It’s time to learn about lupini beans. These tasty legumes are absurdly healthful — their protein and fiber contents are off the charts — and may have fewer carbohydrates than any similar food.
Fear not, this isn’t a flavorless “superfood” or an ingredient that requires a lot of fuss. Lupini beans are usually enjoyed as finger food, ready to eat right out of the jar. Adventurous cooks can also incorporate them into their diets in many other ways.
What is a Lupini Bean?
The lupini bean is a legume from the lupinus family. It’s been enjoyed as a food for thousands of years, stretching back to the ancient empires of Rome and Egypt.
You may know the lupini bean’s cousin, the lupin, a striking colorful flowering plant that is shaped like a spike and often grows on roadsides in North America in late spring or early summer.
Lupini beans have been popular in parts of the Mediterranean for centuries, but they’ve only recently made inroads across the Atlantic. These tasty legumes haven’t shown up at every local grocery store yet, but you can find them online or at specialty grocers.
Lupini Beans are Insanely Healthy
We all know that legumes, like lentils and beans, are among the healthiest ingredients around. Legumes are chock full of nutrients and plant-based protein. Unsurprisingly, people that eat more legumes have lower rates of metabolic diseases and many other negative health conditions. Experts, clearly, want us eating more legumes.
Among legumes, the lupini bean stands alone. The lupini bean’s macronutrient mix is so absurdly healthful that it’s tough to believe. The beans have extraordinary amounts of fiber and protein — two macronutrients that are both supremely healthful and especially beneficial for weight loss and people with diabetes. Check out the numbers, scaled to 100g:
FoodFat (grams)Total carbohydrates (g)Fiber (g)Net Carbs (g)Protein (g)
Among these healthy starches, lupini beans have the most fiber, the most protein, and the fewest net carbs.
Certain lupini bean products claim an even lower amount of net carbohydrates, as few as zero. If you use insulin before meals, it might take some experimentation to find out exactly how much these beans raise your blood sugar, if they do at all.
Like other legumes, they may have other health benefits besides. The Beet, a plant-based nutrition e-mag, notes that lupini beans have very high levels of vitamin B1 and several other nutrients.
As a bonus, lupini agriculture is extremely friendly to the environment. Plant-based protein sources like lupini beans are believed to be among the best possible foods for simultaneously addressing both global public health needs and environmental pressures.
Lupini Beans as Snack Food
Most lupini beans arrive in a jar filled with brine. They’re springy and tasty, and you eat ‘em with your fingers. It’s kind of like eating edamame or boiled peanuts, a simple snack that doesn’t really need anything else.
Another common way to enjoy lupini beans is to marinate them or mix them with olives and other salty, oily antipasti.
Lupini beans have an edible outer skin that some eaters prefer to remove. Some people enjoy making a small hole in the outer skin, with their teeth or nail, and then propelling the tender bean through the hole, popping it into their mouths. Others happily chow down on the peel.
One company, Brami, offers lupini beans that are especially convenient. These beans come in resealable plastic pouches and are flavored like potato chips: choose from Garlic & Rosemary, Hot Calabrian Pepper, Chili & Lime, or Salt & Vinegar. You can eat an entire pouch of Brami lupini beans in one sitting, and the nutrition panel lists literally zero net carbs. The company reports that each serving has 3 grams of total carbohydrates and 3 grams of fiber.
Lupini Beans in Recipes
Though they’re most commonly enjoyed as a snack food, in recipes lupini beans make a fine low-carb replacement for firmer-textured beans like chickpeas or fava beans. Sprinkle them on a salad, or sear them for extra flavor, as in this recipe for “Bacon” lupini beans from Brami. (Lupini beans do not have the soft texture of a cooked pinto bean, so they might taste funny in a burrito.)
Given the bean’s Mediterranean heritage, it makes sense to choose classic flavors from the region. Lupini beans can make a luscious salad and taste great with olive oil, lemon, garlic, and fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, and basil.
Find a recipe for chickpea salad — this version from Once Upon a Chef uses diced red onions with plenty of parsley, lemon juice, and oil — and swap out the chickpeas for lupini beans. It’ll make a beautiful, super healthy, and easy low-carb side dish.
Ground Lupini Beans
You can also buy dry ground lupini beans to make a side dish that can replace mashed potatoes or refried beans. It’s easy: Combine ground lupini with water in a saucepan over heat, add any flavors you prefer (say olive oil and fresh or dried herbs like basil, thyme, or oregano), and cook for a few minutes. It makes for an effortless side that has tons more protein and fiber, and many fewer net carbs, than whole grains like quinoa.
At least one business is selling flaked lupini beans that it’s calling “keto oats.” These beans are cut into oat-like flakes — we can’t promise that they’ll taste quite like oatmeal, but it may be worth a shot.
And either product can easily be used to replace chopped or blended chickpeas in recipes like hummus and falafel.
The lupini bean can also be ground into a gluten-free flour for baking, usually named lupin flour. We haven’t experimented with lupin flour yet, but this specialty flour alternative has been available for years. For a general guide on how to use lupin flour and advice for substituting it for other common alternative flours, like almond flour, try this post from Hip2Keto.
There are also plenty of lupin flour recipes in the low-carb blogosphere:
Dry Lupini Beans
Finally, there’s the advanced option: You can boil dry lupini beans yourself.
Be careful. Lupini beans are naturally extremely bitter, so bitter that they’re actually toxic. The pre-cooked beans and other products discussed above have already been soaked and brined to remove the nasty toxic compounds. Doing the same at home may require multiple days of soaking, both before and after cooking. Many people enjoy the ritual — home-cooked lupini beans are a classic Christmas snack in some Italian families — but amateurs may want to avoid this option.
Some people are allergic to lupini beans and lupin flour; in rare and extreme cases, these allergies can cause anaphylactic shock. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology advises that a significant number of people with peanut allergies (another legume) also have lupin allergies.