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What are Mung Beans?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

Mung beans are small green legumes. Legumes are seeds from the pods of plants in the Leguminosae family and also the Fabaceae family. When sprouted, they are usually just called bean sprouts. Like many other legumes, this bean can be eaten raw when sprouted, or else eaten cooked with the skin on or off. Unlike many other beans, it is quite easy on the digestive tract and doesn’t usually cause a gassy reaction.

Cooked mung beans can be delicious with spices and seasonings added to them. They can be used in soups and casseroles. They have been a part of Chinese cuisine for thousands of years and are called nga choi or nga choy. Egg rolls, stir-fries and many other Chinese dishes use mung sprouts. It's important not to overcook these beans as they take less than a minute to cook when stir frying. Nutrients are lost when overcooking occurs.

Pile of mung beans.
Pile of mung beans.

Mung sprouts may look grayish-yellow in color. To germinate the beans, soak them overnight and then allow them to sprout for a couple of days. The sprouting can increase their nutritional value and make them even easier on the digestive system. Bean sprouts are a good source of vitamin C and make a nutritious addition to sandwiches and salads.

Legumes such as mung beans are a popular alternative to meat for vegetarians and those on strict budgets since they pack a lot of protein for the price. They are also quite high in potassium, fiber, magnesium and B vitamins. They also make an excellent diet food since one cup (250 ml) of mung beans is less than 30 calories.

Bean sprouts, which are often served with pho.
Bean sprouts, which are often served with pho.

These beans are known for their sweet flavor and mung bean paste is used in some Asian countries to make frozen ice desserts. The paste is made from skinned, cooked and mashed beans. De-hulled mung beans are popular in soups as well as pancakes in some Asian countries. In India, deep fried mung beans are a snack food. In Indonesia, the bean's sweet flavor is enhanced by adding sugar, ginger and coconut milk and enjoyed as a snack.

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Discussion Comments


Does anyone have a recipe for Indian mung bean dal (gravy)?

I had this at a restaurant the other day and it was so good.


It's hard for me to think of mung beans as beans because they are so small and kind of taste like vegetables after they are cooked. But mung beans' health benefits are well-known so I try to include it in my diet.

I usually add mung beans to my rice to give it some color and texture. It's also great to get additional protein.


I came to know about mung beans recently and I have a bag of dried mung beans at home. I love bean sprouts so I want to sprout mung beans and cook with them.

I understand that I need to soak mung beans overnight to get them to sprout. But do I continue to leave them in water after the first day or do I pour the water out? How many days should I leave the beans to sprout? Will the sprouts spoil after several days?

If anyone has done this before, I'd be happy to take some advice.


They are also commonly used by other Asians besides the Chinese people.


Can I drink milk while eating mung bean sprouts?

I prefer to take mung bean sprouts first thing in my breakfast. but I am not sure that can I have milk after that.

Or what should be the order of eating sprouts, milk and prantha sandwitch in my daily breakfast? --Swati


It is my understanding that E.coli live in the gut of warm blooded animals. They do survive outside the body for short periods of time but not for long, so if mung beans have been contaminated with this bacteria, it would be by direct contact with manure either during the growing/picking phase or by unhygienic practices at the packing stage.

If the beans are well dried and have been sitting around on a shelf for a while, it is unlikely that any bacteria would have survived. If you are concerned, you could put the dried beans on a tray and put them in the sun for a couple of hours. Sunlight kills most bacteria.


I've heard that sometimes mung beans can become contaminated with E.coli, but under what circumstances I'm not sure. I just soak them overnight and eat them. Is there any truth to this?


Yes, I like sprouts with substance and flavor. Alfalfa sprouts are a bit too thin and "grassy" for me.


These are readily available in stores. Mung beans make plump sprouts that can be prepared in a variety of ways. If soya beans are used, they produce sprouts with inferior flavor.

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    • Pile of mung beans.
      By: Elena Schweitzer
      Pile of mung beans.
    • Bean sprouts, which are often served with pho.
      By: rafcha
      Bean sprouts, which are often served with pho.
    • Mung beans in the process of sprouting.
      By: Robin
      Mung beans in the process of sprouting.
    • Stir-fries that contain mung beans or other legumes can be served over nutritious brown rice.
      By: Stepan Popov
      Stir-fries that contain mung beans or other legumes can be served over nutritious brown rice.
    • Bean sprouts can make a good addition to a nutritious salad.
      By: Gennadiy Poznyakov
      Bean sprouts can make a good addition to a nutritious salad.