Health foods have come a long way since I first went into a dedicated store in my teens. From the emergence of smoothie and salad bars alongside fast food at shopping malls to the explosion of alternative flours and milks, there has truly been a nutrition revolution. As someone who still remembers their first glass of watery, bitter soy milk and trying carob chocolate – these are good times.
I love finding new health products to add variety to my mostly vegan diet. Buckwheat and quinoa are a lovely alternative to oats and I’ve recently been making the Italian flatbread farinata, which uses chickpea flour, for weekend brunches. I’ve also been trying to boost my protein intake from 70 grams a day to 110g/day. It’s been challenging but achievable, partly thanks to lupin flakes.
What is Lupin?
I first spotted lupin at one of my favourite health food spots The Clean Food Store and soon after I received them in a health foods subscription box. Lupin (also called lupini beans) is a legume that’s been used as animal feed for decades, but it’s only recently been widely marketed for human consumption. My home state, Western Australia, produces 85% of the world’s supply! The nutritional profile of lupin what impresses me most – it’s very high protein, low fat, low carbohydrate, and relatively low in calories.
Specifically, one 40g (4 tablespoons) serve of lupin flakes contains:
- 130 calories | 16g protein | 2.6g fat | 1.6g carbs | 14g fibre
- It’s also gluten-free and has a low glycemic index (GI)
If that’s not attractive enough, lupin flakes are also quick cooking, fairly easy to find in Australia and only around AU$9 for a 400g bag (or about 90 cents a serve!). So how exactly do you use them? Read on.
I received my first bag of lupin flakes about the same time I had an ageing orange in my fruit bowl. I grabbed a jar, some oats and had this delicious, high protein breakfast the next morning!
Lupin Bircher muesli (serves one)
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
- 1 tbsp lupin flakes
- 1 orange, juice only
- 1 tbsp raisins
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup milk (soy, almond, dairy etc) + extra for the morning
- Optional toppings: yogurt, walnuts, pepitas, flaxmeal
METHOD: Combine all ingredients except toppings in a bowl or jar, cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, add extra milk for a thinner consistency if desired. Otherwise, add toppings and enjoy!
Sometimes the simplest things are the best. I’ve been sprinkling 1-2 tbsp of lupin flakes on my Greek soy yogurt and fresh fruit most afternoons. It’s so filling! There’s something about the nutty flavour of lupin with the sharp taste of natural yogurt that I’m hooked on too. This combination packs 10g of protein with the probiotic goodness of yogurt for just 130 calories – and still under 200 cals with berries or a slices of fresh peach. You could also add a tablespoon as a salad topper, although I’m yet to try this.
If you like Middle Eastern foods, you will love lupin! I tried substituting lupin flakes for quinoa in several dishes, but I find it works best as a replacement for cous cous. To quickly cook in the microwave, mix 4 tbsp of lupin flakes with 1/2 a cup of water on HIGH for three minutes. Cover for a few minutes and then fluff with a fork to enjoy as a side dish with a Moroccan tajine or stuffed capsciums. I want to try lupin in this way with a spicy Indial dal too!
4. Just Add
In the same way I like to add flaxmeal to my breakfast and general baking, the neutral flavour of lupins means you can simply add it to a dish for a protein boost. One tablespoon in a bowl of oatmeal almost doubles the protein content, and you could similarly add a few tablespoons and lower the flour when making muffins or bread. It does have a slightly bitter, nutty taste so I find just one tablespoon in a single bowl of oats is a good balance. For other cooking, start small and increase over time until you find the right balance. Or check out my lupin cake recipe below!
When I got home late last week and hadn’t reached my protein target for the day, I had to get creative. I experimented with a lupin chocolate mug cake with surprisingly good results! This is not a rich, sweet mud cake. Rather, it has a denser texture more like polenta but it’s wholesome, chocolately and still a satisfying high-protein snack or dessert!
My Lupin Chocolate Mug Cake (vegan)
- 2 tbsp lupin flakes
- 1 tbsp spelt flour
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tbsp cocoa
- 1/8 tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup milk (soy, almond, dairy etc)
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- Optional: 1 tsp maple syrup
METHOD: Combine all ingredients in a mug and microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Check and microwave for another minute if needed. Eat with a spoon straight away or top with berries, peanut butter or coconut yogurt.
I’m in the process of testing some high protein, vegan lupin cookies and plan to do a fruit crumble with lupin topping too. Like almond meal, you could also use lupin flakes to crumb meat, tofu or vegetables. When winter approaches, I’m going to try topping cauliflower cheese with lupin for a delicious crunch!
I did attempt a lupin porridge but I found there wasn’t enough starch to make it very creamy, even when cooked with grated apple, soy milk and vanilla. I also added cooked lupin flakes to a bean salad but they soaked up moisture from the beans and tomatoes, resulting in a soggy lunch. Both meals were edible, but I prefer the recipes above.
QUESTION: What’s your health food of the moment?