Dried legumes and pulses have a lot of health benefits. They are cheaper, more nutritious, packed with protein and contain less sugar and salt. You should consider adding more dried beans, lentils and chickpeas to your daily meals, especially when thinking about switching to a more plant-based diet or looking to cook healthy on a budget.
It's hard to find such budget-friendly foods rich in essential nutrients and vitamins. Beans and pulses are excellent sources of both plant-based protein and dietary fibre. They also contain important minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc, and potassium.
These health benefits and low costs (dried pulses and legumes cost less than the canned option) make them very economical foods, meaning they cost less and offer us a lot.
When cooking with dried beans, for example, you can easily cook in batches and freeze the dishes, which helps to save more money. Buying dried beans in bulk in an online health food store will save even more!
The common misconception about dried legumes and pulses is that they require much more preparation time than their canned versions. The reality is they don't. All you have to do is to soak them in water for a few hours and cook them. It is not as easy and convenient as opening a can, but it is not a very heavy task either, especially when you already cook your meals.
Some canned beans and legumes may contain high quantities of added sodium and sugar that works are preservative - much above the recommended daily amount for adults.
Dried beans contain a much lower amount of sodium, from 0 to 15 milligrams per serving. When cooking beans, you can control the amount of salt you add, and you don't need to add any sugar. You also decide about your beans' flavour by adding herbs and spices.
The traditional supermarkets will only stock the most popular types of beans and legumes, but if you go to an online whole food store, you will discover unique varieties of beans, available organic and in bulk.
Varieties of beans you can buy online
Kidney beans are a variety of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), a legume native to Central America and Mexico. Organic Red Kidney Beans are very versatile beans and can be enjoyed in Mexican-style dishes.
Black beans, also known as turtle beans because of their hard shell-like appearance, are classified as legumes. They are used in salsas, salads and Mexican chillies.
Butter beans are a larger variety of beans, pale white to light yellow in colour when mature. These beans are delicious and soft with a creamier flavour than most; they are both rich and buttery. Because of their large size, they absorb much flavour lending themselves very well to soups, curries and casseroles.
Pinto Beans originated in Central America. Pinto means 'painted' in Spanish. They have a very creamy texture when cooked.
Haricot Beans are small, oval, plump and creamy-white with a mild flavour and smooth, buttery texture. They absorb flavours and aromas easily, making them a perfect addition to spice-infused dishes.
Cannellini beans are from Italy and are creamy white. When they are cooked, they have a fluffy texture and a slightly nutty, mild flavour.
Borlotti beans are a type of Italian bean. They have a sweet flavour and a smooth, creamy texture. They are widely used in salads and casseroles. The dried variety needs to be soaked in cold water before cooking.
Aduki beans are small red beans with a typically sweet and nutty flavour. Aduki beans are exceptionally common in Asia and are frequently used in local cuisine as Bean Sprouts.
Fava Beans, also called broad beans, have a nutty flavour and smooth, buttery texture. Cooked fava beans are great to eat straight (just boiled) or to add to varied as dips, salads, risottos, and pasta.
Soya beans are native to East Asia. They have been an important protein source there for over five thousand years. Soya beans are used to create tofu, tempeh, and meat alternatives. They are also great for noodles, soups and condiments.
Mung beans are a staple in Asia. You can use them in similar ways as lentils. You can add them to soups, curries and many Asian dishes.
Chickpeas are also known as Garbanzo beans. They are originally cultivated in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. They are featured in Italian, Greek, Indian, Middle Eastern, Spanish and Portuguese cuisine. The most popular dish made with chickpeas is hummus.
Beans are easy to cook. So how to cook beans?
The common misconception about dried legumes and pulses is that they require much more preparation time than the canned versions. The reality is they don't. All you have to do is to soak them in water for a few hours and cook them. It is not as easy and convenient as opening a can, but it is not a very heavy task either, especially when you already cook your meals.
You don't have to soak beans when they are freshly dried but dried beans and chickpeas, especially when stored in the kitchen pantry for long months, lose moisture over time. Soaking in water for a few hours or overnight will help to make your legumes rehydrated and a bit fresher. Plus, it will shorten the cooking time.
If you want to soak your beans, place them in a large bowl and fill it with enough water to cover the beans by about 3-5 cm. Soak them for 3 to 8 hours or overnight. As they absorb the water, they will increase in size, so make sure they are always covered with enough water. Drain the beans, wash them with fresh water, and transfer them to the pot.
The easiest and fastest way to prepare dried beans and other legumes is to cook them in a pressure cooker. You can always cook your beans on the stovetop, but it may take a bit longer.
If you want to cook the presoaked beans, fill the pot with enough water to cover the beans. If you haven't soaked them, use more water to cover the beans (by 5cm at least).
You can add a pinch of salt, herbs, and spices of your choice. The best way to make beans more aromatic is to cook them with bay leaves, garlic clove and a bit of salt. If you want a spicy flavour, add some chilli powder, chilli flakes and onion powder.
Soaked beans will need between 20 to 25 minutes to cook; for unsoaked beans, it's around 40 to 45 minutes in a pressure cooker. If you choose smaller beans, cooking them will take less time than cooking larger ones.
You can add cooked beans to your dishes, like canned beans, to stews, soups, and salads. Store them in their cooking liquid if you're not using them immediately.