Share this Story

Cooking 101: The lowdown on legumes

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Legumes offer healthy, delicious meals

Great any time of year, legumes are a healthy and inexpensive addition to your meals. Now that fall is here, think of the variety of soups and stews that can be made to keep you warm and cozy! Ready to learn about how to cook legumes?

Variety of legumes

Types of legumes

Legumes are considered plants that have pods with seeds inside and include beans, peas, lentils, peanuts and even alfalfa and other sprouts. There are many types of legumes (some you may be more familiar with than others) and include:

  • Adzuki beans
  • Black beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Chickpeas or garbanzo beans
  • Edamame (green soybeans)
  • Fava beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils (many types including red, black, green, French green and brown)
  • Lima beans

If you're interested in a diet high in protein and fiber and low in fat and cholesterol, you've come to the right starting point! Legumes also make a good replacement food for meats due to their nutritional content and great texture and flavor. You shouldn't have trouble finding most legumes, both dried and canned, at your local grocery store. Canned beans are used more often for convenience, but dried beans are cheaper. And you have the benefit of choosing the ingredients you'd like to add to flavor your dried beans. Most recipes work interchangeably with dried and canned beans.

Prep time

If you're interested in an on-the-fly meal made from dried beans, you might want to reconsider. Most dried legumes need to be soaked in order to rehydrate them before cooking (this also helps your body break them down once they're consumed). There are some exceptions to the rule, like lentils and split peas. Before you begin your soaking process, it's best to sort through your beans and pick out any little pebbles or unusable beans and then rinse them to clean. About 1 cup of dried beans yields about 2 to 2-1/2 cups of cooked beans.

Soak time

There are different methods for soaking dried legumes. Typically you add about three times the volume of water to your beans in a large stock pan. Don't add salt to your water, as it can cause them to become tough. For each of these methods, drain your beans before adding new cooking water to them.

Slow soak – Add water to the dried beans. Cover and refrigerate for six hours or overnight.

Hot soak – Bring water to a boil and add the dried beans and return to boil. Remove from the heat, cover and set them aside for two to three hours.

Quick soak – Bring water to a boil and add the dried beans and return to boil for about three minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and set them aside for about an hour.

Gas-free soak – Add dried beans to a stockpot along with boiling water. Boil for about three minutes. Cover and set aside overnight. Refresh the water until you're ready to use the beans. This type of soak helps eliminate the gas that can be caused by beans.

Cook time

Whichever soak method you decide on, drain your beans before adding new cooking water to them. Again, follow the guide of adding about three times the volume of water.

Add your seasonings and/or onions, garlic, carrots or celery, and bring your beans to a vigorous boil for at least 10 minutes. Keep in mind that acidic ingredients like lemon or tomatoes should only be added once the beans are cooked.

Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until they're tender. Some people prefer to cook their beans in the oven. If you choose this method, cover them and cook at about 300 degrees F. You'll want to stir your beans on occasion and test their doneness. Also check whether you need to add a bit more water so the beans don't get dry. Generally, it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 1-1/4 hours to cook beans, depending on the type.

Legumes are a wonderful resource for a healthy diet. They taste great, are filling and inexpensive and relatively easy to find at your grocery store. If you have shied away from cooking with dried beans and legumes, give it a go!

Watch: How to cook dried beans and legumes

Learn to cook dried beans and legumes with the quick soak method.

Try these recipes using legumes

White bean and shrimp salad
Lentil Bolognese sauce
Black-eyed peas and walnut lettuce wraps
Turkey and white bean chili
Split pea soup

More Cooking 101 features

Basic tips for grilling fish
Cooking with wine
Perfect pie crust
How to make perfect pasta

Recommended for You
Comments
Hot
New in Food & Recipes
Close

And you'll see personalized content just for you whenever you click the My Feed .

SheKnows is making some changes!