Basics of Cooking Legumes

This is part II of Legumes 101 so please don't forget to check out the Legumes 101 on the basics of legumes including the nutritional and environmental benefits. 

Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils are widely available in dried and canned form. For the purpose of this post today, I am going to explain how to choose legumes for recipes, discuss different cooking methods, and share helpful tips on better digestion of legumes.

Basics of Cooking Legumes

How To Choose Legume For Recipes? Not all legumes are same; they vary in cooking time and how they will be utilized in recipes. For example, dried red lentils take 25-30 minutes (without pre-soaking) to cook while chickpeas can take anywhere from 1-3 hours after soaking them. I have created a Guide To Cooking Legumes (in pdf) to help you figure out the presoaking and simmering time.

Typically, legumes such as Black beans are used in soups, stews, rice dishes and Latin American cuisines while chickpeas are commonly found in Indian dishes, hummus, and casseroles. Red kidney beans are commonly found in stews, salads, chili, and rice dishes. 

Chopped Kale and Chickpea Salad with Tamarind Vinaigrette is a sturdy, nutritious salad that packs well for lunch/picnic! It is naturally vegan, gluten-free, and allergy friendly as well.

Legume Cooking Methods: Except for lentils and split peas, most legumes require soaking prior to cooking. Soaking decreases the cooking time and make legumes more digestible. You can opt for normal soak (leave legumes to soak for at least 8-10 hours prior to cooking) or quick soak (bring legumes to a boil for one minute, cover, and let sit for one hour).

There are mainly three cooking methods:

Stovetop : Rinse the legume and add them back to the pot, filling it again with fresh, cold water. Use 1:3 ratio of water or broth per cup of legume and let it gently boil until it tender. Stovetop Legumes Cooking Guide!

Basics of Cooking Legumes

Pressure Cooker // Instant Pot: You can cut down the cooking time significantly by using pressure cooker // instant pot. For example: it takes 20-25 minutes for chickpeas to cook in a pressure cooker vs. 90-120 minutes if cooked on a stovetop. Here is a really helpful guide on pressure cooking legumes!! 

Slow Cooker : If you have all the time in world and want perfectly cooked beans - slow cooker is the way to go. For small batches of legumes, a pound or less,  a 3 1/2-quart or smaller slow cooker works really well but feel free to slow cook a lot at once and freeze them later use. You don't have to necessarily presoak legumes although presoaking helps remove some of the enzymes that causes intestinal discomfort. Some legume will cooker quicker than the other; generally it takes 6-8 hours.

lentil-salad.jpg

Tips To Improve Digestibility: Legumes contain oligosaccharides (a complex carbohydrate) which are sugars that remain undigested until they get to your colon. There is a type of bacteria in the colon that will break these sugars down, but a byproduct is gas, bloating, and discomfort. You can improve digestibility of legumes by following these tips:

  • Do not use same water used for soaking to cook legumes. Drain and rinse legumes prior to cooking to eliminate starches and phytates.
  • Try Beano or Beanzyme (vegan version) prior to eating legumes as it has enzymes necessary to digest legumes.
  • Cook legumes with spices such as fennel, cumin, asafoetida. or ginger as it aids in digestion. See - Slow Cooker Daal // Steel Cut Oats & Mung Bean Porridge. Additionally, adding seaweeds like kombu or kelp help make legume more digestible.
  • Gradually increase legume consumption allowing your body to adjust overtime.
  • Sprouting legumes such as mung beans helps improve digestibility. See - Mung Bean Salad
Sprouted Mung Bean Salad is easy, nutrient-dense, and great for a quick lunch! They are naturally vegan, gluten-free.

Overall, dried legumes have lot more advantages compared to canned variety as they are cheaper, you can control all the ingredients and less packaging waste. However, canned or full-cooked legumes are equally nutritious, versatile, and convenient. Always go for low-sodium or no-salt added canned beans with BPA-lined cans. Rinse and drain beans prior to using to remove sodium and other preservatives.

Cheers to more legumes!  In case you missed Part I - Legumes 101

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