A beginner’s guide to cooking legumes: beans, lentils, and more

RRegina September 27, 2023 7:03 AM

Beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas – these are just a few examples of legumes, a food group that's rich in fiber, protein, and other essential nutrients. If you're a beginner in the kitchen, don't worry! Cooking legumes can be simple and enjoyable once you know the basics. This article will take you through everything you need, from the types of legumes to cooking methods and tips.

Understanding legumes

First things first, what are legumes? Simply put, they are plants with fruit enclosed in a shell. In the kitchen, we mostly use the seeds of these plants – beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, etc. Legumes are a staple food in many cultures globally due to their nutritional benefits and versatility in recipes.

Types of legumes

There are several types of legumes, each offering unique flavors and nutritional profiles. Some common legumes include:

  1. Beans: Kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, etc.
  2. Lentils: Green lentils, red lentils, brown lentils, etc.
  3. Peas: Green peas, split peas, black-eyed peas, etc.
  4. Chickpeas: Also known as garbanzo beans.
  5. Peanuts: Yes, despite the name, peanuts are a type of legume!

Preparing legumes for cooking

Before you start cooking legumes, you need to prepare them correctly. This usually involves cleaning, soaking, and rinsing.

  • Cleaning: Remove any small stones or debris that may be mixed with the legumes. Then, rinse them under cold water.
  • Soaking: Soaking legumes in water helps reduce cooking time and makes them easier to digest. Most beans benefit from overnight soaking, while lentils and split peas usually don't need this step.
  • Rinsing: After soaking, drain the water and rinse the legumes again. This helps remove any remaining debris and reduces the likelihood of causing digestive issues.

How to cook legumes

There are different ways to cook legumes, and the method you choose may depend on the type of legume and how much time you have. Here are a few common methods:

  • Boiling: This is the most common method for cooking legumes. Simply add the legumes to a pot of water, bring it to a boil, and then simmer until they are soft.
  • Slow Cooking: Slow cookers are a great option for cooking legumes, especially beans. They allow the legumes to cook slowly and evenly, resulting in a creamy and delicious texture.
  • Instant Pot: If you're in a hurry, an Instant Pot can cook legumes in a fraction of the time required by other methods. Plus, no soaking is required!
Legume Type Boiling Slow Cooking Instant Pot
Beans 60-90 minutes 6-8 hours 20-30 minutes
Lentils 15-30 minutes 4-6 hours 10-15 minutes
Peas 30-45 minutes 4-6 hours 15-20 minutes
Chickpeas 60-90 minutes 6-8 hours 20-30 minutes

Remember, these are just guidelines - cooking times can vary based on the type and size of the legume, as well as your personal preference for how soft you like them.

Cooking legumes from scratch

Cooking legumes from scratch may seem like a daunting task, but it's actually quite straightforward. Here's a simple step-by-step guide:

  1. Clean and Rinse: As mentioned above, begin by removing any debris from the legumes and rinsing them under cold water.
  2. Soak (if necessary): Depending on the type of legume, you may need to soak them in water overnight.
  3. Cook: Add the legumes to a cooking pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let them simmer until they are soft. Don't forget to check the water level occasionally – you may need to add more water as the legumes cook.
  4. Season and Enjoy: Once the legumes are cooked, you can season them with your favorite spices and herbs. Enjoy them as a side dish, in salads, in soups, and more!

Nutrition value in cooked legumes

Legumes are not only easy to cook, but they're also packed with nutrients. They're a great source of plant-based protein, dietary fiber, and complex carbohydrates. Moreover, they're low in fat and high in minerals such as iron, potassium, and magnesium.

Remember, the key to cooking legumes is patience and practice. As you get more comfortable with the process, you can experiment with different types of legumes, cooking methods, and flavors.

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