Loving Legumes: 12 Delicious Ways to Add Beans to Your Diet

To celebrate the many health benefits of legumes, also known as pulses, and to promote the variety of reasons and ways they are eaten around the world, the UN General Assembly declared 2016 “The Year of the Pulses.” Join the party before the year is over! Afterall, beans, beans they’re good for your heart—and your blood sugar!


eat way  more beans

Why Eat More Beans?

  • Dried beans, chickpeas, split peas, and lentils have a low glycemic value, which means they won’t send your blood sugar soaring like some other carbs. They are also high in fiber, plant protein, vitamin B6, iron, potassium, and magnesium.
  • One pound dried beans = 6 cups cooked = approximately 3 (15-19 oz.) cans. Talk about inexpensive nutrition!
  • Canned beans typically contain a lot of salt. Homemade beans have less salt and better flavor as you can add spices as you cook them.
  • Soaking dried beans in water overnight before cooking helps reduce cooking time and makes them less gassy. Drain and cook in clean water.
  • To prevent beans from falling apart or splitting, cook at a low simmer and add salt halfway through cooking time.

From Soup to Salad and for Breakfast, too

Here, 12 ways to get this versatile and nourishing food into your diet.

#1. Make Some Soup

bean soup yum

Every type of legume makes a good, hearty soup. The classic bean soups include split pea, lentil, black bean, navy bean and pasta e fagioli (tiny shaped pasta with cannelini, or white kidney beans), but all kinds of whole and pureed beans are added to vegetable soups, meat broths and chowders. Beans fare especially well in soups flavored with tomatoes, ham, or rosemary. Smooth, pureed white beans can be used to thicken any broth, and make it creamier without adding cream.

#2. Add a Little Ginger
Ginger is known as a carminative herb, one that helps relieve cramps that sometimes develop from eating gassy foods like beans. It does this by speeding up digestion, which helps move gas more quickly through your intestinal tract, avoiding the build up that causes bloating and pain. Happily, ginger also gives bean, lentil and split pea soups a terrific flavor boost. 

#3. Curry-up Beans
Curry powder is a mix of herbs and spices that usually includes cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, chilies, and other sweet and savory seasonings. Curry adds deep, almost sweet flavor to split pea soup, lentil soup, beans with spinach, or a chick pea-veggie saute. It is a versatile seasoning that goes with any bean, or just about any food or food combination, for that matter. If you’re not accustomed to using curry powder, start off with a small amount, such as ½ teaspoon in a 4 serving-size dish, then add more to your liking.

#4. Smokin’ Good Beans
To lend bacon-like, smoky flavor to a favorite bean dish—soup, stew, chili, beans and rice or a tomato-bean side dish, substitute smoked paprika for other seasonings. Start with a teaspoon and add more to taste. Smoked paprika also goes well with cumin: try a combination of 1 ½ teaspoons paprika for every ½ teaspoon ground cumin.

#5. The Secret Ingredient for Better Salads
beans with saladJust as you would add meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs to a chef’s salad, or any tossed vegetable salad, you can also add beans, chickpeas, shelled edamame, or firmly cooked lentils.  A classic three- or four-bean salad combines any variety of legumes with steamed green beans, chopped red onions, and a sweet-and-sour dressing. The neutral flavors of legumes soak up just about any type of salad dressing. Truly delcious!

#6. Start Your Day with Breakfast Beans
No reason to save beans for lunch or dinner! For a hearty breakfast, serve beans mashed with sauteed onions under a sunny-side up or scrambled egg, topped with salsa and sprinkled with cilantro. Or simply serve lightly-seasoned beans alongside a quiche, frittata, omelet or other egg dish served at breakfast or brunch.

#7. Eat Beans With Your Greens
Toss some white beans (navy or cannellini) with leafy greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli rabe, turnip greens or any mixture of greens sauteed in olive oil with garlic. For more flavor, add rosemary or lemon juice, or top with grated Parmesan cheese.

#8. Fish and Beans
Another classic bean salad combines canned or cooked fresh tuna with white beans or lima beans in a lemon-mustard vinaigrette. Serve over a bed of shredded spinach or Romaine lettuce. You can substitute fresh or canned salmon for the tuna and use any type of beans you have on hand. A simple side dish of warm white beans and halved cherry tomatoes is also a tasty accompaniment to a seafood main dish like roasted salmon or grilled tuna.

#9. Chili Beans Today, Hot Tamale
beans and shredded chicken chilliUpdate an old-fashioned ground beef and kidney bean chili by replacing the beef with lean ground or shredded chicken or turkey, using more beans and less meat, and using a combination of different beans, such as kidney, black and white beans. Substitute or add a small amount of chipotle chili powder for smokier, spicier, truer chili flavor than you get with just regular chili powder. (Start with ¼ teaspoon of chipotle and gradually add more to taste.) To boost flavor further, add an ounce or two of unsweetened chocolate during cooking.

#10. Fritter Away
Fritters are a tasty way to use up any type of leftover beans. Mash cooked or canned beans with finely chopped scallions or parsley, finely chopped sweet peppers, and grated cheese. Shape into patties and saute in a spoonful of hot oil in a nonstick skillet until browned on both sides. Serve your bean fritters topped with chopped tomatoes and olives or a combination of plain yogurt and shredded cucumber.

#11. Fun with Soybeans
soy beansEdamame, or green soybeans, are available frozen, with or without pods. To serve in pods, boil in lightly salted water according to package directions.(They can also be microwaved.) Eat out of hand, popping the beans from the pod with your teeth and discarding the pods. For shelled beans, pop the beans from the pod with your fingers into a bowl, season with chili powder, garlic powder or sesame seeds to serve as a side dish, or toss into salads or Asian-style rice mixtures. They are also delcious in cold salads of any kind and pasta dishes, too.

#12. Bean Dips to Delight

Although normally made with chickpeas, a hummus-like dip can also be made with pureed navy or cannellini beans, or a combination of chickpeas and beans. Other good bean dip combos include white beans, plain yogurt and sage; black beans, lime juice and cumin, chickpeas, avocado and cilantro. Top any dip with finely chopped green or ripe olives for extra flavor and texture. Even lentils can be used to make a dip when you puree them with ginger and curry or walnuts,garlic, and paprika; thin the mixture with a spoonful of lemon juice or plain yogurt, if necessary.

Updated on: June 21, 2018
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