June 16, 2024

Whether you’re an every-so-often or complete plant-based eater in search of pantry staples with high protein counts, you’ve probably become quite familiar with chickpeas, lentils, and all the legumes in between. And, as with any ingredient on heavy rotation, those legumes can get old, fast. Enter: lupini beans (aka lupin beans).

Around the same size as fava beans, these yellow legumes are a nutritional powerhouse with nearly double the amount of protein that’s in chickpeas. Sound familiar? That’s probably because supermarkets have started stocking plant-based snacks boasting lupini beans’ benefits — and, honestly, it’s about time.

Here’s the lowdown on all things lupini beans, so you know what the heck they are, why they’re popping up in more packaged foods, and whether they’re healthy.

What Are Lupini Beans?

Lupini or lupin beans are a type of legume that comes from the flowering Lupinus plant, which is in the same food family as peas, chickpeas, and lentils. “They’re commonly consumed in Mediterranean cuisines (especially Italy, Spain, and Portugal) and Latin American cuisines,” says Ginger Hultin, R.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Because of their bitter taste (a result of naturally occurring chemicals called alkaloids), lupini beans are often soaked in a brine and pickled and then eaten as a snack or part of an antipasto — although they’re also a welcome addition to salads, pasta dishes, or dips.

“They also contain a thick, edible skin,” adds Alyssa Lavy, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., a registered dietitian and owner of Alyssa Lavy Nutrition & Wellness LLC. Although the skin may be hard to chew, it’s thinner than an edamame pod and entirely edible. But if you don’t like the chewiness of the skin, you can easily pull the seed out with your teeth and discard the skin, according to Lavy.

Lupini Beans Nutrition Facts

Lupin beans are a star amongst the legume family, as they have about a third more protein per square inch than many other beans and legumes. Plus, they have practically no starch, so they won’t spike your blood sugar, and, in turn, will stave off hunger.

Here’s the nutritional profile of 100 grams of unsalted cooked lupini beans, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  • 119 calories
  • 16 grams protein
  • 3 grams fat
  • 10 grams carbohydrate
  • 3 grams fiber

Health Benefits of Lupini Beans

You may have clocked that high protein count in lupin beans’ nutrition breakdown. They’re an amazing plant-based protein source, meaning they’re a must-have if you’re a vegan or vegetarian eater. But that’s not all the little legume has on its resume:

Rich In Beneficial Vitamins

Lupin beans are rich in nutrients such as energy-boosting B vitamins and bone-strengthening phosphorus and calcium. Also on that list? Manganese (essential for blood clotting), magnesium (aids in muscle contractions), iron (necessary for growth and development), and inflammation-fighting antioxidants.

Promote Gut Health

These little legumes can also help establish a happy gut. Test tube studies have found the fiber in the lupini beans promotes the growth of helpful intestinal bacteria such as bifidobacteria, which is commonly found in probiotics and has been tied immune and digestive health. Lupin beans also have a high level of prebiotic fiber, which contributes to the development of gut-healthy probiotics.

May Promote Heart Health

For a little legume, these guys pack a ton of benefits into a small, skin-covered package. Research suggests eating legumes as part of a healthy diet can offer some serious health benefits, such as reducing the risk of diabetes (something the keto diet might also be able to do), high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Fiber is not only essential for keeping things, err, moving (think: digestion), but it also has the power to prevent cardiovascular disease. So, it’s no surprise that lupini beans — which have around 3 grams of fiber (25 percent of your daily recommendation) per 100-gram serving — have been linked to heart health. A study of more than 100 participants found that those who ate lupin-enriched foods over a 12-month period experienced reductions in blood pressure, which can help stave off heart disease.

May Lower Cholesterol

Cholesterol levels also play an important role in your heart’s health and (good news!) research suggests eating lupin beans may lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. The same study found that incorporating legumes such as lupini beans into your diet can also reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Potential Risks of Lupini Beans

First, a warning: Raw lupin beans are toxic to ingest due to the presence of bitter alkaloids, so be cautious if you buy raw beans to prepare yourself.

Other than that, there are two minor downsides to lupini beans. “Because they’re so commonly soaked in salt, they can be high in sodium,” says Hultin. For example, 100 grams of the pickled variety has anywhere from around 200 milligrams to 900 milligrams of sodium (about 8 to 40 percent of your daily recommended value), according to the USDA.

