Skip to main content

Rich in history and flavour: pulses in Lebanese cooking

News | Published  6 May 2024

Pulses have been a source of protein and a staple ingredient across the globe for millenia. We spoke to Lina Saad, chef and cookbook author, about the link between healthy living and pulses in Lebanese cuisine.

Since 2016’s UN Year of Pulses, beans, peas and lentils are being celebrated more than ever. However, this is far from a new trend; pulses have been a staple in human diets for thousands of years, as supported by archaeological finds from many parts of the world. Think of a jar of lentils found in Anatolia through excavations, or evidence of chickpeas used in food dating back over 4,000 years BC in Palestine. The ancient roots of these humble legumes remind us that their popularity today is merely a continuation of a timeless tradition.

In the last 30 years, there's been a surge in the promotion of healthier eating. What started as a focus on personal health has transformed into a broader movement towards sustainability and reducing our environmental impact. People now consider the footprint of their food choices and are looking for ways to contribute to sustainability through what they eat.

But if we circle back to the notion of healthy living, what does that really entail? In short, healthy eating. When many of us choose to go on a health kick, we tend to be drawn to the Mediterranean diet. Why is that? Ultimately, it comes down to simple ingredients that are packed with protein, fibre, and healthy fats, bringing out flavours like no other diet can. It's a no-brainer: why wouldn't we choose such a wholesome and satisfying way of eating?

Of course, changing your diet alone won't automatically improve your health. Factors like environment and exercise play crucial roles, too. But incorporating nutritious, delicious, and versatile foods like pulses into your meals certainly makes life a little easier. And it can be a lot tastier, too.

In the Middle East, pulses are a way of life. Having spent time in Lebanon, I can attest to their ubiquity in the local cuisine. From the northern villages to the southernmost towns, pulses are a daily staple in countless households. Reflecting on my own family, I can't help but wonder if my grandfather's longevity—he lived to be 96—was partially due to his diet. He relied heavily on pulses, along with other fresh produce from his own land, and it's hard to ignore the correlation between this lifestyle and a long, healthy life.

Locals like my grandfather didn't just rely on pulses alone; they foraged for ingredients that would complement lentils, like Swiss chard, dandelions, rhubarb, and endives. Combine these with fresh lemon juice and lentils, and you have a burst of flavour that transports you back to those breath-taking mountain views.

What I love about creating vegan dishes with pulses is the endless variety of flavours you can achieve, not to mention the health benefits. Why settle for boring when you can use pulses to create nutrient-packed recipes that are as tasty as they are good for you?

Contribution by:

Lina Saad
show more

Lina Saad is a TV Chef, international award winning author of Ramadan Express and The Land of White. She was also featured in “The Story of Ramadan”, available on Netflix.

Subscribe to our newsletter — Get the latest news, research, and reports from the Eating Better Alliance delivered directly to your inbox.
We will never share your information and you can unsubscribe at anytime. Read our privacy policy here.
Read the latest updates — Stay informed with our latest news articles, in-depth reports, and insightful case studies.
Help spread the word — Please share this page on your favourite social media platforms to keep the conversation going.