L is for Legume

You know the little ditty, “Beans, beans the musical fruit, the more you eat…” Actually that is all wrong. The right way to say it is, “Beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat, the less you toot.

Eat legumes regularly (pun intended) and your gut will be happy. Start with small portions, as you would when introducing any high fiber food.

Legumes are so delicious and very nutritious. Common legumes include lentils, dry beans, peas and peanuts. They are all great sources of fiber and folate, both are often lacking in the gluten free diet.

A cup of legumes provides 10-15 grams of fiber. Legumes are also high in potassium, most are low in fat and cholesterol free. They are as great for your heart as they are for your gut. These little beauties can also help you control blood sugar and manage your weight.

Legumes “fix” nitrogen and are loaded with protein                               Bacteria live in the roots of legumes and trap nitrogen from the air. This improves the soil, reduces the amount of fertilizer needed, and increases the protein level.

Legumes are 20-25% protein by weight. This is double the protein of wheat and three times the protein of rice. Using bean flours or pureed beans in baked goods helps to replace some of the protein and the structure lost when not using wheat.

Variety is the spice of life                                                                              Beans and lentils come in a seemingly unlimited variety and are incredibly versatile. Choose a color, shape and size. Add them to salads, soups, stir-fry, stews, casseroles, or side dishes. Excite your tired old recipes by adding new varieties of beans or lentils.

Try shelled edamame (green soybeans) in stir-fry. Enjoy black refried beans with Mexican entrees. Or make white bean and salmon stew. Serve roasted chickpeas or soy nuts for a great snack. Lunch on hummus with sweet bell pepper dippers. You can buy ready made hummus, or easily make your own. See the recipe below.

Dry beans, peas and lentils                                                                             These make a filling meal for very little dough. They have almost no sodium, but need to be cooked. Depending on the variety, cooking time may take from a quick 20 minutes or up to a very long 3 hours. Lentils are quick, garbanzos seem to take forever. What a great place to use a pressure cooker to speed things up!

Pressure cooking legumes                                                                                    I pressure cook beans and split peas all the time. It is often recommended to soak the beans overnight, before cooking them. This is a great idea, when you plan that far ahead. I often don’t.

You can do a fast soak in the pressure cooker. Put the beans in and add at least 3 times more water than beans. Lock the lid, bring to pressure and cook for 2 minutes. Allow to sit for an hour and the beans will be ready to pressure cook.

I must admit, I often do not even do that. I simply cook the dry beans, unsoaked. Most beans can be done in an hour or less, so I just cook them without soaking. I cook beans and split peas for one third the recommended stovetop cooking time. Then I check to see if they are done to my liking. Sometimes I need to cook a bit longer. It still is so much quicker than stovetop cooking.

There are multiple sites online with suggested cooking times. I did not link to any since I end up cooking legumes much longer than the lists suggest. In part, this is because I usually do not soak first. But also, we have some of the hardest water in the U.S. This makes the cooking time longer too. High altitude may will extend the cooking time. So, you may need to give yourself some extra time and experiment. Just like the rest of the gluten free diet. 🙂

Two cooking cautions                                                                                         Do not cook dry legumes with tomatoes, vinegar or lemon juice. The legumes will not soften. If the recipe calls for these ingredients, add them when the beans are done.

When pressure cooking legumes, do not fill your pressure cooker more than one-half full. They foam up and can clog the release valve.


Yeah for leftovers                                                                                      Legumes freeze really well, so you can cook up a mess o’ beans and enjoy them at your convenience. Package leftovers in small amounts, label, date and freeze.

Canned beans, peas and lentils                                                                        They cost a bit more than dry legumes, but they are still inexpensive. They are super convenient, but often high sodium.

Many kinds have 350-500 mg sodium per serving. Organic canned beans often have about 150 mg. Rinsing canned beans reduces the sodium. No added salt canned beans are available too.

I like cooked dry beans, naturally low in sodium. Or the organic canned beans. To me, the canned no added salt varieties taste flat. I am not a fan.

Lightly Lemon Hummus                                                                                    Yield 2 cups

1- 15 oz can chick peas, drained, juice reserved

1/3 cup tahini

¼ cup bean juice

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon dried garlic

3 tablespoons chopped chives

pinch of red pepper flakes

Put chickpeas, tahini, bean juice, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, cumin, and garlic in a food processor or blend. Process until smooth. Stir in chives.

Place in individual ramekins. This way everyone gets their own serving and double dipping is allowed! Garnish with red pepper flakes and a drizzle of the remaining oil. Serve with sweet peppers as dippers.

hummuspepper (1) 

hummus-and-sweet-pepper-dippers photo by vsimon

What are your favorite gluten free dippers?