Legumes

Young women's version of this guide

collection of beansFoods such as beans and lentils are known as legumes. Legumes are good sources of protein and fiber, and are used in many different cuisines. In the US, you can find fresh, canned, frozen, or dried versions of many legumes.

What are some common legumes?

Black beans are medium-sized, oval beans with black skin. They have a slightly sweet flavor and are often used in soups, or served with rice. They are included in many Mexican and Latin American dishes and can be used in soups, stews, and rice dishes.

Black-eyed peas are medium-sized, oval beans that are cream colored with a black dot. They have a sharp flavor and smooth texture. They are usually served with rice or eaten as a side dish.

Garbanzo beans, also called chickpeas, are medium-sized, round beans that are beige in color. They have a nutty flavor and firm texture. Garbanzo beans are used in soups, salads, Indian dishes, and popular Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes such as hummus and falafel.

Green peas are small-sized and round, with a sweet and starchy taste. Green peas are often used in pasta dishes, soups, and salads.

Kidney beans, also called Mexican red beans, are large and kidney-shaped with a strong flavor and soft texture. Kidney beans are used in soups, salads, chili, Creole dishes, and traditional rice and beans.

Lentils are circular-shaped seeds. There are five types of lentils, black, brown, red, green, and yellow. Lentils are often used in Indian dishes, side dishes, soups, and stews.

Lima beans are flat, green or cream in color, with a starchy, potato-like taste. They can be used in casseroles, soups, and salads.

Navy beans are small, white, oval beans with a mild flavor and powdery texture. They are often used to make soups, and stews.

Peanuts, while commonly thought of as a nut, are actually part of the legume family.  They are medium-sized and oval-shaped, with a nutty taste.

Pinto beans are medium-sized, oval beans with a spotty beige and brown color. They turn completely brown when cooked and are used to make refried beans and other Mexican bean dishes.

Nutrition Facts for Legumes:

Nutrition Facts for Legumes
1/2 Cup ServingProteinCalciumIronFiber
Black beans8 grams42 mg2 mg8 grams
Black-eyed peas7 grams21 mg2 mg6 grams
Green peas4 grams17 mg1 mg3 grams
Garbanzo beans (chick peas)7 grams40 mg2 mg6 grams
Kidney beans8 grams31 mg2 mg6 grams
Split red lentils12 grams12 mg3 mg4 grams
Whole green lentils12 grams25 mg2 mg9 grams
Lima Beans7 grams16 mg2 mg7 grams
Navy Beans8 grams63 mg2 mg10 grams
Pinto Beans8 grams39 mg2 mg8 grams

What are some ways to prepare and eat legumes?

  • To cook dried legumes (that you purchase in bulk bags), you must first rehydrate or soak them. Add 1 cup of dry beans and 5 cups of water to a covered bowl and soak overnight. For faster preparation, add 1 cup of dry beans to 5 cups of hot water and heat to a boil. Boil for 2-3 minutes and then remove from heat. Let the beans sit covered for at least 1 hour. After your beans have been soaked, drain the water. Add new water to the pot and boil beans. Bring beans to a boil and simmer until they become tender; this will take about 30-45 minutes. Drain water again before serving. This process of soaking, draining, and boiling will get rid of some carbohydrates in the beans that we cannot digest and typically cause us to have gas.
  • Canned beans are already cooked. Just drain and rinse them before serving. You can also warm them up for a few minutes in a pan with water, spices, or a sauce.
  • Try topping your salads with canned or cooked beans to add protein.
  • Hummus, made from garbanzo beans, is great on sandwiches or wraps and makes an excellent dip for veggies. See recipe below.
  • Make your own dip by mixing beans, salsa, and cheese in a dish. Microwave the mixture until the cheese is melted.

Here are three easy legume recipes to try:

Easy Hummus Mediterranean Bean Salad Beans and Rice