How to Cook the Healthiest Legumes, Plus TK Vegan Recipes
What are the healthiest legumes? | From My Bowl

Legumes, a type of vegetable that includes beans, peas, and lentils, have been cultivated across many cultures for thousands of years. To this day, they are still among the healthiest foods you can eat, plus they add a good amount of protein to any vegan dish.

What Are Legumes?

Legumes are the edible pods or seeds of plants in the Fabaceae family. These include a variety of beans and lentils, such as chickpeas, soybeans, black beans, navy beans, peanuts, split peas, brown lentils, red lentils, and green peas, to name a few. When legumes are harvested for the dry seed, they are known as pulses. This excludes green peas, but peas are still part of the legume family.

Health Benefits of Legumes

Legumes are a good switch for anyone looking to eat less meat. They are high in protein and fiber and they contain little to no saturated fat. Studies have shown that diets high in saturated fat have been linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Fiber can also help improve heart health as well as help you avoid constipation.

“People will ask me, is red meat bad for me? And my answer is, compared to what? Compared to sugar, no. Compared to legumes, yes. That’s where I think legumes come in. They are especially beneficial if they can replace red meat,” says Dr. Meir Stampfer, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Legumes are also rich in other nutrients, including folate, calcium, potassium, zinc, B vitamins, and antioxidants. Nutrition content varies by type.

How to Cook Legumes

Every legume has different cooking requirements, which are usually detailed on the package. This can vary from 50 minutes on the stovetop for soaked chickpeas to 15 minutes in an Instant Pot. You can also cook them in a slow cooker, which can take four hours on high heat or eight for low.

Before getting started, sort through your legumes and pick out any pebbles, debris, or shriveled legumes, then rinse them under cool water. You can soak your legumes for eight hours or overnight or use the quick soak method, which involves adding them to a pot, covering with cool water, bringing to a quick boil, and then letting them sit for about an hour. Softer legumes, like red lentils, don’t need to be soaked (but remember to rinse them!). With the exception of red lentils, legumes should be tender, but not mushy, when cooked.

Whether you’re cooking on the stovetop, in an Instant Pot, or in a slow cooker, you can cook your legumes in broth or water. For extra flavor, you can also add aromatics, including onion, garlic, and leeks or herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme. You can also add chile peppers. Try customizing the aromatics that you add to the pot to whatever type of dish you’re making.

The Best Vegan Recipes to Make With Legumes

Looking for recipes? Try these 11 delicious vegan dishes made with legumes.

How to Cook the Healthiest Legumes, Plus TK Vegan Recipes
Serve these Southern-style black-eyed peas with green beans and potatoes. | Healthier Steps

1. Southern Black-Eyed Peas

This flavorful Southern classic is seasoned with garlic, onions, peppers, and thyme. Make a big pot to enjoy all week long. This dish is also freezer-friendly, for those that like to meal prep.

Get the recipe here.

How to Cook the Healthiest Legumes, Plus TK Vegan Recipes

2. Curried Lentil Salad With Roasted Cauliflower

This vegan curried lentil salad will become a household favorite. Hearty lentils are tossed with roasted cauliflower, shredded carrots, pickled red onions, and cilantro. Serve it over a big bed of greens or with rice.

Get the recipe here.

How to Cook the Healthiest Legumes, Plus TK Vegan Recipes
Try this white bean salad in a wrap. | The Well-Fed Yogi

3. Easy Oil-Free White Bean Salad

Need something quick, but filling? This oil-free white bean salad takes just five minutes to whip up. Enjoy it on its own, with rice, or in a wrap. This also makes for a great post-workout meal.

Get the recipe here.

How to Cook the Healthiest Legumes, Plus TK Vegan Recipes
A classic dish made meat-free. | Ginger Skillet

4. Vegan Butter Chickpeas

Recipe author Niveditha says to make this dish vegan by using canned coconut milk instead of cream. Try it over basmati rice with fresh cilantro or serve it with flatbread like vegan naan or paratha.

Get the recipe here.

Vegan Artichokes and White Bean Sandwiches Stuffed With Veggies

5. Artichoke and White Bean Salad Recipe

This delicious vegan white bean salad sandwich recipe is perfect if you’re looking for a healthy lunch. It’s quick to make and filled with fresh vegetables, like red cabbage, carrots, greens, and tomatoes.

Get the recipe here.

How to Cook the Healthiest Legumes, Plus TK Vegan Recipes
Picadillo is traditionally made with beef. | Dora’s Table

6. Vegan Picadillo

Instead of beef, this flavor-packed vegan picadillo is made with lentils, onion, garlic, chipotle chiles, carrots, and potatoes. According to the recipe author, the exact flavoring varies by region: in southern Mexico, you might find picadillo with raisins and olives. In Cuba, it’s typically made with onions, peppers, potatoes, olives, and capers.

Get the recipe here.

How to Cook the Healthiest Legumes, Plus TK Vegan Recipes
These 30-minute lentil sloppy joes are tangy and delicious. | Vegan Richa

7. Lentil Sloppy Joes

This one-pot dish features tangy lentils. Plus, it’s freezer-friendly for those days where you’re strapped for time! Serve as a sandwich with coleslaw or over a baked potato.

Get the recipe here.

How to Cook the Healthiest Legumes, Plus TK Vegan Recipes
Serve this fresh pea soup with homemade croutons. | Connoisseurus Veg

8. Pea Soup

This creamy pea soup is made with fresh peas, mint, and coconut milk. It’s freezer-friendly, too, so make a double batch and enjoy it on busy days.

Get the recipe here.

How to Cook the Healthiest Legumes, Plus TK Vegan Recipes
Lubya, an Afghan kidney bean curry, is packed with plant-based protein. | The Curious Chickpea

9. Kidney Bean Curry

This delicious spiced curry features tomato gravy elevated by caramelized onions. Serve with rice and fresh cilantro.

Get the recipe here.

How to Cook the Healthiest Legumes, Plus TK Vegan Recipes
A vegan version of feijoada, Brazil’s national dish. | Easy and Delish

10. Vegan Feijoada

This vegan feijoada doesn’t skimp on flavor. It’s made with black beans, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, plenty of garlic, tomatoes, and cilantro.

Get the recipe here.

How to Cook the Healthiest Legumes, Plus TK Vegan Recipes
These vegan refried beans are super versatile. | Ela Vegan

11. Refried Beans

These easy Instant Pot fried beans are delicious in taquitos, burritos, on nachos, or as a dip.

Get the recipe here.

Senior Editor | New York City, NY | Contactable via: kat@livekindly.com

Kat has been writing about veganism, environment, and sustainability for five years. Their interests include over-analyzing the various socioeconomic forms of oppression, how that overlaps with veganism, and how the media in all of its forms reflects the current culture.