What Are Mung Bean Sprouts?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Mung bean sprouts

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Commonly used in China and India, mung bean sprouts add a juicy crunch to many Asian dishes such as stir-fries, soups, and egg rolls. They are easy to incorporate into vegetarian or meat-based recipes. Although they are available canned, if you can find them fresh in the produce section of your supermarket, the fresh versions are far superior in taste and texture.

What Are Mung Bean Sprouts?

Mung bean sprouts are edible plump silvery-white shoots with two small yellow leaves at one end, a result of germinating mung beans. Though many types of beans are sprouted for culinary uses, the mung is one of the more popular. They are crispy and a little nutty-tasting, with high water content, and are good for both cooked or raw applications. However, due to the possibility of certain foodborne illnesses, it's usually advised to lightly cook the sprouts to reduce any risk, especially for pregnant women, children, and the elderly.

The mung bean plant, belonging to the Fabaceae or legume family, has been cultivated since ancient times and is a staple of Asian cuisine thanks to its versatility and nutritional properties. Their year-round availability and reasonable pricing make it easy to incorporate into many recipes from Asian to Indian, and with dishes including rice or noodles.

How To Use Mung Bean Sprouts

Unlike other sprouts that are more delicate, like the familiar alfalfa or even some microgreens you may see at farmers markets, mung bean sprouts hold up better when stir-fried or added to hot soups—though take care not to cook longer than 30 seconds to 1 minute so they maintain some crunch. Lightly rinse the sprouts with cool water before using, then dry them carefully before adding to stir-fried dishes. The sprouts pair well with aromatics such as ginger and garlic, seasonings such as soy sauce and sesame oil, and grains including rice and noodles.

Mung bean sprouts offer a fair degree of fiber and are also easy to digest, making them a great choice if you are recuperating from an illness or want to give your digestion a little break, but want a whole lot of nutrition. Mung beans and their sprouts are often used in kitchari, a flavorful stew with rice popular in Ayurvedic tradition as part of its cleansing and detoxification protocol.

What Do They Taste Like?

With a mild, clean, vegetal taste, mung bean sprouts won't overwhelm the dish. They tend to absorb the flavors they're surrounded by. Mainly, the sprouts add a crunchy, juicy element. They provide a nice moment of contrast especially in stir-fried dishes, which typically contain a lot of different flavors and textures.

Recipes

Where To Buy Mung Bean Sprouts

Mung bean sprouts can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores and all Asian markets, often near the tofu. Health food stores are another popular place to find them. They come pre-packaged or loose in bins to purchase by the pound. When selecting mung bean sprouts, look for plump, white roots and avoid any that are stringy, discolored, slimy or give off a moldy odor. The tiny leaves should be yellow and light green. Canned bean sprouts, located in the Asian food aisle, are a poor substitute in texture and flavor.

Storage

Mung bean sprouts are very perishable. Do not wash the sprouts until ready to use. If using within a few days of purchase, store in the refrigerator loosely packed in a resealable plastic bag covered with a paper towel to absorb any moisture. If you need to keep them around for up to 5 days or so, put them in a lidded container, cover them with water, and refrigerate. Be sure to change the water every day, and then clean them and use as directed.

Nutrition and Benefits

One cup of bean sprouts contains about 30 calories. They are low in fat, and high in fiber and protein. As a nutritionally dense food, mung bean sprouts are an excellent source of vitamins such as folate, C, and K, along with fiber, enzymes, and minerals. They are low in salicylate, a naturally occurring chemical in plants that some individuals have difficulty tolerating. (Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid). In Chinese medicine, bean sprouts are considered to be a yin or cooling food that can help eliminate toxins.