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Pulse Crops: Peas, Lentils & Chickpeas

Why Pulses are Super Ingredients

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Pita Bread Enriched With Pulse Flour
Pulses represent an opportunity for culinary artisanry, from which European, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and South Asian cultures’ food traditions can be followed - or borrowed to create global fusion foods.
The properties of pulse ingredients open the doors wide to opportunities for product development. Pulses can be milled and separated (fractionated) into highly functional components (protein, fiber, and starch) utilized to enhance processed foods.
Utilization of pulse flours and fractionated pulse ingredients in food manufacturing is an emerging trend. Pulse ingredients are being utilized in an increasing number of products, including pasta, breakfast cereal, snack food, deep frozen dishes, dressings, extruded bakery products, cookies, crackers, sauces, instant soups, and puddings. 
Pulse Protein Protein from pulse crops can be used to increase the protein content in processed foods and to make concentrated protein ingredients. 
  • Lentil flour is being incorporated into a nationally distributed, premium line of pasta. Compared to traditional pasta, this pasta is higher in protein and fiber, with a lower glycemic index, and has a full protein profile. The lentil flour gives the pasta some very favorable cooking attributes that make it firm and less likely to become waterlogged and soft when overcooked. 
  • Pea protein ingredients have been successfully demonstrated to be a viable replacement for eggs in some food products.
Pulse Fiber Fiber from pulse crops can be used to increase the fiber content in processed foods.
  • Pulse crops contain high amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber. 
  • The use of pulse fiber is economical compared to fiber-fortifying gums or soy protein products. 
Pulse Starch Starch derived from pulse crops, particularly peas, has functional properties that can make it useful for manufacturing processed foods.
  • Pulse starches can be used to improve (lower) the glycemic index of products. 
  • Pulse starch ingredients can enable food manufacturers to reduce carbohydrates. For example, gels made from pulse starch can be prepared with 50% less starch than corn starch.
  • Pulse starches can be used to modify food texture, which is important for both processing and consumer acceptance. For example, food manufacturers can utilize pulse starches to reduce fat in products and mimic the mouth-feel of fats.
  • Pulse starch properties include good stability at high temperatures, high viscosity compared to cereal and tuber starches, excellent gel strength and bland taste (pea starch isolates), and ability to contribute to increased volume and expansion in extruded products and puffed snacks. 
Nonallergenic Properties 
  • Pulses are gluten free. In the United States, one of every 133 people are gluten intolerant. 
  • Pulse protein concentrates can be used to replace eggs as food ingredients in some applications. Eggs are the fourth most common food to trigger allergic reactions in adults in the U.S. 
  • Pulse ingredients may become important ingredients for baby food manufactured for infants with lactose intolerance and allergies to soy products.
Marketing Message of Sustainability Products made from pulse crops have added market appeal because pulse crops are economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable. Beyond positive economic impact to U.S. communities, farms, and food manufacturers, pulse crops provide other benefits to society.   
  • Products containing pulse ingredients can enhance nutrition and are derived from crops that use less natural resources (water and fossil fuels) and conserve cropland through improved soil health. 
  • Pulse protein is “green” because the nitrogen that pulse crops synthesize into protein comes from the atmosphere, not from synthetic fertilizers made from nonrenewable natural gas and because pulse protein is synthesized more efficiently than animal protein.
  • In the U.S., pulse crops are transforming crop rotations in environmentally-responsible ways that expand agricultural production to meet the world’s increasing demand for food.


Treston Vermandel
Eastern Business Development Specialist
Agriculture Development & Marketing Bureau
Phone: (406)860-7480
E-mail: Tvermandel@mt.gov


Montana Department of Agriculture

Agriculture Development & Marketing Bureau
302 N Roberts
Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 444-2402
Fax: (406) 444-9442


Published: April 24, 2012 11:18:00 AM MDT.
Last Modified: November 24, 2015 11:53:01 AM MST