How to Use Mung Beans in Cooking

Mung beans, a staple in many Asian cuisines, have gained popularity worldwide due to their high nutritional value and versatility in cooking.

These small, green legumes are packed with protein and fiber, making them an excellent choice for anyone looking to enhance their diet, particularly for those on a plant-based or vegan regimen.

Originating from India, mung beans have been consumed for thousands of years and are renowned for their ability to be digested easily, reducing the chances of discomfort that is sometimes associated with other beans.

Mung beans are being soaked in water, then cooked in a pot with spices and vegetables. A steam rises from the simmering beans

When it comes to incorporating mung beans into your meals, the process is straightforward and requires minimal prep work.

Unlike larger legumes such as black beans or chickpeas, mung beans cook quickly and do not necessarily require pre-soaking, which can be a significant time-saver.

Their delicate flavor and adaptable texture mean they can be used in a wide range of dishes—from hearty mung bean stews and curries that embrace rich spices to refreshing salads and savory crepes.

The key to mastering the use of mung beans lies in understanding the simple cooking ratios and times.

For whole mung beans, the conventional formula involves cooking one cup of dried beans with three cups of liquid.

Once brought to a boil, the heat is reduced, and the beans are left to simmer until tender, typically taking about 45 minutes.

Split mung beans cook even faster, becoming tender in roughly 25 minutes.

With these basics, you can embark on exploring the diverse and nutritious world of mung beans in your culinary endeavors.

What Are Mung Beans?

Mung beans, known scientifically as Vigna radiata, are a small, green legume rich in nutrients and a staple in many global cuisines.

Historical Background

Originating in the Indian subcontinent, mung beans have a long history of cultivation that spans thousands of years and are deeply integrated into various Asian culinary traditions.

You’ll find these beans spread across China, India, and Southeast Asia, signifying their adaptability and importance as a food source.

Nutritional Profile

Mung beans are a powerhouse when it comes to nutrition, providing a high content of protein and dietary fiber. Here is a breakdown of their nutritional benefits:

  • Protein: Essential for muscle repair and growth, mung beans are an excellent plant-based source.
  • Fiber: Aids in digestion and can contribute to lowering cholesterol levels.
PotassiumMaintains blood pressure and heart health
VitaminsIncludes Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and B vitamins for immune function and energy
MagnesiumSupports nerve and muscle function
IronCrucial for blood oxygen transport
FolateImportant for DNA synthesis and repair
CopperPlays a role in iron metabolism

In addition to these, mung beans include a variety of other minerals that promote your overall health.

With such a concentration of essential vitamins and nutrients, incorporating mung beans into your diet means you’re taking steps toward a well-balanced meal.

Preparing Mung Beans for Cooking

Before cooking mung beans, it’s essential to prepare them properly to ensure they are clean and to reduce cooking time.

Washing and Soaking

Whole Mung Beans

  1. Rinse your whole mung beans under cold running water to remove any impurities or dust. Use a fine-mesh strainer for convenience.
  2. Soak the beans in a bowl of water to improve digestibility and speed up the cooking process. Follow these steps:
    • Fill a bowl with water, using three times the volume of the beans.
    • Submerge the mung beans in the water.
    • Leave them to soak for at least 4 hours, or overnight for optimal results.

Split Mung Beans

  • Rinsing is crucial for split mung beans, too, but you can usually skip the soaking step as they cook more quickly.
  • Simply rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear.


  1. To sprout mung beans, drain the soaked beans and transfer them to a jar covered with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band.
  2. Rinse and drain the beans twice a day.
    • After each rinse, place the jar at an angle to allow excess water to drain and to provide proper air circulation.
  3. Within 2 to 5 days, your mung beans should begin to sprout. When sprouts reach your desired length, they are ready to eat or cook.

Basic Cooking Techniques

When cooking mung beans, you have several methods at your disposal, each differing mostly by the cooking time and equipment used.

Whether you opt for stovetop simmering, a pressure cooker, or an Instant Pot, achieving tender beans is straightforward if you follow the right water-to-bean ratio and seasoning steps.

Stovetop Simmering

To cook mung beans on the stove, start by rinsing them thoroughly in cold water.

Place the beans in a large pot and add water at a ratio of three cups of water to one cup of mung beans.

Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Cover and allow the beans to cook for 20 to 30 minutes.

You’re aiming for beans that are tender but still hold their shape.

Stir occasionally, and if the water level gets low, add more to prevent the beans from drying out.

Using a Pressure Cooker

If using a pressure cooker, combine pre-rinsed mung beans with water at a two-to-one ratio—two cups of water for every cup of beans.

Secure the lid and cook at high pressure for about five to six minutes.

