A legume (leg-YOOM) is a family of plants that includes beans, peas, lentils and peanuts. They are a great source of protein, particularly for people who are trying to limit their consumption of red meat or increase their dietary fiber.
How to Cook Legumes
Dried or canned, you can find legumes by many names. Try any of these types in your favorite recipe.
- Pintos: Pinto beans are beige colored beans with red splashes on them. Combine them with a whole grain like brown rice for a satisfying side dish.
- Navy beans: Navy beans are small white beans. Try sautéing the cooked beans with jalapeño and spices. Then mash them like potatoes for a spicy alternative side dish.
- Wax beans: Wax beans are bright yellow beans that can be eaten raw or cooked. Try cooking them in a little olive oil, sprinkled with bacon bits.
- Green beans: Green beans are long string beans that can be eaten cooked or raw. Try chopping them and adding them to soups or stews.
- Black eyed peas: Black eyed peas are cream colored with a black spot or "eye" on the ends. Cook them with ham, onions and tomatoes in a hearty soup.
- Split peas: Split peas can be green or yellow, and cook up into a thick porridge with carrots, onions and ham.
- Lentils: Lentils are small red beans about the size of a split pea. Use them in soups and stews.
- Kidney beans: Kidney beans are red beans that are shaped like tiny kidneys. Cook them in a slow cooker with squash, celery, and vegetable stock for an economic and filling meal.
- Lima beans: Lima beans are flat, kidney-shaped pale green beans high in vitamins and fiber. Try puréeing them and using them as a sandwich spread.
- Chickpeas: Chickpeas are also known as garbanzo beans. They are the main ingredient in hummus.
- Black beans: Black beans are small, dark brown or black beans. Add some to chili recipes or just heat them with a little lime juice and tomato as a side.
Lentil Soup Recipe
Lentils are great little beans. About the size of a split pea, legume recipes with split peas make a great side dish and an even greater soup. Lentil soup is often flavored with bacon, ham, and carrots, making even those who aren't sure about lentils enjoy the soup.
Try this simple vegetable-packed soup recipe starring lentils.
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups dry lentils
- 8 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup spinach with stems removed
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Heat the oil in the bottom of a large soup pot.
- Add the vegetables and spices, and cook until soft and fragrant.
- Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar, lentils and vegetable stock.
- Simmer for one hour.
- Pour half the soup into a blender and purée.
- Add the pureed soup back into the soup pot and stir to combine.
Soybeans are more protein-packed than most beans. When buying bean sprouts, look for soybean sprouts instead of the more common mung bean sprouts. The sprouts of the soybean are longer and stay crisper in food. Usually, the beans from which they sprouted are still attached and are crispy-chewy good.
Soybeans are also a great snack. Called edamame, cooked soybeans in the pod are available frozen in most Asian grocery stores. Just boil or steam to reheat them and then eat the beans right out of the pod.
Add Fiber-Filled Beans to Your Diet
Legumes are a great addition to any healthy diet. They are so many varieties to choose from, you're sure to find at least a few that appeal to your tastes.