Make a Great Choice on National Chili Day: Choose Pulses!

PHOTO: ​THINKSTOCK/HAVESEEN

Exactly what is a pulse? No, I'm not talking about that thing the nurse takes when you go for a check-up. I'm talking food (surprise, surprise).  

Pulses are the harvested dried seeds of legume plants.  Most of us already are familiar with the dried seeds, but didn't know they are called pulses. I'll be the first to admit that I'd heard the term tossed around but didn't know what the heck they were until I attended FNCE last fall, where I learned about how awesome pulses are!

There are four main types of pulses — beans, chickpeas, lentils and dried peas — and there are more than 100 different varieties of pulses that are grown all around the world! 

So why are pulses so great? They are rich in protein and fiber, high in vitamins and minerals and low in fat. Pulses also are a complex carbohydrate, which means they take longer for the body to break down than other simple carbs  such as white bread, cake, candies, etc. Since these dried legumes are bursting with protein, fiber and complex carbs, they keep you fuller longer and provide sustained energy. All of these factors are great for weight management and heart health, which helps decrease your chronic disease risk. 

I have two great chili recipes to share with you that incorporate pulses! The first is a lightened up traditional chili, using lentils instead of beans, and the other is a fun twist on a white chicken chili.   


Lightened Up Chili

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • ¾ cup diced white onion
  • 1 cup brown dried lentils
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 14 ounces reduced sodium vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Cilantro

Directions

  1. Brown ground turkey and chopped onion in a skillet.
  2. Rinse lentils.
  3. Place browned turkey and onion, lentils and remaining ingredients in slow cooker.
  4. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours, until lentils are tender.
  5. Garnish with cheddar cheese and fresh cilantro.

White Chicken Chili with Pesto

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken breasts
  • 1 cup dried great northern beans
  • ¾ cup chopped white onion
  • 1 cup finely diced carrot
  • 1 4-ounce can green chilies
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 14 ounces reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 3 tablespoons pesto
  • Mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Rinse beans.
  2. Place all ingredients except quinoa and pesto in slow cooker.
  3. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, until beans are tender and chicken is cooked through.
  4. Before serving, cook quinoa according to package directions and add 1 cup cooked quinoa to chili.
  5. Stir in pesto and serve. Garnish with mozzarella cheese.
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Emily Holdorf, RDN
Emily Holdorf, RDN, is located in Scranton, PA​. When she's not working with clients, she enjoys experimenting with new recipes, being outdoors and spending time with family and friends. Read her blog, EmPowered Nutrition, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.