Once the time’s up, allow the pressure to release naturally.

This method yields a tender texture ideal for soups and stews.

Instant Pot Method

For Instant Pot users, rinse your mung beans and add them to the pot with a three-to-one water ratio.

Select the manual setting and set the time to about 10 minutes for beans that keep their shape, or slightly longer if you prefer them softer.

Allow for natural pressure release after the cooking cycle is complete.

The Instant Pot method is efficient, conserving both time and energy.

Seasoning and Flavoring

Mung beans being added to a sizzling pan with aromatic spices, creating a fragrant cloud of flavor

In cooking mung beans, the right combination of seasonings and herbs can elevate the mild flavor of the beans to create a delicious dish.

It’s important to select seasonings that complement the nutty taste of mung beans without overpowering them.

Herbs and Spices

Notable herbs and spices that pair well with mung beans include:

  • Cilantro: Adds a fresh, citrus-like dimension when sprinkled on cooked mung beans or blended into dishes.
  • Garlic: Crushed or minced, it imparts a pungent, savory note to mung bean preparations.
  • Ginger: Finely chopped or grated, provides a warm, spicy kick.
  • Cumin: Ground or whole seeds toasted, known for its earthy, warm flavors.
  • Curry Powder: A blend of spices that may include turmeric, coriander, cumin, and others, curry powder infuses a complex, aromatic character.

Using these spices and herbs not only enhances the taste but also contributes to a vibrant aroma that makes mung bean dishes more appealing.

Creating Balanced Flavor Profiles

To craft a harmonious flavor profile:

  1. Begin with salt, which is fundamental for bringing out the natural taste of the mung beans.
  2. Incorporate pepper for a hint of sharpness, balancing the milder bean flavor.
  3. Add a combination of onion, garlic, and ginger for a foundational flavor trio common in many cuisines.
  4. Sprinkle in garam masala or curry powder for warmth and depth.
  5. Sesame seeds or oil can introduce a nutty finish.

Mung Bean Dishes

Mung beans offer a versatile range of dishes from comforting soups to hearty main courses, each delivering rich flavor and robust nutrition.

Soups and Stews

Mung bean soup is a classic dish that combines the creaminess of the beans with a variety of flavors.

You can prepare a simple mung bean soup with vegetables and spices, or make it richer by adding coconut milk for a Mung Bean and Coconut Curry.

This dish brings a balance of heat from cayenne pepper with a cooling touch of coconut creaminess.

  • Basic Mung Bean Soup: Simmer mung beans with your choice of broth, garlic, onions, and your favorite vegetables.
  • Mung Bean Coconut Curry: Enhance your soup with coconut milk, curry spices, and a squeeze of lime, serving it as is or over rice for additional texture.

Salads and Side Dishes

Mung beans can be transformed into refreshing salads or served as a nutritious side dish to complement your meals.

They’re commonly used in Asian cuisine and can be mixed with an array of vegetables and dressings to create a vibrant Buddha bowl.

  • Summer Veggie Mung Bean Salad: Combine sprouted mung beans with seasonal vegetables and a lemony dressing.
  • Asian-style Side Dish: Stir-fry mung bean sprouts with soy sauce and sesame oil for a crunchy side.

Main Courses

With their substantial protein content, mung beans make an excellent base for main courses.

Whether you’re craving an Asian-inspired mung bean burger or a classic Indian Dal, these legumes adapt well to various flavors and cooking styles.

  • Mung Bean Burgers: Mash cooked mung beans with spices, form into patties, and pan-fry.
  • Split Mung Bean Dal: Cook split mung beans with turmeric, ginger, and cumin, then temper with fried garlic and mustard seeds for an authentic dal experience.

International Influence

Mung beans have made their culinary mark across various cultures, each using the legume to suit their unique flavor profiles and cooking techniques.

Indian Cuisine

In India, mung beans, known locally as moong, are a key ingredient in your everyday cooking.

You’ll find them in dals, where they’re simmered with aromatic spices like cumin and mustard seeds, or in khichdi, a comforting rice and lentil dish.

They’re also used in sweets like moong dal halwa, accentuating their versatility.

Southeast Asian Dishes

Moving to Southeast Asia, mung beans play a pivotal role in both savory and sweet dishes.

You’ll encounter monggo, a Filipino mung bean stew, enriched with vegetables and meat. Desserts aren’t left out; the Indonesian es kacang hijau, a sweet iced dessert, features mung beans as a star player.

Chinese and Middle Eastern Inspirations

In China, these beans transition into bean sprouts for crunchy additions to stir-fries or as a base for dishes like mung bean jelly salad.

