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How to Cook with Pulses

To get your creative juices flowing for our upcoming Vegan PULSE Potluck (or your upcoming pulse potluck) here’s a brief guide to cooking with peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils, and other legumes, along with recipes from around the world.

Peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes that may be harvested dry and stored for later use are collectively called pulses. Delicious, nutritious, and easy to cook (and grow), pulses are the key to feeding the world without wrecking the planet. Because they are hardy and drought-tolerant plants that enrich rather than deplete the soil while generating low-cost food that can be easily stored for later consumption, pulses also are key components of almost every regional diet.

Here in the United States, both dried and canned pulses are widely available in grocery stores, although we still have far to go in assuring that the people most in need of affordable food have access to bulk pulses, along with fresh fruits and vegetables. Dried pulses usually are cheaper but take longer to cook. Canned pulses are convenient but more costly, although still a cheap source of protein.

Many thrifty vegans make it a practice to keep both dried and canned pulses of many varieties on hand at all times. To begin building up your stockpile, just buy an extra can or sack each time you make a trip to the grocery store.

Except for lentils and split peas, dried pulses need to be rehydrated before cooking. This can be done by soaking overnight or via the quick soak method. Another way to cut down on the cooking time while still enjoying the cost-savings of dried beans, peas, and chickpeas is to invest in a pressure cooker. If you choose to use canned chickpeas or other beans, take note: The water from canned pulses, called aquafaba, can be used as an ingredient in many delicious recipes.

We found all of the recipes below in the International Vegetarian Union archive, just to give you an idea of the possibilities beyond the split pea soup and bean burritos to which you are probably already accustomed. Other places to search for pulse-based vegan recipes include and For more vegan Mexican dishes, visit






5 comments to How to Cook with Pulses

  • Miriam
    What happened to the word “legume?” I’m not being glib — isn’t that the same thing? Why pulse?
  • bravebird
    Pulses are a subset of legumes. Specifically, according to FAO,

    “Pulses are a type of leguminous crop that are harvested solely for the dry seed. Dried beans, lentils and peas are the most commonly known and consumed types of pulses.

    “Pulses do not include crops which are harvested green (e.g. green peas, green beans)—these are classified as vegetable crops. Also excluded are those crops used mainly for oil extraction (e.g. soybean and groundnuts) and leguminous crops that are used exclusively for sowing purposes (e.g. seeds of clover and alfalfa).”

  • Thank you for this! I have to do a 2 week low-iodine diet before a radioiodine treatment so I can’t use most canned or processed foods for a couple weeks. I needed some tips for dried beans.
  • pattrice
    Corvus, we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for the success of your radioiodine treatment. Both dried lentils and split peas can be cooked without pre-soaking. The thinner lentils, such as the red lentils used for dal, cook quickest. Those tiny french lentils cook pretty quickly too. If you do soak beans using the quick soak method, tossing some dried spices into the boiling water can lead some of the flavor of the spices to leech deeply into the beans.
  • Hello, Thanks for this article and for the one telling us about the International Year of the Pulses. That really excited me. We have a whole website devoted to cooking beans, pulses, and lentils. There are lots of good instructions there and simple recipes. We’ll be glad to help with general questions too. Have a look. http://www.VeganCookingSchool.Org

    We also have two public school websites for school teachers. http://www.Animal-SaversCreateBully-FreeZonesNaturally.Education and http://www.VegansEatThisNotThat.Education.

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