Chef Charlie Baggs demonstrated several recipes featuring pulses during a presentation at the Research Chefs Association’s 2017 Annual Conference and Culinology Expo.

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — Product developers and chefs are discovering creative ways to add pulses to a broad range of applications. Pulses, the edible seeds of certain legumes, including dry peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas, boost the fiber and protein content of a product and may be used as a substitute in gluten-free, vegan and soy-free formulations, said Jessie Hunter, a registered dietitian and director of domestic marketing for the American Pulse Association and USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, Moscow, Idaho.

Pulses are appearing in more packaged foods, including snacks, pastas, bakery items and beverages, Ms. Hunter said during a presentation at the Research Chefs Association’s 2017 Annual Conference and Culinology Expo, held March 14-17 in San Juan.

Jessie Hunter, American Pulse Association
Jessie Hunter, registered dietitian and director of domestic marketing for the American Pulse Association and USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council

“We all know about the dry and the canned ways to eat pulses, but there was a huge burst of new products last year containing pulses,” Ms. Hunter said, citing Mintel data. “Last year, there were 1,150 new product launches in North America compared to around 900 the year before.”

Examples range from a dairy-free milk alternative made with yellow peas from Ripple Foods to green lentil pasta from Tolerant Foods to Simply Tostitos Black Bean Chips from PepsiCo, Inc.

“The biggest area for product innovation remains in snacks and foods like puffs, chips, dips and snack bars,” Ms. Hunter said. “Hummus is huge for our industry…  That really opened the door to chickpeas, and I always joke with people that chickpeas are the gateway pulse.”

Pulse products - Ripple milk alternative, Toleran green lentil pasta, Tostitos simply black bean chips
New pulse-based products include Ripple dairy-free milk alternative, Tolerant green lentil pasta and Simply Tostitos Black Bean Chips.

Compared to other sources of plant protein, pulses contain more fiber and protein, Ms. Hunter said.

“If you take a look at grains and pulses side by side, you can see they are about the same amount of calories and fat, but … a half cup of lentils can give you 9 grams of protein compared to 2 to 4 in white rice, brown rice and quinoa. And fiber is around 7 to 8 grams compared to 1 to 3,” she said. “If you take pasta and replaced 25% of the durum wheat with pulse flours, the impact you can have is a 26% decrease in the carbon footprint … you can increase the fiber by 100% and increase the protein by 25%.”

Pulses contain more fiber and protein than other plant-based sources.

Beyond nutrition and sustainability, pulses offer versatility, as meat, dairy or egg alternatives, for thickening or emulsification, and in batters and breading, gels and puddings, gluten-free baking and extruded products.

Charlie Baggs, president, chief executive officer and executive chef of Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations, Chicago, demonstrated several recipes featuring pulses, including gluten-free brownie bites made with chickpea flour and topped with chickpeas and pea crisps, and a milkshake that included chickpeas, Puerto Rican coffee and ancho chili powder. He also featured a regional twist on hummus, using pigeon peas instead of chickpeas with roasted garlic and olive oil.

Charlie Baggs, Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovation
Charlie Baggs, president, c.e.o. and executive chef of Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations

“Pulses are a perfect platform for creative side dishes in restaurants,” Mr. Baggs said. “They’re cost effective, not very perishable and easy to flavor with any type of ethnic twist.”

Pulses have a place in the center of the plate, too, in such dishes as a red lentil Thai curry with duck, black bean chorizo tostadas and Louisiana red beans and rice. Even the trendy avocado toast may be made to include smashed pinto beans. Mr. Baggs also gave an example of chicken and waffles featuring a batter made with chickpea flour.

On the dessert menu, pulses appear in such examples as a black bean brownie sweetened with maple syrup, dates and coconut sugar; a pink lady tart tartan with a red lentil flour pie crust; and turtle bean ice cream, featuring turtle beans cooked with brown sugar, maple syrup and a touch of soy sauce, then combined with ice cream custard and flavored with honey and sesame.

Pulses may be featured in sweet and savory recipes.

Aquafaba, the liquid from a can of chickpeas, may be whisked with cream of tartar and sugar to create an egg-free meringue.

“For some of these ideas, it’s not about adding protein,” Mr. Baggs said. “Today, particularly with millennials and Generation Z, some of this is really interesting, something they haven’t tried before, because they are very experimental, and it gives a product a healthy halo. There’s tremendous opportunity here.”