Your Middle Eastern meals may include mung beans in hearty soups and stews, subtly spiced and often combined with rice, echoing China’s appreciation for their texture and nutritional profile.

Health Benefits of Mung Beans

Mung beans are a nutritious legume that can offer you numerous health benefits.

They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and plant-based proteins, making them a valuable addition to your diet.

Notably, mung beans are low in calories yet rich in fiber, which aids your digestive system and helps maintain regular bowel movements.

Nutrient Content: Mung beans are an excellent source of nutrients. They provide key minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

In terms of vitamins, they are a good source of B vitamins, which are crucial for brain health and various bodily functions.

  • Protein: A significant source of plant-based proteins, making them ideal for vegetarians and vegans.
  • Fiber: High in dietary fiber, which promotes a healthy digestive system.

Blood Sugar Management: You’ll find mung beans beneficial in managing blood sugar levels due to their low glycemic index.

This means they help in slowly releasing sugar into the bloodstream, which can be advantageous if you’re monitoring your blood sugar.

ProteinSupports muscle repair and growth
FiberEnhances digestive health
B VitaminsHelps maintain brain function
MineralsContributes to overall well-being

Versatility in the Kitchen

Mung beans are a multifaceted ingredient suitable for various dietary preferences, including vegan and vegetarian diets.

They adapt well to both savory and sweet dishes, offering ample opportunities to enhance your culinary repertoire.

Alternatives to Common Ingredients

In your plant-based cooking, mung beans can replace many standard ingredients. Here’s how you can swap them in:

  • Chickpeas: Use cooked mung beans in place of chickpeas for a twist in hummus or falafel recipes.
  • Spinach: Mung beans add a rustic touch and are a protein-rich swap for spinach in dishes like curries.
  • Tomatoes: For a unique base in soups and sauces, pureed mung beans offer a hearty alternative to tomatoes.

Creative Cooking Ideas

Mung beans can be the star in a variety of creative dishes. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Soups: Combine mung beans with coconut milk for a creamy texture and a hint of sweetness.
  • Sprouts: Grow your own mung bean sprouts to add a crunchy, nutritious element to salads and sandwiches.
  • Desserts: Create sweet treats by blending mung beans with sweet flavors like citrusy lime juice.
  • Baked Goods: Experiment with baking by using mung bean flour for a nutritious alternative in baked recipes.

Tips for Storage and Preservation

Mung beans stored in airtight containers. Illustrate cooking process with beans being soaked, boiled, and used in various dishes

Mung beans are a convenient and versatile ingredient for your kitchen. To ensure they remain fresh and plump for cooking, proper storage is key. Here’s how you can preserve your mung beans:

Dry Storage:

  • Location: Store your mung beans in a cool, dry place.
  • Container: Use an air-tight container to prevent moisture and pests.
  • Shelf Life: When stored properly, dry mung beans can last up to a year.

After Cooking:

  • Cool Down: Allow cooked mung beans to cool completely before storing.
  • Refrigeration: Keep in an air-tight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
  • Freezing: Freeze in an air-tight container or freezer bag for up to 6 months for longer preservation.

Avoidance of Spoilage:

  • Examine: Regularly check your stored beans for any signs of spoilage or insects.
  • Rotation: Use a first-in, first-out policy to ensure you use older beans first.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, you’ll find concise answers to common questions about using mung beans in your cooking, encompassing preparation techniques and culinary ideas.

How can I cook mung beans without soaking them?

Mung beans cook relatively quickly and do not require soaking. To cook them without soaking, rinse thoroughly and simmer in water for about 25 to 30 minutes until tender.

What are some vegetarian recipes that include mung beans?

You can incorporate mung beans into vegetarian dishes like curries, salads, and soups. They pair well with vegetables, grains, and spices to create balanced and nutritious meals.

How long should I soak mung beans before cooking, and is soaking necessary?

While soaking is not strictly necessary, you can soak mung beans for 4-6 hours, or overnight, to reduce cooking time. If you choose not to soak them, simply increase the cooking time accordingly.

What’s the best way to cook mung beans in a pressure cooker?

To cook mung beans in a pressure cooker, use a water to bean ratio of 3:1. Cook at high pressure for about 5 minutes followed by a natural pressure release, yielding perfectly cooked beans.

After soaking, how should mung beans be cooked to maintain their nutritional value?

After soaking, simmer the mung beans in a pot of fresh water for 20-30 minutes. This method preserves most nutrients while making the beans easy to digest.

Can you describe the taste of mung beans and suggest pairings?

Mung beans have a mild, earthy flavor that makes them versatile in various cuisines.

They pair well with ingredients like rice, coconut, cumin, and ginger, enhancing the meal’s overall taste.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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