Legumes & Nuts

Legumes & Nuts
Includes peas, lentils, beans, nuts, and nut butters
abura-age, aburage, inariage, usuage, usu-age
abura-age
These are thin slices of tofu that have been deep-fat fried. They can be cut open and filled with rice to make inari sushi, or used as a meat substitute in soups. Before using, you should blanch the cakes twice, each time with fresh water, then press the moisture out when you drain them. Abura-age is widely available in Asian markets, either in cans or fresh in cellophane packages.
Learn more
acorn, oaknut
acorn
These nuts come from oak trees, and they were once an important food for Native Americans. Before they can be eaten, most acorns need to be treated to remove the bitter tannins in them. To do this, boil whole shelled acorns in water, replacing the water with fresh boiling water whenever it turns light brown. Keep doing this for about two hours, until the water no longer changes color. Alternatively, you can soak the shelled acorns in several changes of water for three or four days. Some Native Americans do this by putting whole or pounded acorns into nylon stockings and hanging them so that they're immersed in the water of a toilet tank (repeat: tank, not bowl). Each time the toilet is flushed, the water in the tank is refreshed. This may discolor the toilet, however. After the nuts have been leached of tannins, roast them in a 350° oven for about an hour. They can then be eaten whole or ground into acorn meal and used to make porridges or breads. Acorns from white oaks aren't nearly as bitter as those from red or black oaks, and can be roasted without first soaking them.
Learn more
acorn starch
acorn starch
Look for this in Korean markets.
Learn more
almond, sweet almond
almond
Almonds have a crunchy texture and a rich, delicate flavor that's especially good in desserts, like candy, ice cream, tortes, and coffee cake. To intensify their flavor, toast them on a baking pan in a 325° degree oven, stirring occasionally, until they're golden (about 15 minutes for whole almonds). You can buy almonds shelled or unshelled, blanched, sliced, slivered, ground, or chopped.
Learn more
almond butter
almond butter
Almond butter is grittier and more expensive than peanut butter, but it can substitute for peanut butter in many recipes.
Learn more
almond filling
almond filling
This sweet filling is used to make pastries and cakes.
Learn more
almond meal
almond meal
Specialty stores carry this, but you can get it for less at Middle Eastern markets.
Learn more
almond paste, Bitter almond paste
almond paste
This is a paste made with finely ground blanched almonds, sugar, glycerin, and sometimes almond extract. Bakers use it to make cakes and cookies. Bitter almond paste is flavored with oil of bitter almonds, and is worth seeking out if you plan to make amaretti. Look for tubes or cans of it among the baking supplies at your supermarket.
Learn more
almonds, blanched, blanched almonds
almonds, blanched
Shelled almonds have a slightly bitter brown skin which can be removed by blanching them. To do this, drop shelled almonds into boiling water, remove the pan from the heat source and let it stand for two minutes, then drain the almonds and rub off the skins. Many cooks prefer to skip this step and buy their almonds already blanched.
Learn more
anasazi beans, frijol conejo, little cow, rabbit bean
anasazi beans
These heirloom beans are sweet, fast-cooking, and reputed to cause less flatulence than other bean varieties. They're great for making refried beans.
Learn more
appaloosa bean, purple appaloosa bean
appaloosa bean
These heirloom beans have markings like Appaloosa ponies. They're often used to make chili and soups.
Learn more
atsu-age, atsuage, nama-age
atsu-age
This is a cake of pressed tofu that has been deep-fat fried, giving it a crisp and meaty exterior and a soft interior. The Japanese like to cut it into cubes and use it in stir-fries and soups. Before using, you should blanch and drain it, then prick it with a toothpick so that it will better absorb other flavors. Atsu-age is widely available in Asian markets.
Learn more
awase miso
awase miso
This is a fairly mild blend of red and white miso that's often used for vegetable soups.
Learn more
azuki bean, aduki bean, adzuki bean, asuki bean, feijao bean, field pea
azuki bean
The Japanese use these small red beans to make sweet red bean paste, but they're also good in rice dishes or salads. Azuki beans are sweet and relatively easy to digest, so they won't make you as gassy as other beans. They also don't take as long to cook.
Learn more
barley miso, mugi miso
barley miso
Made from barley, it's reddish-brown in color and a bit sweeter than other dark misos.
Learn more
bean paste, miso
bean paste
This name is used for both bean sauce and miso.
Learn more
bean stick, bamboo yuba, bean curd stick, Chinese yuba, dried bean curd stick
bean stick
This is made from the skin that forms on the top of heated soy milk. It's rich in protein, and used by Chinese and Japanese cooks in soups. Look for it in Asian food stores.
Learn more
beechnut, beech nut, beechmast
beechnut
Beechnuts are small, triangular nuts. They're usually roasted.
Learn more
beluga lentil, beluga black lentil, black beluga lentil, petite beluga lentil
beluga lentil
These glisten when they're cooked, which makes them look like beluga caviar. They're great in soups or salads.
Learn more
bitter almond
bitter almond
Unprocessed bitter almonds have a more intense flavor than ordinary almonds, but they aren't available in the United States since they're mildly toxic if eaten raw. Instead, they're processed and used to make oil of bitter almonds, almond extract, almond liqueurs, and orgeat syrup. This name is often used (incorrectly) for the Chinese almond.
Learn more
black azuki bean, asuki bean, black aduki bean, black adzuki bean
black azuki bean
This is a black version of the more common red azuki bean. Like their red relatives, black azuki beans are sweet and relatively easy to digest, so they won't make you as gassy as other beans. They also don't take as long to cook.
