Anyone who is eating a plant based diet knows that legumes (beans, string beans, lentils, peanuts, etc) can be a big part of their protein sources along with being a good source of fiber to keep them full. However it is possible to eventually get bored of the same ways of making meals with legumes or someone might not know creative ways to build a dish with them.
Even if you aren’t vegan or vegetarian, incorporating legumes into your weekly meals is beneficial in a variety of ways- from helping heart health to decreasing risk of diabetes. Having just a 1/2 cup of beans per day can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 38%, and if you have servings of beans/legumes at least 4 times a week, a study showed it lowering the risk of heart disease by 22%.
If you don’t like having legumes so often or they bother your digestive system, try out some smaller portions each week for the small added benefit (and make sure to cook or soak dried ones properly to reduce discomfort). In my post about chickpeas, I had mentioned the downside with lectins in beans and it causing discomfort for those who have trouble digesting it more than others. If the beans are soaked well with a change of water at least once and cooked very well, then small amounts in moderation is generally not a problem.
Legumes are also very versatile and can take on flavor profiles from all over the world. There is Indian food with dal and chickpea curries, the beloved hummus from the middle east, tofu stir fries or spicy braised tofu from China, and even beans on toast is popular in England. In big cities like New York, you have the luxury of being able to try so many different styles of food that feature legumes. At home I even like making string beans in garlic, soy sauce, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes and some honey to make a sticky side dish. Even with a few simple ingredients in the fridge (that you may not even realize taste good together) can show you to not go the easy way out and cook things plain.
Meal Planning Ideas With Legumes
- Dried beans can be soaked and cooked in advance since they can be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days. You can then use portioned amounts to add into breakfast dishes, such as making huevos rancheros, putting beans on toast (or even adding them to avocado toast).
- Other legumes like soy beans (tofu) can be bought as silken tofu and blended into smoothies like this one for added protein and calcium if fortified.
- If you want something sweet and savory, you can try a black bean and sweet potato hash with eggs on the side.
- Don’t forget that peanuts are legumes so if you have no allergies, you can have peanut butter on whole wheat toast with sliced apples or bananas on top.
- Tofu and vegetable stir fry with brown rice.
- Vegan tacos with beans, avocado, tomato, etc (all the toppings). A vegan buddha bowl with guacamole and beans and rice on top of arugula is tasty too (I made it one day at home and used adzuki beans).
- BBQ tempeh sandwiches. Pan fry slices of tempeh and coat in bbq sauce, then make a sandwich out of it with tomato, lettuce and vegan mayo.
- Another sandwich idea is to have lots of crunchy veggies like peppers, carrots and cucumbers along with alfalfa sprouts and then spread hummus on the bread. A grilled vegetable wrap spread with hummus is a good lunch idea too.
- Top any salad with chickpeas, black beans, white beans, etc. You can even roast them and use them in place of croutons.
- Soups are easy and quick to make and make great leftovers for the next days lunch. White bean soups, lentil soups and even black bean vegetarian chili are good options.
- Grilled tofu with sweet chili sauce with garlicky string beans and rice is a fun way to spice up textures on tofu.
- Make a spicy and tangy peanut butter sauce for chicken satay (or tofu satay).
- For another use of peanuts you can chop them up and make your own kung pao chicken at home instead of take out.
- Veggie burgers made with lentils and sweet potatoes are an easy way to fill up and get protein. Supermarkets even have bags of ready made steamed lentils if you want to make them faster.
- Edamame is a low fat snack that has added protein and can be eaten by itself.
- Trail mixes of peanuts without the m and m’s but with dark chocolate chips and cranberries.
- Try to get your kids to try hummus with raw veggies on the side to dip in (or for the really picky ones, some pita chips).
- I’ve tried brownies during an undergrad cooking class that had black beans blended into them and I couldn’t even tell they were in there- they tasted even better and had a smooth rich flavor. Try out this recipe from food network.
- Chickpeas can take on a lot of flavors that can be sweet, such as a chickpea chocolate chip cookie dough or chickpea peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. I found a recipe online that is vegan, and has no flour so its gluten free too. Check it out here.