Mobile Menu

The Mighty Legume

They’re on-trend. They’re great for plant-based menuing. Rich in fiber and protein, colorful and full of appealing flavor and texture. That’s right… we’re talking about legumes—plants that bear fruit that grows in pods, including beans, lentils, peanuts and peas. These powerful foods are perfect for enlivening an incredible array of dishes, keeping patrons interested in your menu even as flavor preferences change and evolve. Bowl meals, for example, are ideal for showcasing legumes while helping to control ingredient costs—especially as takeout and delivery continue to be a crucial point of focus for operators.
Legume bowls inspired by global cuisines, such as Mediterranean and Middle Eastern hummus bowls, have wide-ranging appeal, too. Imaginative new uses for legumes—such as garbanzo bean waffles, tamarind vinaigrettes and soy/pea protein “scrambled eggs”—have emerged as chefs and food manufacturers look to revitalize their offerings. And wonder ingredients like aquafaba—the liquid left over after cooking garbanzo beans—can serve as a sweet or savory substitute for egg whites and dairy in applications such as tzatziki, aioli, meringue and even cocktails.

Watch this video showcasing VEGETABLE AND COCONUT SAMBAR WITH BESAN PARATHA, a garbanzo-stuffed flatbread served with creamy lentil vegetable stew, featuring Custom Culinary® True Foundations® Latin-Style Citrus Chili Sauce.


Legumes such as garbanzos, lentils and white beans are easy to incorporate into globally inspired appetizers, breakfast dishes and signature entrées. Try these recipes featuring Custom Culinary® products as inspiration.


A king salmon fillet over a bed of Yorkshire caviar—a.k.a. mushy peas—and Custom Culinary® Gold Label Beurre Blanc Sauce, finished with a sprinkling of chopped toasted pine nuts, blanched green peas, sautéed nameko mushrooms and a drizzle of truffle-scented pea tip purée.

Braised rabbit and pancetta simmered in a rich stew of lentils, capers, oil-cured olives, Aleppo chili flakes, rosemary, thyme and Custom Culinary® Gold Label Pork Base.

Tender garbanzo beans, broccolini, red onion, sweet corn and roasted red bell peppers tossed in zesty Custom Culinary® True Foundations® Latin-Style Citrus Chili Sauce, topped with crumbled queso fresco and fresh cilantro.
Lightly smoked garbanzo beans tossed in a tangy Custom Culinary® Peri-Peri Hot Sauce*, topped with lamb meatballs, fresh cilantro, sliced scallions and a drizzle of Greek yogurt.
Eggs and white beans simmered in a robust Custom Culinary® Roasted Tomato Shakshuka Sauce*, topped with fresh cilantro, sliced radishes and feta crumbles. Served with a side of grilled bread.
Al dente rigatoni, wild mushrooms and leeks tossed in a protein-packed Custom Culinary® Green Lentil Pesto* sauce, topped with toasted pine nuts, blistered cherry tomatoes and shaved Parmesan.
Fluffy steamed gua bao buns stuffed with braised pork belly, sweet and salty Custom Culinary® Peanut Butter Hoisin Sauce*, crushed peanuts, jalapeño and cilantro.

Chef's Perspective

It’s no doubt that Legumes are truly “Mighty,” offering an array of healthful benefits when included in a well-balanced diet. They are a rich source of fibers that have various beneficial health effects. Due to their high fiber and protein contents, legumes help you feel full and may thus reduce food intake and lead to weight loss over time. They have an impressive nutritional profile, which makes them one of the very best sources of plant-based protein. They are linked to a host of other health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. There is also much research to suggest that regular consumption of these plant foods may reduce blood pressure and triglycerides.

Yes, indeed, there is no doubt that Legumes are a “Mighty” and healthful choice of nutrition in a healthy diet. That said, I’m a chef, and although nutrition is important to me, so is flavor. As legumes are a staple in many countries, offering unlimited versatility and international inspiration, they are widely available and very inexpensive; from a chef’s perspective, they are a must-have offering in recipes and on menus. So how about this: “The Mighty Legume, A Delicious & Healthy Source Of Nutrition”—I like that much better.Chef Michael Smith

Looking at the subject of versatility, legumes offer chefs and restaurateurs the opportunity to offer highly delicious, highly crave-able, and highly profitable creations that span the menu from bar snacks to desserts – yes, I said desserts.

