When In Rome

Rumblings about the latest legume superfood have been reverberating through the food scene for years now, but until lately, little proof could be found on grocery store shelves. Lupini beans (otherwise referred to as Lupine/Lupin) have been called the “perfect protein,” boasting even greater numbers than soybeans along with the full complement of essential amino acids. They’ve slowly begun to work their way into meatless meals, snack foods, and baking mixes, but few opportunities have allowed them to shine all by themselves. The main problem plaguing this humble bean is a natural bitterness that is very difficult to overcome. Prepared at home, they must be soaked, boiled, drained, boiled, rinsed, and boiled some more. Even then, pickling might be necessary to cover up any residual off flavors. Even worse, getting the process wrong isn’t just distasteful, but possibly poisonous. High levels of alkaloids can cause everything from dizziness to potential liver damage. That alone could scare off most reasonable eaters.

It’s not all doom and gloom in the lupini kingdom, though. Initially recognized for their nutritional prowess, they’re finally getting attention for their unique culinary potential as well. Brami has taken out their bitter bite and made it easy to enjoy them as a new kind of savory snack. Imploring us to “snack like a Roman” in reference to their Italian origins, it took a bit of modern technology to bring this ancient food back into relevance. Fully cooked and seasoned to enjoy much like edamame, needing no refrigeration and thus ideal for eating on the go- Although with my lack of grace, I’m not sure I could daintily eat them in public. It takes a bit of practice to gently ease the beans out of their tough skins without shooting them clear across the room.

The serving size might appear small, but it makes for a highly satisfying snack, indeed. These beans possess a very mild, slightly sweet and nutty flavor, accompanied by a firm, meaty texture. Of the four flavors, the garlic herb variety was my favorite, and likely the greatest crowd-pleaser of the batch. Overall mild and agreeable, the garlic flavor won’t put you at risk for dragon breath, but offers enough interest to entertain the palate. Chile lime is presented with equal finesse; tangy, warm spice accompanies the natural earthiness of the lupine without overwhelming it. This delicate balance can also be found in the bolder hot pepper flavor which dances with punchy seasonings that resist the urge to beat you up. Sea salt is for purists, but also seems ripe for additional creativity. Think of them as mixed nuts, capable of accommodating both sweet and savory tastes, and the sky is the limit.

I, for one, hope that the lupini bean continues to find new fans abroad. As a self-contained super food that genuinely lives up to the moniker, it’s hard to imagine a more versatile, tasteful option for healthy snacking.

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18 thoughts on “When In Rome

  1. They are sold in the Italian section of our supermarket in the US for years and years, and I used to eat them a lot! Good to see you’re enjoying them and blogging about their virtures, too!

  2. How interesting, I’ve never heard of them! Can you imagine incorporating them into any of your cooking or baking? I do get a bit worried about any beans that require soaking (and resoaking) as some do give me a bad bellyache, so I tend to stick to the safe ones :)

    1. Oh yes! I would imagine they could be used much like fava beans. There are many similarities between the two beans as far as texture goes. That’s such a great idea and now I really want to experiment with them more in different recipes.

      1. I look forward to seeing what you come up with! It seems like beans keep working new magic in the vegan culinary world these days :D

  3. Lupini Beans have been a very favorite of mine since my Italian grandfather introduced them to me when I was very young. He imigrated to the US and opened a small grocery store in our town…it was so wonderful and to this day I remember the barrels of dried beans and tasty olives. Those beans were fava and lupini and soon with my grandmothers cooking they became my favorites! As they have evolved here in the US the lupini beans now can be found in the Italian sections of the grocery stores in jars large and small. I buy them all the time to eat as a reminder of those lovely little girl days at my grandparents house. They have become a staple at my big Holiday dinners and in my antipastos, I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I’ve introduced them to, so enjoy them, they so worth the effort!! Thank you for sharing….Karen

    1. Jealous! I’d love to play with them more if only they weren’t so intimidating to cook up in the first place. I really don’t want to get the process wrong and end up poisoning myself.

      1. If you have an Italian deli’s around where you live I am sure they would stock the jarred kind. There are a LOT of lupini’s in a jar.

  4. This pleases me because I’ve been enjoying lupini beans since I was a kid and have rediscovered them over the past several years after my mum had a jar of them, prepared by my Nonna, that she didn’t want and of which I took ownership. I eat ’em just like that, as a snack. They are perfectly salty and are fun to eat whole. Hooray for lupini! Thanks for spreading the word ; )

  5. Interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever tried lupini beans — they look a lot like favas. I’m glad you can buy them already prepared because your first paragraph makes them sound like a bean I would never attempt to cook! I’m going to look for them. They sound like a great think to take on a road trip.

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