Legumes is not a word often spoken and many people are unclear as to what they really are. They are actually part of a vegetable classification that includes versatile and nutritious beans, peas and lentils.
They are available in various forms such as dried, canned and frozen in supermarkets and grocers. With the current focus on reducing salt in our diets, the trend is to cook with dried beans, peas and lentils as a healthier alternative to their sodium heavy, canned counterparts.
Legumes Pack a Powerhouse of Benefits
Legumes are low in fat, contain no artery clogging cholesterol, and are found to be high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They contain good, healthy fats and both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Besides the fact that the legume family is vitamin and mineral rich, they absorb water as they pass through your system. This makes you think you are fuller so in theory, you eat less.
Also, because they have a mild flavor, they lend themselves well to most seasonings expanding your range for creative cooking.
How to Cook Dried Legumes?
One of the reasons that a lot of people stay away from this super healthy food is the fear of getting intestinal gas; but if properly cooked, gas can be avoided. There are several options for cooking them which I’ll detail here, and based on the amount of time you have, you can choose an option that works best for you.
The Quicker Cooking Option
If you are unable to soak your beans overnight, there is a quicker cooking option that includes partial cooking. Take these steps:
- Cover beans in cold water by about 2 inches
- Bring them to a low boil and let them simmer about 5 minutes
- Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 2 hours
- Cut on bean in half…the color should be consistent throughout with no white or hard parts
- Drain the water, rinse the beans and cook according to your recipe
Stove Top Cooking Option
- After soaking, cook the beans in a heavy covered pan
- Ratio of beans to water should be 3-4 units of water to every one of beans
- Let the water come to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours until tender
- Add water if needed since water will evaporate
Fast – Pressure Cooker Option
If you have a pressure cooker, cooking your beans with a tablespoon of oil will be your quickest option. Allow 8-10 minutes for split peas and lentils, 18-20 minutes for most other types of beans and 30 minutes for garbanzo or soybeans.
NOTE: Simmering on the stove is going to take longer at higher altitudes. Pressure cooking times are not affected but consideration should be made for the quantity, type and size of the legumes being prepared.
Tips to Avoiding Gas with Dried Beans
When you eat beans, gas is created by the carbohydrates or sugars in the beans. About 95% of this gas is odorless…enough said. Here are some tips to avoid that other 5%.
- To eliminate gas in dried beans, soak the beans overnight completely covered with plenty of water.
- Drain the soaked beans and use the soaking water to water your plants.
- Any cracked, wrinkled or pebbles found in your dried legumes should be thrown out.
- If your beans are not cooked thoroughly enough and still have some “crunch”, then you haven’t cooked them long enough to avoid gas.
- When you can mash a few beans with a fork, you will know they have been cooked enough.
- Add a bay leaf, fennel or cumin when cooking your beans to help avoid gas.
Season Legumes AFTER Cooking
Do not add salt, soy sauce, sugar or acidic foods like tomatoes or wine until AFTER your beans are cooked.
These ingredients will slow down the cooking process. After the cooking is completed, then add 1/2 to 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt for every cup of dried beans that you cook. You can then also add your spices according to your recipe.
Storing Legumes, Dried Beans, Split Peas, Lentils, etc.
Because beans generally take a time commitment, make a big batch and store the leftovers. You can store cooked legumes in a freezer bag for up to 6 months. One pound of UNCOOKED beans is equivalent to about 6 one cup servings when cooked.
Check out the Crock Pot section for my favorite crock pot baked beans (legumes)…I’ve been using this same no-fail recipe for years!