The other negative: Lupin is a legume similar to peanuts, so it may cause similar allergic reactions for those who have a peanut allergy, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Also, an allergy to soy or other beans and legumes can also correlate to an allergy to lupin beans.

How to Buy and Eat Lupini Beans

In the store, you’ll likely find lupini beans pickled in jars, but you may also see the dried variety. If you don’t like the salty brine and opt for the dry bean instead, it is important to properly soak and wash the lupini beans before cooking, notes Lavy.

“They come in two varieties: bitter and sweet. The bitter variety must be soaked, washed, and boiled multiple times over the course of a few days to remove the bitter alkaloids, whereas the sweet variety requires less rinsing and soaking,” she adds. To reiterate, that process is important in order to ensure that the beans aren’t toxic.

“Besides being served brined, they can also be ground into flour and used in a variety of dishes,” adds Hultin. For example, if you buy them already cooked, add them to a salad for a salty topper or mix them in with a grain bowl.

With the bounty of plant-based protein in the bean, they can be used to add protein to practically any dish.

Add to salads. Lupini beans can serve as the protein source for any lettuce or grain salad. If you buy the pickled variety, add it to a big leafy green salad with other antipasto favorites, such as sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers.

Combine with roasted veggies. If you’re looking for an easy meatless meal, roast up a tray of your favorite veggies and combine them with cooked lupini beans. Drizzle with your favorite sauce for an easy weeknight meal.

Add to pasta. Lupini beans can add texture and protein to a pasta dish. Combine cooked pasta, cooked lupini beans, a healthy veggie (such as roasted broccoli), and a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice for a simple dish. (If this sounds delish to you, check out these creative pasta recipes featuring other legumes.)

Puree into a dip. Beans and legumes serve as the base of many hearty dips — hummus, anyone? Lupini beans have a nutty flavor and texture that can be blended into a protein-packed dip. Throw some cooked lupini beans into a food processor with lemon, garlic, olive oil, and salt and process until smooth. Lather the dip on some seedy crackers for a filling snack.

Lupini Bean Products

Newly available packaged lupini snacks allow you to look beyond the traditional pickled varieties and pick up options that are marinated in delicious flavors or processed into bars or pseudo-grains. Ready to jump on the bean bandwagon? Here are a few expert-approved favorites:

For a snack: Brami Beans (Buy It, $25 for 4, amazon.com) are a great on-the-go snack and don’t require that days-long prepping process. “These lupini beans are ready-to-eat and come in a variety of delicious flavors,” says Lavy. “Also, they don’t need to be refrigerated until after the package is opened, making them a great travel snack,” she adds. The only downside is that a serving of 25 beans has over 400mg of sodium, which is more sodium than you would find in a snack-size bag of pretzels. If you’re watching your salt intake, this might not be the snack for you, cautions Lavy. But if your diet is full of lower-sodium, unprocessed foods, Brami Beans are probably fine to throw in the mix, she says.

For a side dish: Opt for Carrington Farms Ground Lupin Beans (Buy It, $20, carringtonfarms.com) as your new go-to grain alternative. This microwaveable ground lupini bean product makes a perfect stand-in for rice, couscous, or even cauliflower rice. Just mix with water and microwave for three minutes.

For a post-workout snack: Tired of the boring post-workout protein bars you usually buy? Try Lupii (Buy It, $35 for 12, getlupii.com), lupini bean–based bars with a similar amount of protein (9 grams) to other protein bars, such as RX and CLIF Bars. Lupii bars come in interesting flavors such as Almond Butter Cinnamon Raisin and Tahini Lemon Cranberry, and each variety contains only six simple ingredients.

For a flour alternative: Manufacturers have started making lupini bean flour, which is naturally gluten-free and similar in taste to whole wheat flour. Lupini flour such as Wholesome Provisions Miracle Flour (Buy it, $16, amazon.com) has an impressive nutrient profile with 1 gram of net carbs, 11 grams of protein, and 11 grams of fiber per serving. So it’s higher in protein and lower in carbs than other gluten-free flours made from nuts, coconut, rice, or cassava. Try experimenting with lupini flour to add a protein boost to baked goods such as bread, muffins, pancakes, and more.


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