Indian Pulses – A quick guide to lentils, beans and peas

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Pulses. A fancy word to describe the ever-so-delicious and protein-packed chickpeas, lentils and dry peas. I am truly fascinated by the different types available and can’t resist picking up a new bag every time I go shopping. My pantry now contains over 20 different varieties!

My love for the versatile pulses has increased over the last 15 years. The possibilities are endless and the different dishes that are healthy and filling.

When I first started cooking I found it very difficult to differentiate between some of the yellow lentils. And there were also common lentils, like red lentils, that I had no idea how to use other than in my lentil rangoli.

Before I dive into some of my favorite pulses and the common recipes I use them for, here is my brief understanding of various pulses. Pulses are part of the legume family, but the term “pulse” refers only to the dried seed. They are dried legumes that grows in a pod of one to twelve seeds. They includes beans, lentils, peas and other little seeds referred to as lentils or beans. Daal is often translated as “lentils” but actually refers to a split version of a number of lentils, peas, chickpeas, kidney beans and so on. If a pulse is split into half, it is a daal. For example, split mung beans are mung daal. Indian pulses are usually available in three types: the whole pulse, the split pulse with the skin on, and the split pulse with the skin removed.

When babies are ready to eat solid foods they usually will start with khichadi which is made with rice and a combination of lentils cooked very soft. When I started making this for my first son Aum, it was the easiest and most healthy food I could offer. I would pressure cook some rice with lentils, spinach or carrots, a little bit to turmeric, salt and ghee and he would eat away! Khichdi is still one of our family favorites though now I make it much more flavorful by adding spices, ginger, garlic and cumin and the lentils that go in vary.

My weekly meal preparation usually involves soaking some whole beans like green gram or red lentils and then sprouting them. Sprouts can be refrigerate for 8-10 days and can be used in curries, rice dishes, salads or can be snacked on! I also use lentils to make my favorite south Indian foods like Idli, vada, sambar and many different varieties of dosas. I can’t wait to share recipes of all of these delicious foods!

Here are some of my favorite Indian pulses and a quick guide to their names in English and Hindi.

pulses - mung beans
green gram beans, spilt green gram and split and skinned green gram{mung}

Green Gram Beans,  Spilt Green Gram and split and skinned green gram{Mung} – The tiny green gram beans are super delicious. Whole beans can be sprouted and then used in curries, soups or salads. Raw sprouted mung beans taste amazing as a snack. They also come in split version with and without skin on. These split lentils can be used in making healthy daal and rice dishes.

pulses - black eyed beans
black eyed beans{chawli}

Black Eyed Beans{chawli} – These beans can be soaked and then cooked into delicious curries. These are our favorite beans for a weeknight curry. Only trick is to soak them 5-6 hours before cooking.

pulses - lentils
Red Lentils and Split red lentils{masoor}

Red Lentils and Split Red Lentils{masoor} – These are probably the most common lentils and can be easily found in most grocery stores. Similar to the mung beans the whole red lentils can be sprouted and then used in curries, soups, rice dishes and breakfast bowls. You can sauté them with some salt and pepper for a protein packed breakfast or snack. Split red lentils cook very fast and makes delicious daal.

pulses - yellow pigeon peas
yellow pigeon peas{toor daal}

Yellow Pigeon Peas{Toor Daal} – I am pretty sure these come as whole beans too but I only buy these split and skinned. These are used make the most traditional everyday daal in Maharashtra. My favorite version of these are made with lots of garlic, spinach and tomatoes! The south indian bisi bele bhath using toor daal in Instant Pot comes out super authentic and tasty.

spices - adzuki beans
adzuki beans{chori}

Adzuki Beans{Chori} – I never ate these small red beans while in India, but came across them here in the US while shopping for my Indian groceries. I soak these and make them into a curry with sautéed onions, tomatoes, ginger and garlic. These are super flavorful and packed with nutrition like all of the others.

pulses - turkish gram beans
turkish/dew gram beans{matki}

Turkish/Dew Gram Beans{Matki} – These are my most favorite beans to make the traditional matkichi usal,  which is a aromatic and super delicious curry made with sprouted turkish gram. They have nutty flavor with earthy smell. These also come in the split and de-skinned form but I haven’t tried them yet.

pulses - kidney beans
kidney beans{rajma}

Kidney Beans{Rajma} – These are probably the most popular and common beans after the chickpeas and can be found in most grocery stores. These come canned and ready to use but I prefer buying the dry beans and soaking and then pressure cooking them similar to the other beans. These make amazing north indian curries, daal and can be used in salads.

pulses - peas
white and green peas{vatana}

White and Green Peas{Vatana} – The dried white  peas look very similar to chickpeas, except they are smaller and round. They are used in making the famous ragda-pattice. Both white and green peas can be soaked and then pressure cooked to make delicious curries and soups. In India, people used the dried green peas when fresh peas were not available.

pulses - chana daal
split bengal gram{chana daal}

Split Bengal Gram{Chana Daal} – These like the yellow pigeon peas I always buy as split and de-skinned. Though lentils make delicious daals and other dishes, my favorite way to use them are in making the authentic puran poli’s.

pulses - urad
black gram beans, split black gram and split and skinned black gram{urad}

Black Gram Beans, split black gram and split and skinned black gram{Urad} – These are the small black beans similar in size as of the mung beans. They have a very earthy flavor and when cooked comes out a little sticky, which makes them a perfect lentil for making the popular and flavorful daal makhani! This lentil is used widely in India for making papadums. This is one of the main lentil used in south indian dishes like idli’s and dosas. My favorite dish is the dumplings dunked in lush yogurt sauce – no-fry dahivada’s!

           English Names                                                      Hindi Names

green gram

spilt green gram

split and skinned green gram

black eyed beans

red lentils

split red lentils

yellow pigeon peas

adzuki beans

turkish/dew gram

kidney beans

green peas

white peas

split bengal gram

split black gram

black gram beans

split and skinned black gram


mung daal with skin

mung daal



masoor daal

toor daal




hari matar

safed matar

chana daal

urad daal with skin


urad daal


12 thoughts on “Indian Pulses – A quick guide to lentils, beans and peas

  1. Such a great guide! I love lentils and beans so much (I’ve just had kidney bean curry for dinner!) and batch cook them so I always have some in the freezer ready for a quick meal. Thank you for sharing your passion!

  2. Hey do you know where I can get Lima beans? They’re not available in Mapusa market. I need those beans for cooking and I don’t seem to find the real name of these beans.

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