December 13, 2017

Pulses: What They Are and How to Buy and Store Them

Not many people are familiar with the term ‘pulse’, although they may be enjoying the nutritious benefits of pulses every day. Often, pulses may be confused with legumes. Let’s take a closer look at what ‘pulses’ are.

From to the Pulse Canada website:

LEGUMES are a more commonly known term and refers to the plants whose fruit is enclosed in a pod. Legumes represent a large family of plants and when growing, legumes fix nitrogen into the soil, which reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. Well-known legumes include alfalfa, clover, fresh peas, lupins, mesquite, soy and peanuts.

PULSES are part of the legume family, but the term “pulse” refers only to the dried seed. Dried peas, edible beans, lentils and chickpeas are the most common varieties of pulses. Pulses are very high in protein and fibre, and are low in fat. Like their cousins in the legume family, pulses are nitrogen-fixing crops that improve the environmental sustainability of annual cropping systems. Pulses are rich in fibre and protein, and have high levels of minerals such as iron, zinc, and phosphorous as well as folate and other B-vitamins. 


Pulses do not include fresh beans or peas. Soybeans and peanuts are also not included in the term ‘pulse” because even though they are related to pulses because they are also edible seeds of podded plants, they differ because they have a much higher fat content, whereas pulses contain virtually no fat.

How to Buy Pulses


Canned pulses are convenient because they are pre-cooked an ready to use. 

Some tips on choosing canned pulses:

  • Always drain and rinse pulses well before use – this also helps to reduce the sodium content of regular canned pulses

  • A 19 oz (540 mL) can of (drained) pulses is equal to 2 cups (500 mL) of cooked pulses

  • A 14 oz (398 mL) can of  (drained) pulses is equal 1 1/4 cup (300 mL) of cooked pulses.

For info on how to enjoy canned beans with less sodium, check out this information sheet from Pulse Canada.


When buying dry pulses, look for:

  • Uniform size

  • Brightly coloured seeds

  • Smooth skins without chips or shrivelled coats.

How to Store Pulses



  • Unopened canned pulses can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to one year, or until the best before date on the can
  • Opened, drained and rinsed canned pulses can be stored as the same as cooked pulses (see below)


  • Cooked pulses can be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days 
  • Frozen cooked pulses can be kept for up to 6 months
    • To freeze cooked pulses:
      • Drain cooked pulses, then let cool
      • Lightly pay dry to remove some surface moisture
      • Measure out into 1 or 2 cup portions into airtight containers or lay flat in plastic freezer bags


  • Store in a tightly covered container in a cool, dry place
  • If exposed to light, pulses tend to lose their colour, but their flavour, nutrition and texture will not be affected as long as they are tightly sealed
  • Use dry pulses within one year of purchase
  • The longer the pulses are stored, the drier they become (which means they may take longer to cook)

Did you know? FoodReach has a variety of recipes using pulses right here on our website. Click here to have a look!

Special thanks to Pulse Canada and the Ontario Bean Growers for sharing their information and resources with us.