Learn more
black bean, black turtle bean, frijole negro, Mexican black bean
black bean
These beans are a staple of Latin American and Caribbean cuisine, where they're used to make side dishes, soups, bean dips, and salads. They have a strong, earthy flavor, so they're often combined with assertive flavorings. Don't confuse black beans with fermented black beans.
Learn more
black chickpeas, Bengal gram, kala channa
black chickpeas
These are more rust-colored than black, and have a nutty flavor. Look for them in Indian markets.
Learn more
black walnut
black walnut
These are hard to shell, but tastier than ordinary walnuts. Bakers use them to take their fudge and cookies up a notch.
Learn more
black-eyed pea, black-eye bean, black-eye pea, black-eyed suzy, chawli
black-eyed pea
Originally from China, these chewy peas were common fare on slave plantations. They're still popular in the South, where they're traditionally eaten on New Year's Day or combined with rice and sausage to make Hoppin' John. They don't need soaking and cook fairly quickly. Don't overcook them, or they'll get mushy.
Learn more
Brazil nut, cream nut, para nut
Brazil nut
These nuts come from the Amazonian rainforest, and they're rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acid, and calcium. They're prone to rancidity, so store them in the refrigerator or freezer if you plan to keep them for awhile. It's easier to shell them if you first heat them in a 350° oven for about 15 minutes.
Learn more
breadnut seeds
breadnut seeds
These seeds come from breadnuts, which are seeded versions of breadfruit.
Learn more
brown lentil, continental lentil, Egyptian lentil, German lentil, green lentil
brown lentil
These are the standard khaki-colored lentils you see on grocery shelves everywhere. They tend to get mushy if overcooked. If you want them to be firm, add oil to the cooking water and cook the lentils just a short while, say 15 minutes.
Learn more
brown speckled cow bean, speckled brown cow bean
brown speckled cow bean
These heirloom beans are great in soups.
Learn more
butternut, white walnut
butternut
This walnut relative is hard to find outside of New England.
Learn more
calypso bean, orca bean, yin yang bean
calypso bean
Cooking these beautiful beans in lots of water helps keep them from losing their distinctive coloring.
Learn more
candied chestnuts, marrons glacés
candied chestnuts
A French specialty, these are whole chestnuts that are candied in a sugar syrup. They're used to make various desserts.
Learn more
candlenut, buah keras, candle nut, candleberry, country walnut, godou
candlenut
Candlenuts must be cooked before eating, since they're highly toxic when raw. Ground candlenuts are often used to thicken Malaysian and Indonesian curries. They're so oily that natives string them together and use them as candles. Look for them in Southeast Asian markets.
Learn more
cannellini bean, fazolia bean, white kidney bean
cannellini bean
You've probably already encountered this Italian bean in minestrone soup or a bean salad. It's prized for its smooth texture and nutty flavor.
Learn more
cashew, cashew nut
cashew
These rich, sweet nuts have a toxic shell, so they're almost always sold shelled. Toast them briefly in the oven to boost their flavor.
Learn more
cashew butter
cashew butter
This is an interesting alternative to peanut butter, though it's a bit pricey.
Learn more
cashew flour
cashew flour
This is hard to find.
Learn more
channa dal, chana dal, gram dal
channa dal
With their sweet and nutty flavor, these are the most popular dal in India. They're made from splitting a small relative of the chickpea in half. They're a dull yellow and are renown for causing flatulence, which Indians try to counter by adding asafoetida to the dish.
Learn more
chepil, chepilin, longbeak rattlebox
chepil
Look for this in the produce section of Hispanic markets.
Learn more
chestnut, marron
chestnut
These sweet, starchy, low-fat nuts are quite common in southern Europe, where people eat them hot from the roaster, or add them to soups, stuffing, and desserts. They appear fresh in the fall and winter, but you can find them dried, vacuum-packed, or canned throughout the year. Before you can eat them, fresh chestnuts need to be boiled or roasted, and then shelled and peeled. To roast them, cut an X into each shell (to allow steam to escape) and bake them in a 400° oven for about twenty minutes. While they're still warm, peel off both the shell and the furry skin surrounding each nut. Alternatively, boil the chestnuts for about 15 minutes, then remove them from the water with a slotted spoon. Peel off the shells and put the nuts back in the boiling water for another minute, then remove them again and peel off the skins. Select fresh chestnuts that are shiny and heavy for their size. Store them in the refrigerator and use them within a week or so. Don't confuse chestnuts with water chestnuts, which are completely different.
Learn more
chestnut cream, crème de marron
chestnut cream
This is made with puréed chestnuts, brown sugar, and vanilla. It's used as an ingredient in several desserts, including Mont Blanc. Refrigerate after opening.
Learn more
chestnut flour, farina di castagne, roasted chestnut flour, sweet chestnut flour
chestnut flour
Italian use chestnut flour to make rich desserts, and sometimes breads and pasta. It also makes terrific pancakes. Don't confuse it with water chestnut flour, which is used in Asian cuisine.
Learn more
chestnut purée, chestnut puree, purée de marron
chestnut purée
Europeans use this to make everything from soups to stuffings to desserts. You can buy it either sweetened or unsweetened. If you're not sure which one your recipe is calling for, get unsweetened purée and add sugar later if needed.
Learn more
chickpea, Bengal gram, ceci bean, chick-pea, chole, cici bean, Egyptian pea
chickpea
This nutty-flavored pea is a staple of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, where it's used to make everything from hummus to minestrone soup. Many cooks buy them canned, since the dried peas are hard and take a long time to soak and cook. Substitutes: great northern beans (for hummus).
Learn more
chili bean, pink bean
chili bean
These are very similar to pinto beans, only they're smaller and rounder. They're often used to make chili and refried beans.
Learn more