Pulses are a versatile food that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They can be a main dish, a side dish or a healthy ingredient in baked goods, snacks and even beverages.
With such a large variety of pulses there is no limit to the number of ways they are eaten!
Get creative with pulses - add a handful of black beans to your regular pizza toppings, include lentils in your quesadilla filling or puree some chickpeas to pump up your spaghetti sauce.
How Do I Cook Pulses?
Canned or Dried
Did You Know:
Regardless of method used, acidic ingredients (such as tomatoes and vinegar) should be added only when the pulses are already tender, as acids and salt can slow down the cooking process. Seasonings like garlic, onion and herbs can be added to the cooking water right from the beginning.
Canned pulses are pre-cooked so they are very convenient. For those watching their sodium intake, draining and rinsing canned pulses is an easy way to reduce any sodium that has been added during the canning process.
Dried pulses are not pre-cooked and therefore require more time to prepare. However they tend to be available in greater varieties and retain richer flavor. If you’re buying dried pulses, look for batches that are uniform in color, size and shape, and that have smooth and unblemished seed coats.
Preparing Dried Pulses
Dry beans, whole peas and chickpeas need to be soaked before they are cooked. Lentils and split peas do not need to be soaked before they are cooked.
Before soaking dry pulses, remove any shrivelled or broken seeds or any foreign matter such as dried soil or pebbles, then place in a sieve and rinse under cold running water. Place dried pulses in a deep container, cover them with water and let them stand for 8 – 10 hours.
Did You Know:
Some recipes suggest adding baking soda to help soften pulses. This is not recommended as baking soda may make the pulses too soft
Once the pulses are finished soaking, always discard the soaking water, place pulses in strainer or sieve and rinse well under cold running water. This will wash away any carbohydrates responsible for flatulence.
Pulses can be cooked on the stove top, in a slow cooker or pressure cooker, and for certain recipes, in the oven.
- Combine pre-soaked* pulses with water and seasonings in a large cooking container or heavy saucepan. If available, you can add 5mL (1 tsp) of oil to prevent foaming.
- Use a large saucepan or cooking container, as pulses double or triple in volume during cooking. (Dry pulses will yield approximately 2-3 times their original amount when cooked.)
- Bring water to a boil, cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer until pulses are just tender and not mushy.
- Simmer pulses slowly as cooking too fast can cause them to split or break open.
- Guidelines for cooking times will vary with the type and age of the pulses, as well as with the altitude and the hardness of the water. Follow the instructions on the package for best results.
- Tasting is the best way to check if pulses are done. Cooked pulses are tender, have no “raw” taste, and crush easily in your mouth.
Did You Know:
Research has shown that eating pulses can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, which are both risk factors for heart disease.1
Other cooking methods
Pressure cookers can significantly shorten cooking times for pulses. Slow cookers allow cooking without any attention. Follow the instructions on the package for best results.
1. Curran, J. The nutritional value and health benefits of pulses in relation to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. BJN. 108 (Suppl 1): S1-S2.