What Are Lupini Beans and Why Are They Gaining Popularity?

Lupin, lupine or lupini beans are members of the pea family. The yellow, flat, round beans somewhat resemble lima beans and have a sweet, nutty flavor and firm, hearty texture. Originally, all lupini beans were very bitter and required extensive soaking to remove the bitterness and make them safe to eat due to their toxicity. More recent varieties — classified as “sweet” — are less bitter and require less soaking.

Lupini beans originated in the Middle East and date back before Ancient Rome. Today, they are commonly associated with Italian cuisine and are also enjoyed in Greece, Spain and Portugal. Lupini beans are served as street food in countries such as Jordan and Egypt, too.

A ½-cup serving of cooked lupini beans contains about 100 calories, 13 grams of protein and 2 grams of dietary fiber and is a good source of zinc and magnesium. A higher protein content and increased interest in plant-based proteins may be to thank for their recent rise in popularity in the United States.

Dried or canned lupini beans are sold in many large supermarkets. Smaller Italian, Middle Eastern, Spanish and Portuguese food stores offer them brined or pickled in a jar.

The beans also may be used as flours in baked goods; according to the Food and Drug Administration, some people, especially those allergic to peanuts, may have allergic reactions to products made with lupini.

Dried bitter lupini beans should soak for several days. The “sweet” variety need to soak only for a few hours. Cook per package instructions. Lupini beans have thick skins, which are edible but are often removed before eating.

A traditional Italian Christmas holiday dish combines lupini beans with green or black olives. You also can add lupini beans to salads for extra protein or eat them as a side dish.