It’s time to get to know the legume family. This fiber- and protein-rich collection of beans, including chickpeas, lentils, lupins, pulses, and peas, are getting extra attention in 2020. And rightfully so. Already trusted as an ingredient in soups, salads, and hummus, legumes are gaining traction in more imaginative ways. To start, dried snacks, as a thickening agent for soups and sauces, and as a wheat-free flour alternative. Of course, this list is only a snippet of the possibilities for the humble legume.
The term “plant-based” took off a few years ago, climbing over 3,000% on menus over a 4-year timeframe, according to Datassential. Even more, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that bean and lentil consumption in the US increased by 73% to a combined 14.5 pounds per capita over the last five years. Most recently, the Covid-19 crisis had many consumers returning to simple ingredients for health, value, and availability. Restaurants have been doing the same, finding ways to be creative with this pantry staple. With 18% of U.S. consumers trying to eat more plant-based foods, the exploration is perfectly timed.
Panera Bread is watching the trend and plans to explore legumes as part of their plant-based menu expansion. By the end of next year, they aim to have a plant-based item in every category. In an article in Restaurant Business earlier this year, the chain shared aspirations to be 50% plant-based in the future.
Walt Disney World has similar aspirations. They announced earlier this year a plan to have more than 400 plant-based menu items across the parks, with legumes present in several of the options. Chinese long beans, for instance, are featured in Steamed Asian Dumplings, edamame beans in their Shiriki Noodle Salad, and herb hummus on a Felucian Garden Spread.
At Leo, a pizza spot in Brooklyn, NY, heirloom beans are roasted with sage and rosemary under the heat of their pizza oven. Misi, another spot in NYC, features butter beans in their antipasti line-up with Calabrian chilies, Tuscan kale, and salty Pecorino cheese. Knife Pleat, a French restaurant in Costa Mesa, CA, delivers upscale comfort in their Duck Cassoulet. Grounded by a Tarbais bean stew, the flavor notes of duck and tomato confit shine brightly.
Legumes have been around a long time, of course, and are even more relevant today. That’s why we named them a top trend for 2020. They’re the kind of ingredient always at the ready to deliver comfort, warmth, and versatility. Dressed up or down, legumes transcend time, cuisines, and dietary preferences. Plus, their heartiness is valuable in a time when off-premise and meal delivery are on the rise. We like fava beans in this Mediterranean-Style Breakfast Skillet and string beans in our Orange Coconut Island Green Beans recipe. With cooler weather around the corner, we’ll be playing more with this mighty ingredient. We’ll be in touch with ideas soon. Until then, check out Chef Michael Smith’s blog post to get his take.
Brand Marketing Director
Custom Culinary, Inc.