What are Lupini Beans?
Lupini or lupine beans are the seeds of several cultivars in the Lupinus genus. These plants have traditionally been grown as ornamentals in the garden, and because they are in the legume family, when they go to seed, they make pods filled with beans. At some point, the Romans realized that the seeds of some lupines could probably be eaten, and lupini beans entered the Mediterranean diet. Commonly, these beans come from white, Andean, blue, or yellow lupines. They come with a caution, however, as they contain bitter alkaloids which can be poisonous if the beans are not treated properly.
In order to make lupini beans edible, the beans have to be soaked in a brine solution to draw out the alkaloids. Typically, the beans are washed first and then soaked in a brine which is changed until the brine no longer tastes bitter, indicating that the alkaloids in the beans have been leached out. It can take as many as five days with twice daily changes of the brine to make the beans safe to eat and tasty, although a varietal known as sweet lupinis requires somewhat less soaking. When properly soaked, these beans have a great flavor, and they are also very high in protein, making them a good choice for vegans and vegetarians.
These beans are usually sold dry, requiring consumers to soak them and husk the bitter shells away. After soaking, lupini beans can be cooked in a variety of recipes or eaten as a snack food. Some producers make pickled lupini beans which are ready to eat right out of the jar, although consumers usually like to pop the husks away. In the Mediterranean and Latin America, these beans are a popular snack; pickled beans can sometimes be found at bars for people to munch on while they drink beer.
Because of the potentially dangerous alkaloids in these beans, they didn't become an overwhelmingly popular source of food until cultivars with a lower alkaloid level were developed. Botanists are working on a variety which will not need to be soaked at all to make these beans a more convenient food source. Lupini beans are known by a number of aliases, including tirmis or altramuz.
Import stores may carry lupini beans, and they can also be grown at home if you live in a temperate zone. Be sure to purchase seeds which are from edible varieties of lupine; try using a catalog of Mediterranean or Latin American beans to order from to ensure that you plant the right sort of lupines. While in flower, the plants will be decorative, and once the seed pods appear, you can allow them to dry on the stalk before collecting and storing the beans. Be aware that even with soaking, some people still react to lupini beans; if you have not tried these beans before, eat a small amount to determine how sensitive you are to the alkaloids which remain after soaking.
I got really really sick first time I tried them -- landed in the ER! First timers, be very cautious and eat small amounts, even if they have been prepared correctly.
I'm Portuguese, and grew up in Portugal eating these, and continue here in the states. You can buy them at all the Portuguese import food stores and we have them at all our community bars and annual festas -- festivals! So let's just say they originated in Europe. Portugal, Italy -- what is the difference? We have many common foods in all of Europe!
Great comments here, what a crowd! This Jewish guy in New Jersey and his Irish wife and two kids are looking forward to our first batch of lupinis in another three days. Good tips here too, thanks.
I am Portuguese and I always remember these. You can buy them prepared at Portuguese Celebrations (Festas) during the summer throughout the San Joaquin Valley in California. My five year old granddaughter loves them. Popping the bean in your mouth less the skin is the most fun. Trying to teach someone how to do it is interesting and fun.
i am italian 84 years old and we always ate lupini beans. we buy them in the jar ready to eat.
my sister gets a portion of beans and runs water over the then puts them in a container, adds black pepper and olive oil, stirs and we enjoy this great snack. --jcp
This has been interesting to read. I have a gallon jar in my fridge right now that I cooked a few days ago. A must-have at Christmas time. I'm going to buy them dried all year long and eat them as a snack-much better for you than junk food.
I don't bother to take the skins off-- why salt them if you're going to throw that part away? I agree. In a jar -- yuck! They do take hours to boil and days of changing the water, but are well worth the bother. Like baccala-- another food worth the trouble! I intend to have my grandchildren try them when they're old enough. Tradition!
These legumes were popular with the Romans and they spread their cultivation throughout the Roman Empire. Today, Lupini are most commonly found in Mediterranean countries and their former colonies, especially in Portugal, Italy, Brazil, as well as Egypt (where it is part of Sham El Nessim holiday meals), Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestinian Territories, Turkey.
These beans were always a favorite snack with Italians. My grandparents always had these available, and the grandchildren loved them. They are still a favorite in our family.
I have these every year and snack on them usually around Christmas time. I bugged my grandpa to go down to our family store which my cousin owns Cossetta's to buy some lupini's. I love them, but haven't gotten any of my friends to like them.
I hate that they take so long to make, you have to boil them for like 6-8 hours then refrigerate in salt water for seven days and have to change the water every day. But they are well worth it and are much better then the pickled ones yuck!
Buy them dried, not in jars. They're not so good from jars and preparing them is half the fun. Share with the next generation. Always a staple snack on our Italian family table. By the way, they originated in Italia and were brought to the mideast. Enjoy! We will!
Always willing to try something new. Bought a 750g bag at our local superstore. Followed an internet recipe. On day two of soaking, after cleaning and boiling. They are still a little bitter but better than just after boiling. Two more days and the bitterness should all be gone.
This is a native and staple in Italy and has been for centuries - even longer. read that traders from Italy brought these in their travels and brought these to the middle east (via the standard trade routes in those days) - this is how they where brought to the middle east etc.
Just as coffee and pasta came to Italy, the lupini bean was brought to the middle east.
This is native to the middle east not italy. -Karim
we use this as food in palestine. They are sold everywhere in all seasons. We eat them salted with parsley cubed. --abdul
Very good article!!!!!
Had them every xmas growing up! And soaking them is part of the fun!! :)
Lupini beans have always been part of our Italian culture and we soaked them, changing the water twice a day.
Now in my area we are able to buy them in quart jars. It is well worth the price and no work to prepare them.
We now enjoy them all year round. Too bad some the grandchildren have never had lupini beans. Depending on what part of Italy your family came from depends on so many different foods.
Thanks for your fine explanation of the Lupini beans. I just bought a package of these beans in my Northern Italian supermercato "Esselunga".
They are sealed, 500 grams and are named sades olives, Lupini sottovuoto di Parma Italia.
In English I can read: Salted lupines, vacuum packed, net 500 gr. Saluti!
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