The Daily Beet

25 Nov Adventures with Ami: Plant-Strong 101: Beans and Lentils

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Beans and lentils come in an amazing array of shapes, sizes, colors, textures and flavor profiles. These incredible beauties make such a wide variety of meals around the world. You’d be hard pressed to find a cuisine that doesn’t include a bean or lentil.

Most of us are familiar with black beans, kidney beans, navy beans and the rest of the typical beans that show up in the canned good section. These varieties and more can be found with the dried beans and lentils at your grocer. If you’ve never cooked dried beans, give it a shot! Instructions for the variety of bean are included on the package. Most require soaking overnight but may also include directions for quick soaking. If you are purchasing beans from the bulk section of your grocer, check out this handy guide from Whole Foods Market which includes descriptions and hints and tips for all kinds of legumes. Guide to Beans

Whether you decide to try your hand at dried beans or want to stick to the canned variety for convenience, the choice is yours. Beans don’t need a sauce or a recipe, just add some spices for a fantastic side dish or toss into your favorite recipe. Dried beans are the most economical, but require the longest prep time. Canned beans are great, just be sure to look for reduced sodium or preferably no salt added varieties. You can also now find beans in shelf stable boxes, which are great for travel. Shaped like a juice box, they are perfect for road trips because of their easy open packaging. Also showing up in markets around the country are frozen beans. I love these! Perfect for adding to recipes, these ready to heat and eat beans come in a variety of types.

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Frozen Beans from Hanover
I grew up having beans, but had never had lentils until I was in my thirties. Lentils are awesome! These generally require no soaking and have quick cooking times. Lentils add great texture to dishes. Lentils most often show up in Middle Eastern cuisine, but don’t need to be limited to curries and dahl. From lentil loaf, veggie burgers, crumbles for tacos and soups, lentils are so versatile! Brown, green, black, and red are just a few of the varieties you might find at the market. I love tossing lentils into a salad, they add interest and texture to salad greens. Beans and lentils are also loaded with fiber and nutrients.

Garbanzo beans or Chickpeas are one of my favorite beans. I love adding them to ‘no chicken’ soup, many different Indian dishes like Chana Masala or my favorite, hummus! Hummus is practically a food group in our house. Pureed chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice and spices make up our favorite hummus recipe. Hummus is one of those dishes that’s personal. Everyone likes their own hummus this way or that. From spicy to plain and everything in between, you can customize your hummus in a bunch of different ways. Here is our Engine 2 Hummus recipe that gives you a great original hummus, that you can customize. Hummus makes a great dip, spread and salad dressing base.

I hope you will branch out and try some new recipes or a new variety of beans or lentils. Find a new favorite!

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Ami Mackey
Ami Mackey

Ami Mackey is a food coach at Engine 2 Extra and has been plant-strong since 2011. She is also the Program Director at St Louis All City Boxing a nonprofit youth program. She earned certificates from eCornell in Plant-Based Nutrition & Fitness Nutrition from NASM.

  • Leah

    Hummus is most assuredly a food group! :)

  • Bill

    The links to the hummus recipe and bean guide didn’t make it into the post….

  • marty

    Dry beans are so easy in a slow cooker. Soak overnight (not plugged in!) , change the water and cook on low for 8 or 10 hours. Some varieties are faster.

  • Gracie

    Have you ever heard of someone having an intolerance to beans? I think what I’m having is esophageal spasms. It hurts really badly in my chest area and takes an hour to go away so I avoid beans. Luckily I can tolerate chickpeas and lentils. It’s kind of frustrating for someone who wants to be plant strong and who likes beans. I never had this problem for the first 40 years of my life.

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  • Jodi Baker

    Can you please post the recipe for the hummus?