Shelley Case, RD breaks down the options for healthy eating on a budget. Recipes included!
By Shelley Case, RD
Trying to eat healthy but also watching your budget? Look no farther than the lowly and often under-appreciated legume – dried beans, peas and lentils. These inexpensive foods are nutrition powerhouses: they’re high in fiber, protein and complex carbohydrates, and contain many minerals and vitamins such as iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, folate and other B vitamins.
As if that weren’t enough to make you a bean convert, they’re also low in fat and sodium. But if you’re thinking that legumes are boring – it’s time to learn that this is simply not true. From chickpeas to lentils and black turtle beans, legumes come in a wide range of flavors and can be sensational in cooking, from salads to pasta sauces and even used as flours to make baked sweets healthier.
Adding Legumes To Your Gluten-Free Diet
- Add 1 cup of cooked or pureed chickpeas or lentils to your spaghetti sauce or chili and reduce the amount of ground beef used. This lowers the fat while adding fiber.
- Toss 1 cup of canned chickpeas or black beans with any salad for a different twist.
- Mix beans or lentils with wild or brown rice and herbs and serve as a side dish or main meal.
- Mix 1/2 cup of black beans into 1 cup of gluten-free salsa. Add some chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice for an easy party dip. Serve with raw vegetables or gluten-free crackers.
- Serve hummus (chickpea is the main ingredient) with carrots, celery or other vegetables or spread the hummus on gluten-free crackers or rice cakes.
I’ve got some great recipes you can experiment with but first, let’s properly introduce you to the humble legumes (also known as pulses).
Canned, Dried and Flours
When purchasing canned legumes check the label to make sure there is no added wheat starch or wheat flour. Avoid purchasing dry legumes or legume flours from bulk bins because of the risk of cross-contamination with gluten-containing grains.
Working with Dry Legumes
- Spread them out on a cookie sheet. Remove any shriveled or broken skins.
- Dry lentils and split peas do not need to be soaked but do rinse them before cooking.
- Dry beans, whole peas and chickpeas will need to be soaked. For every cup of legumes, soak with 3 cups of water. There are 3 soaking methods:
- Cover with water and let stand 12 hours or overnight.
- Cover with water and bring to a boil in a saucepan, boiling gently for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour.
- Cover with water, put them in a microwave dish, cover and microwave on high for 10-15 minutes. Let stand for 1 hour. After using one of these methods, discard the water and place legumes in a strainer, rinsing them with fresh water. This removes some of the carbohydrates and sugars that cause gas.
Cooking Soaked Legumes
- Ratios: For every 1 cup of dried beans, peas, lentils or chickpeas use 21/2 to 3 cups of water. For every 1 cup of split peas or split lentils, use and 2 cups of water.
- Cooking times: Beans and whole peas take 1 to 1 1/2 hours; split peas 45 minutes; whole lentils 30 minutes and whole chickpeas 1½ to 2 hours.
Working with Canned Legumes
Canned beans (kidney, black, navy, white, romano, pinto, etc.), lentils and peas should be placed in a strainer, drained, rinsed with water for 30-60 seconds and allowed to drain for two minutes. This reduces the sodium content by up to 40 percent, and it also removes some of the carbohydrates and sugars that cause gas.
Fun with Flours
Flours made from chickpea (also known as garbanzo bean or besan), bean (black, white, navy, romano, pinto and soy) and pea (yellow or green) can be substituted for some of the rice flour and starches in recipes.
Baking with Bean and Pea Flours
- Bean flours tend to have a stronger flavor, so don’t use more than 25 percent of these flours in a gluten-free blend. Adding molasses, chocolate or spices helps to offset the taste of these flours.
- Pea flours can be used in larger quantities in the flour blend and in some recipes can be the only flour.
- Legume flours absorb more moisture than other flours so in baking, more eggs or liquid may be needed.
- To measure a gluten-free flour blend, use a whisk to aerate the flour and spoon into your (dry measure) measuring cup. Level with the back of a knife. Avoid using the measuring cup itself as a flour scoop or the flour will become packed and you’ll end up with too much flour – and dry baking!
Recipes using Legumes
My colleagues at Allergic Living magazine also share these gluten-free, legume-friendly recipes:
About Shelley Case, RD
Shelley Case, RD, is an international celiac and gluten-free expert, a featured columnist in Allergic Living magazine and author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide.