May 2024 Issue

Culinary Corner: Pumped for Pulses
By Liz Weiss, MS, RDN
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 26 No. 5 P. 50

Spring clean your pantry and load up on this culinary superstar.

As the weather gets warmer, the days longer, and the first crocuses of spring start to bloom here in New England, I get the bug to spring clean my pantry. I wasn’t born with the “organizing” gene, so my pantry often is in disarray by the time I muster the motivation to tackle the task. However, investing just a few hours in cleaning, organizing, and restocking my pantry is a worthy endeavor that yields satisfying results!

Among the items in my pantry that always receive top priority are nutrient-dense pulses.

Pulses are the dried edible seeds of legumes, and they include dry peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas. The word “pulse” comes from the Latin word puls, which means thick soup. Besides their impressive nutrient profile, pulses are affordable, versatile, and shelf stable, and they’re grown sustainably.

Clients can find pulses in various forms including dried, canned, and in ready-to-eat microwavable pouches. I’m a big fan of canned beans and chickpeas. They’re convenient and inexpensive, and I use them often in recipes for chili, soups, salads, and quesadillas. I even have a recipe for black bean brownies on my website that I use often. Dried lentils are another favorite, and depending on the type of lentil, they only take 15 to 30 minutes to cook in simmering liquid. In the recipe below, I use lentils in a salad, but I also enjoy them in thick, hearty soups like Indian Dal made with slow-simmered lentils, vegetables, and spices. I’ve used them in tacos, replacing half the ground meat with cooked lentils.

Even though pulses are tiny, they pack a powerful nutritional punch, providing protein, fiber, folate, potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, and antioxidants. Recognized by the USDA as both a protein and a vegetable, pulses can play an important role in a balanced diet. The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults consume 11/2 cups of pulses weekly (based on a 2,000-kcal diet),1 with potential revisions pending in future guidelines. Notably, Denmark and Mexico advocate a higher weekly pulse consumption (3 cups and 3 to 7 cups weekly, respectively), underscoring the versatility and nutritional significance of these culinary gems.2,3

— Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, shares recipes and healthful living advice on and her podcast, EAT, DRINK, LIVE LONGER. Weiss is a cooking instructor, frequent lifestyle guest on TV shows across the country, and a recipe developer and cookbook author.


Spring Lentil & Veggie Salad
Serves 8

This spring-inspired salad is a crowd pleaser! It serves eight as a main dish and more as a side. It’s made with the season’s freshest asparagus and peas, crunchy celery, zesty marinated artichoke hearts, hearty lentils and rice, fragrant herbs, and a simple homemade vinaigrette. It comes together quickly, but to save more time, look for cooked lentils at the market (canned or in a microwavable pouch) or swap the lentils for a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas.

1 cup uncooked green or brown lentils, rinsed well and picked over for any debris
3 cups water
12 oz asparagus, woody ends removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups cooked brown or white rice, cooled
3 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into thin slices
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, cooked according to package directions
1 12-oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, optional
1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 T lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
Drizzle honey or maple syrup, plus more to taste
Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. In large saucepan, combine lentils and water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer, uncovered, until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes, or according to package directions.

2. When lentils are done, use a strainer or colander to drain. Rinse with cold water and drain well. Transfer to large bowl and set aside.

3. While lentils cool, fill empty saucepan with 1 inch water. Place steamer basket inside pot. Arrange asparagus in steamer basket, bring water to a boil, cover, and steam until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully transfer asparagus to strainer, and rinse under cold water to cool. Drain well and use paper towel to blot away excess moisture.

4. Place asparagus in bowl with lentils. Add rice, celery, peas, artichoke hearts, green onion, parsley, mint, and feta as desired. Mix well to combine.

5. To make dressing, place oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, honey, and salt and pepper to taste in a jar with a tightfitting lid. Shake until ingredients are well combined. Add more honey to taste.

6. Drizzle dressing over salad, and stir well to combine. Taste salad and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Nutrient Analysis per serving (1 generous cup)
Calories: 235; Total fat: 6 g; Sat fat: <1 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 450 mg; Total carbohydrate: 38 g; Total sugars: 11 g; Added sugars: 0 g; Dietary fiber: 12 g; Protein: 11 g


1. US Department of Agriculture; US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025. Published December 2020.

2. Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries of Denmark Danish Veterinary and Food Administration. The official dietary guidelines — good for health and climate. Published March 2021.

3. Guías alimentrias 2023 para la población Mexicana. Movendi International website.