I didn’t think I needed another bean in my life, to be totally honest. My pantry is stacked high with cans of chickpeas, white beans, bags of heirloom pinto beans, and beyond. Between them all, I barely have time to let lentils into my heart, let alone a whole new bean variety. And yet, over the past couple of years, lupini beans have been taunting me a bit. I kept seeing them in various forms at my local Whole Foods, whether as pasta, a hummus-like dip, or simply in jars sandwiched between marinated artichokes and pepperoncini.
I finally gave into my curiosity and picked up a jar of lupini beans—and now I wonder why I waited so long.
What are Lupini Beans?
These flat, round, yellow legumes are in the same family as peas, lentils, and peanuts. They have a naturally bitter flavor so, to counter this, they’re most traditionally soaked in brine and sold in a pickled form. While popular in Mediterranean, North African, and Latin American cuisines, where they’re enjoyed as a snack, they’ve really only made their way into mainstream grocery stores stateside recently. Interestingly, like fava beans, they’re wrapped in a thick skin that while edible, is best peeled away before the beans are enjoyed. As a snack, lupini beans can be eaten by breaking this outer skin with your teeth then popping the inner beans right into your mouth; you can also use your fingers to push the inner beans through their skin. However, if I am being totally honest, the process is a little finicky for those, like myself, who are lupini bean first-timers.
Luckily, there are peeled lupini beans to save you the hassle. To me, they have the texture of edamame with a more complex salty, briny flavor that comes from the pickling process. Their firmness is surprising at first bite, but then pleasantly satisfying—a standout feature amongst all the other beans on grocery store shelves.
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How Can I Use Lupini Beans?
Lupini beans have been enjoyed for centuries as a snack, so there’s no doubt they’re tasty on their own. If you like munching on olives with your pre-dinner cocktail or glass of wine, you’ll quickly fall for their briny, slightly crunchy bite. I like to drain them well and toss them with a little olive oil and thyme leaves or chopped rosemary before serving them this way, but you can buy lupini beans pre-seasoned if you want snacktime to be even easier. That’s just the start, though:
- As a snack: If you want them crunchier, à la roasted chickpeas, drain and pat dry, toss with olive oil, and roast in a 400°F oven. Don’t just snack on these; sprinkle them on salads and grain bowls, too.
- As a dip: Drain and blend with olive oil, tahini, and a pinch of smoked paprika for a smoky take on hummus.
- As a salad topper: Make a marinated lupini bean salad by grabbing some of its neighboring canned goods at the grocery store, like roasted red peppers and marinated artichokes, draining and tossing altogether with olive oil, whatever chopped fresh herbs you have, and some lemon juice or red wine vinegar for added brightness.
- As a pasta accompaniment: Drain and toss into pasta for a boost of protein and salty flavor.
Sheela Prakash is a food and wine writer, recipe developer, and the author of Salad Seasons: Vegetable-Forward Dishes All Year and Mediterranean Every Day: Simple, Inspired Recipes for Feel-Good Food. Her writing and recipes can be found in numerous online and print publications, including Kitchn, Epicurious, Food52, Serious Eats, Tasting Table, The Splendid Table, Simply Recipes, Culture Cheese Magazine, Clean Plates, and Slow Food USA. She received her master’s degree from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy, holds Level 2 and Level 3 Awards in Wines from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), graduated from New York University’s Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, and is also a Registered Dietitian.