Legumes, legumbres secas, include all the dried beans, peas and pulses much used in Spanish cookery. All of them are an excellent source of protein, albeit incomplete. However, combined with small quantities of meat, eggs, dairy products or grains, they form whole protein. This helps explain how some of the heavy potages of beans or chick-peas have sustained peasant people who eat little meat.

Dried Beans
alubias secas

Dried beans are called alubias secas in Spanish, but they have a host of other names as well. Habichuela, judía seca, lingote, faba, fesol, fréjol, fríjol, frisuelo, pocha, mongete... And they come in various colours. Pintada, pinto, which are speckled brown ones, negra, black, roja, red, and blanca, white.


The garbanzo is a basic ingredient in Spain's national dish, the cocido, or stew. It has a delicious, nutty taste. They must be soaked before cooking. However, you can often buy them en remojo, soaked, at meat and poultry stalls in the market.


Most shops carry at least two varieties of lentils, the tiny, dark ones and the larger, greenish-brown discs.


Edible seed served as snack food.

Split Pea
guisante mondada

Great for soups, split peas can prove difficult to find around here.

Black-eyed Pea
chícaro, figüelo, judía de careta

Unlike the other real beans, which are native to the Americas, this one comes from Africa. It looks like a white bean but with a black belly-button. It can be substituted in any recipe calling for dried beans. Makes an excellent vegetable side-dish to accompany meat dishes, particularly pork and ham.

Lima Bean
alubia de Perú

Though fresh limas are rather scarce, the dried variety, also called butter beans, can be found occasionally. They should be briefly soaked to prevent the skin splitting during cooking.

Soy Bean
alubia de soja

Available in supermarkets and health food stores. These never get as tender as other beans. Mung peas for making bean sprouts are usually found in the same shops which carry soy.