soup pot on the stove and sauté several cloves of garlic (chopped) in the oil. Add in two heads of escarole leaves, rinsed well, and sauté until the leaves cook down. Add a can of rinsed cannellini beans, salt, and homemade chicken broth. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with a sprinkle of grated parmesan on top.
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