Legume Love: Tips and Recipes for Cooking Healthy on a Budget
Legumes, including lentils, peas, and beans, are very versatile and provide much vegan protein. Learn more about their health benefits and why cooking with them can even help your budget!
Black bean stew, pea soup, and lentil dishes – they’ve been a diet staple for ages as they are delicious and low in price. All around the world, from amateur chefs to high-end cooking, they find their place in exquisite recipes. That’s no surprise: legumes are both delicious and healthy.Jump to Recipe
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What Are Legumes and Where Do They Come From?
Legumes, also known as pulses, are dried seeds of plants like peas, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), beans, or soybeans that ripen in sheet ropes. People have been knowing and eating legumes since the 8th century B. C. – especially in the Middle East at that time. They later made their way to Europe and Northern America.
The soybean is an especially popular legume in the United States. According to Arthur Geoffrey Norman, Professor of Botany at the University of Michigan, from 1952 to 1976, the domesticated soybean was brought to the States by Benjamin Franklin in 1804. Henry Ford was another soybean benefactor. Being a vegetarian, he used soybeans for industrial purposes, which became extremely important during World War II.
What’s another popular American legume? The peanut. (Yes, it’s actually a legume, NOT a nut!)
Why Are Legumes Healthy?
Today, there are about 730 different kinds of legumes. You are probably familiar with kidney beans and black-eyed peas, especially if you love Southern food. But have you ever heard of beluga lentils or pinto beans? If not, you should absolutely give them a try as legumes offer many health benefits:
- most legumes are low in fat
- they’re rich in dietary fiber and good carbs
- they’re rich in folate, which helps make red blood cells
- they contain more protein than any other vegetable
- they have many important minerals, trace elements, and vitamins
Since there are so many different kinds, you’ll never get bored with legumes and can explore many different recipes and flavors. This makes eating healthy a little easier!
Important tip: Never eat raw legumes! Some of their raw properties are toxic to the human body – but fortunately, cooking your beans and lentils destroys those. Cooking them for a minimum of 15 minutes is the best way to make a safe meal for the whole family.
Can I Lose Weight by Eating Legumes?
Not all legumes are equal, but most of them are chock-full of nutrients that can help you with losing weight. Of course, the key to weight loss is a deficit between your intake of calories and your energy consumption each day. To create such a deficit, you can either eat fewer calories or burn more through activity –or with a combination of both.
So even if you adopt a plant-based, vegetarian, or vegan lifestyle, if you’re eating more than your body needs, you won’t lose weight.
Legumes, however, can help you with controlling your calorie intake. Most of them are low in calories but fill you up because of their rich nutrients and long-chained carbohydrates.
So, you can eat a bigger portion of a lentil dish than, say, regular pasta for the same amount of calories. Plus, many people feel full for a longer time when they have legumes than a meal consisting mostly of short-chained carbs. That means fewer hunger cravings, fewer unnecessary snack breaks, and fewer total calories! They also help to lower and regulate blood sugar.
Adding more black beans, red beans, white beans, and peas to your diet can be a great start to your weight loss or wellness journey as they fuel you with all the healthy stuff you need. Just be sure that you’re also fueling up on salads and veggies, too!
What Are Easy and Cheap Legume Recipes?
There are endless possibilities to create an easy family dinner with legumes. Most people have a family recipe for soups and stews with legumes. In the summer months, you might prefer a salad with black lentils or kidney beans easily accessible in the pantry. Or perhaps some chickpea-based hummus?
Chickpeas are also extremely popular in Indian and Mediterranean cuisines. Combine them with coconut milk, and even your kids will love it – when you spare the hot spices, of course. If your little ones are picky eaters and only eat spaghetti and marinara sauce or meatballs, I’ve got an insider tip: you can even add legumes to pasta. Red lentils can make a tomato sauce extra creamy and help your kids get all the health benefits.
Oh, and speaking of spaghetti: for those who are gluten-intolerant or eat low-carb, there is even lentil pasta at Trader Joe’s! Here are a few more of our favorite legume recipes.
Spiced Chickpea Fritatta: This delicious and comforting dish will keep you full all year long! It has lots of fresh herbs and seasons for fresh flavors that aren’t too spicy.
Mediterranean Instant Pot Quinoa Salad: It’s a beautiful dish and a go-to vegetarian meal with a perfect balance of spice.
Hummus: We’re huge fans of this refreshing and nutritious creamy avocado hummus! If you have kids, try this pink beet hummus instead. It tastes like traditional hummus, but it’s pink!
Creamy Coconut Lentil Soup: This is one of our all-time favorite lentil recipes! It’s a delicious blend of red lentils, vegetable or chicken broth, and coconut milk. This family-friendly lentil soup is as comforting as drinking a warm hug.
Vegan Buddha Bowl: This recipe with sweet potatoes, brown rice, chickpeas, tofu, lime juice, and chickpeas makes for a delicious weeknight meal. It’s year-round comfort food, but I enjoy it most when the weather’s a little hot outside.
Mediterranean-Inspired Lentil Salad
- 1 15 oz can chickpeas
- 1 15 oz can lentils
- 1/2 cup shallots
- 1 cup loosely packed, finely chopped parsley,
- 1/2 cup kalmata olives (halved)
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
- 1 cup cucumbers, chopped
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
Mediterranean-Inspired Lentil Salad
- Toss together the peas, lentils, shallots, parsley, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta together in a large bowl.
- Separately, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Pour the dressing over the other ingredients and toss to coat!
What Are Some Good Vegetarian and Vegan Legume Recipes?
If you’re on a vegetarian or vegan diet, legumes are an essential protein source or fiber. We love these options.
Vegan Black Bean Chili: Start by sauteeing an onion in a tablespoon or two of olive oil for about 5 minutes, and then combine 3 cans of black beans, 2 cans of diced tomatoes, 1 cup dried red lentils, and 2-3 cups of vegetable broth. Add your favorite seasonings, like Indian spices or garlic, cumin, paprika, and chili powder. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over medium-low heat for about 7 minutes. You could also combine ingredients and put them in the Instant Pot for 5 minutes. This vegetarian chili is a great option for meatless meals, especially if you top it with some corn chips.
Vegetarian Black Bean Tacos: Saute your black beans for about 5-10 minutes, and mash and season to your liking. Then, add the beans to a tortilla and fill it with guacamole, cheese, and salsa. Top them with your favorite veggies, like crisp lettuce, spring onion, and fresh tomatoes. They taste delicious with a side of Mexican rice, tortilla chips, or salad.
Start Cooking With Legumes!
We hope we’ve sold you on the wide range of benefits and possibilities that come with a legume-rich diet thanks to the humble bean. Whether you’re a fan of black bean brownies, chickpea blondies, kidney bean chili with some warm spice, peanut butter sandwiches, or hummus with white beans like cannellini beans or navy beans, there’s a wealth of bean recipes you can enjoy. They’re a great staple to vegetarian and vegan lifestyles or even supplement to any diet plan.
What are your favorite easy recipes with legumes? Let us know or send them to other moms and dads on our FamilyApp!