The legume family is a versatile and nutritious one containing all varieties of dried beans, peas and lentils. Even peanuts are a legume but are more similar to tree nuts than other members of their family.
Legumes are an exceptional source of plant protein and come with excellent supplies of fiber, vitamins B and iron. Legumes are also low in fat, contain no cholesterol and are a low glycemic index food. Plus, they happen to be an inexpensive food that is readily available all year round.
Cooking dried beans
- Legumes such as beans can be bought in dried and canned forms.
- If you are using the dried varieties, pick through the beans carefully, discarding any shriveled or discolored ones. Rinse the beans well and soak.
- All legume varieties with the exception of lentils and black-eyed peas need to be soaked before cooking. This step helps rehydrate the legumes for quicker, more even cooking. It also improves digestibility and decreases cooking time.
- Place the rinsed, dried beans in a large stockpot, using 10 cups of water for every pound of dried beans. Soaking times can vary between two hours to overnight depending on the size of the beans and the time available. But the longer they are soaked, the easier the cooking.
- Drain the soaking water since it will be full of hard-to-digest starches that may cause digestive discomfort.
- Refill the pot with fresh, cold water, or vegetable broth, using 3 cups of liquid for every cup of soaked beans. Add in beans.
- Bring to boil with the lid on. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer and slightly tilt the lid to permit steam to escape.
- Cooking time will depend on the type of bean, but you can start checking after 45 minutes.
- Beans are done when they can be mashed easily with a fork.
- It is recommended to add salt near the end of cooking time since salt may toughen the beans and increase cooking time.
Preparing canned beans
Using canned beans can save time when you are in a hurry. But be careful to select varieties that are free of chemical preservatives and make sure to rinse them before cooking. This will ensure that any excess sodium included in the canning liquid is removed. Look for BPA free cans.
Cooking dried lentils
- Lentils do not require soaking like their bean counterparts. They can simply be rinsed with fresh water before boiling to remove any dirt or debris.
- Use 3 cups of liquid, which can be water or vegetable broth, for every cup of dry lentils.
- Transfer rinsed lentils to a large pot, since they will increase in size upon cooking. Add in water and any seasoning or herbs, reserving the salt for later.
- Bring to rapid simmer and reduce heat. Cook uncovered, for 20 -30 minutes. Add salt and check to see if done.
- Lentils are cooked when tender and no longer crunchy.
Using canned varieties
Transfer canned lentils to strainer and rinse well under fresh water to make sure that excess sodium content is removed.
Beans and lentils make a great meat replacement. You can add them in soups, salads and even in tortillas. Start cooking your own dried beans and lentils today!