Lentils Pulses &Beans!

Legume 101

Legumes are pulses, lentils, lupins and beans belonging to the Fabaceae or Leguminosae family and these plants are the world’s third largest group of plant life. The Fabaceae family of plants contains over 20,000 species and 700 genera, of which only some are categorised as leguminous plants. While some pulses are widely known and eaten across the globe, others are found only in certain regions or specific cuisines. Legume 101 is an attempt to help the mindful home cooks to identify various types of legumes and get a brief overview of how to soak, boil and cook your legumes. 

Here is how Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) differentiated various Legumes**

** Modified & digitalised graphics from, Pulses: Nutritious Seeds for a Sustainable Future, © FAO, 2016. 
  1. To pre-prepare legumes, you will need something to wash and rinse your legumes (a strainer or colander will do) an appropriate bowl in which to soak them, and a pot in which to cook them over low heat.

  2. Once soaked depending on the variety of legumes can increase in volume up to three times, so be sure to use a large enough bowl.

Soaking? Or not Soaking!

It is certainly good to wash your legumes before you cook to remove the traces of dust, tannins and other unwanted residues to make your legume test better but the question is do we really need to soak the legumes for long hours?


The traditional belief about soaking is it makes the legumes more digestible and reduce the legume cooking time by up to 20-30%. 


Traditional thoughts on soaking!


Simply add washed beans in salt water. Cover them with water by 2 inches. Add 2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt (or 1 tablespoon fine salt) for per pound of beans. Soak them for up to 12 hours, drain and cook in freshly boiled water. 


Overnight Soaking 


Why soak at all? 

Strange but true! you don’t actually have to soak your beans at all. It is recommended by some famous chefs and nutritionists that just add them to your pot and plan on cooking your recipe for another hour or two beyond the usual cooking time. Simple, keep an eye on the level of liquid, adding more water if the pot looks dry. There should always be liquid covering your beans as they cook.


 No Soaking!

Well, we believe it would be wrong to make a blanket claim on whether or not to soak your legume because we think depending on the recipes one is cooking, simply soaking can be the only thing required. Take falafel/felafel, for instance, this common staple of Arab and Jewish cuisine is a deep-fried patty made from broad beans or dried chickpeas. To make delicious treats legumes are not cooked, but rather are simply soaked in water to soften them and to remove their skins before they are blended to be added with aromatic herbs and vegetable pesto. 

Our final thoughts


After some extensive testing with pinto beans, a recent test indicated that perhaps one of the most effective ways to cook the bean is, 

"Quick-soak the beans, salting them at the beginning of cooking, and cooking in a pot without a lid, resulted in beans with great texture and a flavorful broth."


What Epicurious's Myth-Busting Guide to Cooking Beans says about soaking?


Taking flavour and texture into consideration perhaps quick soaking is the most effective method. In this method:

Beans are put in a pot in the stove, covered with salted water by two inches.  Brought to a quick boil and continued for 10/15 min. Heat is then turn off and the legumes are let to soak for an hour. Depending on the freshness of the legumes, the soaking time will vary. 


Quick Soaking

Once there were arguments that soaking makes phytic acid disappear. However, it has been argued that it only reduces it by about 16 - 21%.  However, now we have a lot of data that suggests that phytic acid may be playing a key role in reducing the risk of some of the bigger cancers. Breast cancer, ovarian cancer & liver cancer - it can also be corrective against colorectal cancer.

There are also scientific studies that suggest those consuming more phytic acid have a lower risk of diabetes. 


Finally, we know that it is also a good detoxifier against heavy metals, in particular, lead and cadmium.

Reasons you may prefer Quick Soaking 

photo credit:

  • Soak and boil your legumes in a larger batch, store them in the refrigerator in their cooking liquid for up to 5 days and use keep them ready for adding into any desired recipes. 

  • Our recommendation is your cook your own beans & legumes from scratch, you’ll benefit from the Prana of a freshly cooked dish while minimising the number of toxins you ingest from canned food.

  • To lessen flatulence caused by legumes, the best remedy is to drain them after cooking, and then soak them again for one hour in cold water. Discard the water and then continue preparing your recipe.




Cooking at high pressure can significantly reduce the time and also legumes that that are traditionally soaked can easily be cooked unsoaked. Simply, rinse and clean your bean (be sure to check for stray rocks, twigs or leaves) and you are all set to go.

Depending on the types of legume you may need anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes for small beans such as lentils, split peas and black-eyed peas, whereas to up to 30-35 minutes for larger beans such as chickpeas. 

To cook/boil your beans in a pressure cooker, the general rule of thumb is making sure not to exceed the maximum fill line for your brand of pressure cooker. Put your washed and clean legumes with enough salt water to cover by 2 inches into the pressure cooker (add salt to test). You might add some condiments at this stage. Some people use a tablespoon of cooking oil to help keep the foam from clogging the vent. 

Well if you have a slow cooker around and also are not in a hurry for your meal, then put some legumes in the water or vegetable/ meat stock, toss some condiments add salt to test, forget it for 3-6 hours. Walah! your legumes are ready to accompany you to your meal or be the perfect complement to your favourite one-pot meal. However, for some hard beans such as red kidney beans, it is highly recommended that before putting into the slow cooker boil in them in the stove for at least a good 10-15 min. 
Shimmering in the stove is the most traditional and widely used method for cooking lentils, pulses and beans. At this stage depending on the recipes you are cooking you might want to add salt and other condiments. The time for cooking will significantly vary based on the legume used. For instance, in order to get the perfect doneness of one cup of red split lentil in four cups of water, you may need as little as 7-10 mins of boiling as dal soups and getting it ready for the final stage of cooking, whereas depending on the Legume varieties, beans such as soaked chickpeas or lima beans can take up to 90 min and unsoaked one may take to 4 hours of cooking.
Therefore, often the best approach is to boil legumes in a larger batch, store them in the refrigerator in their cooking liquid for up to 5 days and use keep them ready for adding into any desired recipes. 

Storing your Legumes 

Dry legume storage 

Well, the way you store your legumes can dramatically affect its flavour and texture. Take the most expensive beans i.e.,  Flageolet beans fro example, these beans get their distinctive green colour due to being picked before full maturity and is dried in the shade to retain its green colour and flavour. 

the recommendation is to store your uncooked dried beans in a dark, cool cabinet for up to a year.  For best quality consume within the year of purchase as often their test and flavour go downhill after two years. Therefore, you are better of checking the harvest and packed date while purchasing your legumes. 

Cooked Legume Storage

Given that you can prepare multiple recipes our of one cooked batch of legume.  One approach can be boil in a larger batch, store them in the refrigerator in their cooking liquid for up to 5 days. One way to extend its storage time is to tossing the cooked beans in a bit of oil, salt, paper and a touch of vinegar followed by a quick chilling/ cooling down before stocking in the refrigerator. Given that cooked legumes can significantly lose its shape and turned mushy when home frozen and then slowly defrosted, ideally if they are not cooked as disintegrated dal soups, just refrigerate only and eat as fresh as possible to get the best test. However, it is suggested that if you do freeze them, do so in their cooking liquid. 


Be sure to quickly cool your legumes down, (professional kitchen uses blast chiller for this but for home kitchen simply remove the lid, transfer the cooking pot in a larger bot with some ice cold water & let the cooked legumes cool down.

Please remember, like most cooked items do not let the legumes to be left at room temperature for more than four hours. It is best to keep them above 55C so that they do not develop any type of harmful bacteria. They should be refrigerated or frozen as soon as possible after cooling. 

If they are planning to be used you legumes in salads, add vinegar or lemon zest to keep bacteria from growing.

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