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What Are Legumes? Explore the Different Types of Legumes Used in Vegan Cooking!
Whether you’re new to vegan cooking or a seasoned vegan chef, it never hurts to know a little bit more about the ingredients you’re cooking with. In this blog post, I’ll answer the question: what are legumes? and talk about the different types of legumes used in vegan cooking. Of course, I’ll also share some of my favorite legume recipes along the way.
What Are Legumes?
Everywhere you look you’ll find a pretty broad legume definition. That’s because legumes are a category of food and not one specific ingredient. Also known as pulses, legumes are the seeds of plants in the Fabaceae family.
Legumes as a food source have been around for a very long time. You’ll often find them in Middle Eastern dishes like dal and hummus, but they’re incredibly versatile. Don’t believe me? Wait until you see my Chickpea Cookie Dough recipe in my forthcoming cookbook!
What Are the Different Types of Legumes?
Whether you were aware of it or not, you’ve likely eaten plenty of legumes. In fact, every time you eat peanut butter, you’re consuming legumes. Peas and beans are also commonly consumed legumes, but chickpeas, lentils and soybeans are also popular ingredients in vegan cooking.
Whether we’re talking about black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans or navy beans, they’re all legumes. Black beans (also called turtle beans) are a versatile vegan ingredient, serving as the centerpiece for dishes like my Black Bean & Sweet Potato Vegan Enchiladas. White beans, like navy beans or cannellini beans, make creamy spreads and dips. If you want to use them all, my Vegan Thirteen Bean Soup is an easy, healthy dinner option.
Chickpeas, the cornerstone ingredient in Mediterranean dishes like falafel and hummus, are also legumes. My husband likes them mashed up and made into Chickpea “Tuna” Salad” but my favorite is my Mediterranean-Inspired Vegan Buddha Bowl. It’s such an easy way to put a healthy vegan dinner on the table.
Lentils are one of my all-time favorite vegan ingredients. These tiny legumes’ namesake means lens in Latin. When shopping for lentils, you’ll frequently find 3-4 different options: red, green, brown and black lentils (also known as beluga lentils). Different lentils varieties cook at different rates and have different flavors and textures. Red lentils are by far my favorite. They cook down into a soft consistency and are mild in flavor. I use them in recipes like my Vegan Lentil Bolognese Sauce and my Spicy Red Lentils and Roasted Cauliflower Vegan Tacos. Brown lentils, which stay firm and have an earthier taste, are featured in my Easy Vegan Shepherd’s Pie.
These common legumes likely need no introduction. That is as long as you knew that peanuts aren’t actually nuts. They are, of course, the star of the peanut butter show – an ingredient that makes these Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies totally irresistible. I also put peanut butter in my Thai Red Curry Ramen Noodle Bowls. Peanuts are great on their own too. They’re frequently in my backpack when I’m out on the trail or enjoying a backcountry ski day.
I’m a big fan of cooking with dried peas. Both split yellow and split greens peas maintain a spot on my vegan pantry shelf. When I am in the mood for a change, I make a Yellow Split Pea Dal, but my favorite easy vegan dinner is my Creamy Tomato Yellow Split Pea and Lentil Soup.
Soy is a staple in vegan cooking. Whether you’re noshing on edamame, sipping on Miso Soup or chowing down on tofu, you’re eating soy. This vegan ingredient sometimes gets a bad rap, but scientific evidence more readily points to soy being good for you. If you’re looking to try it out, start with my Baked Miso-Glazed Tofu. It’ll make a convert out of anyone. Add it to my Veggie-Loaded Vegan Pho and you’ll really have a vegan meal!
Are Legumes Good for You?
As plant-based protein sources, legumes are a popular vegan substitute for meat. They’re also high in fiber and are a good source of many vitamins and minerals. Legumes are often cited for promoting good heart health, lowering cholesterol and reducing blood sugar. Perhaps my favorite fact though: legumes are a sustainable source of food requiring less water than animal products. They also give back by returning nutrients to the soil.
My Favorite Legume Recipes
Need some visual stimulation? Legumes make lovely models. Just check out this gallery of legume-focused vegan recipes! In addition to the above-referenced vegan recipes, you’ll find tasty vegan dishes like BBQ Black Bean Vegan Nachos and Teriyaki Tofu Shish Kebabs.
About Herbivore’s Kitchen
Herbivore’s Kitchen is a blog run by me, a plant-based home chef and aspiring food photographer. I switched my diet to a plant-based diet after learning about the health benefits of going vegan. Making this change has prompted a variety of food and holistic-lifestyle related questions that I explore through this blog. I talk about how to pick and prepare the most nutritious foods, to how to reduce waste at home, to how to live a more sustainable lifestyle while on the road.