One of my favorite local eateries offers simple dollar bar snacks. The top choice from my pallet’s perspective is their Indian Spiced Crunchy Fava Beans. Their business strategy works well. You stop in for a quick libation, order a bowl of these, and enjoy them so much that you end up ordering an additional cocktail or two and then stay for dinner. PS: if you don’t offer bar snacks on your menu, it’s a great way to pull in incremental sales.

As far as “appetizers” go, if you have never actually enjoyed a bowl of freshly prepared hummus, you are truly missing out on an elegant culinary experience. One of my favorite hometown restaurants, Mezza Mediterranean in Livingston, NJ, offers a wide variety of super healthy, craveable, and delicious Mediterranean eats. My favorite section of their menu is their mezza section, from which they get their namesake. The word mezze refers to a style of dining in the Mediterranean and the Middle East that resembles a collection of Spanish tapas and other small plates meant to stimulate your appetite. But unlike those appetizers, mezze often makes up an entire meal, combining both cold and hot, vegetarian and meat items.

Now, I am not a habitual diner by any means. As a chef, I make it a point to try as many different things on a menu as possible to broaden my perspective. That said, I have literally dined at Mezza Mediterranean over 20 times since it opened a few years back and have ordered their hummus every single time. This simple combination of chickpeas, olive oil & fresh lemon juice begs the question, “How could it be that much better?”. Trust me, served with freshly baked house-made pitas, it has become one of my all-time favorite destination items. As Escoffier said, “Simplicity is the Essence of Elegance.” It’s sort of like Morimoto’s Sushi; it’s just that much better.  But that’s a whole other discussion.

Now I mentioned desserts starring “The Mighty Legume”. The center of attention there utilizes aquafaba, the brine from soaked legumes and found in cans of beans like chickpeas, which has caught the world’s attention. Its combination of proteins, soluble plant solids, and starches can be used for a variety of cooking processes, including thickening, binding, gelatinizing, and emulsifying. It’s also the perfect egg replacement.

Delicious desserts ranging from eggless meringues to chocolate mousse and ice “creams” can all be created from this far too often discarded gem. I recommend you do some research on aquafaba as I’m certain you will find use for it on all parts of your menu.

As always, your culinary support team at Custom Culinary® is here to help. Utilizing a wide range of our products like our Custom Culinary® True Foundations® Thai-Style Vegetable Broth or Vegetable Liquid Stock Concentrate can assist you in creating your signature eats featuring legumes.

Now, I can go on and on as legumes are versatile and great components to utilize across all sections of your menu during all day parts. I HIGHLY recommend you have some fun creating signature offerings that incorporate this truly mighty healthy, mighty delicious set of ingredients, as I’m confident it will reflect positively on your bottom line.

One final thought—I was not belittling the importance of nutrition in my opening comments by any stretch of the imagination. As chefs and food service professionals, we have a great responsibility to ensure we offer clean, safe, healthy, well-balanced, nutritious food to our guests. It is a great responsibility that should go without saying.

So, as the Great Satchmo, Louis Armstrong once sang, "red beans and ricely yours."

Chef Michael Smith, WCMC, CEC, AAC



A Visit to the “Farmacy”
A Visit to the “Farmacy”

There is no doubt that food influences overall health. What we are encountering more often now is consumers who visit the “farmacy” versus the pharmacy.

The New Wholesome
The New Wholesome

A majority of today’s consumers demonstrate interest in functional foods—items that are said to have positive effects on health beyond delivering basic nutritional benefits.

The Power of Pulses
The Power of Pulses

Legumes have emerged as an ingredient of choice rather than need. And we’re into them—for their versatility, comfort, and potential.

The Veganuary Challenge
The Veganuary Challenge

This 31-day challenge serves as more proof that plant-based eating is picking up steam.

Three Tips for a Healthier Menu
Three Tips for a Healthier Menu

While definitions of health continue to evolve, meeting customer expectations when dining away from home may be easier than you think.

*Products are customized; please contact your Custom Culinary® representative for more information.