Beans are often considered an extremely healthy food. They are rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fats.
However, you may be wondering if you can have them on the extremely low carb, high fat keto diet.
Unfortunately, most beans are too high in carbs to be a good food for keto.
Here’s more information about beans, which ones may be best for keto, and some keto-friendly alternatives.
For the most part, beans don’t fit in the keto diet.
There are some exceptions that are lower in carbs, but most beans are too high in carbs — requiring nearly a day’s worth of net carbs for a half-cup serving.
That said, you may be able to include small quantities of beans in your diet on occasion. However, you’ll want to be mindful of portion size, and you’ll need to strictly limit your carb intake in other meals in order to remain in ketosis.
Here are the net carb counts, which is total carbs with fiber subtracted, for a half-cup serving of some of the most commonly-eaten varieties of beans:
- Black beans: 12 grams (*)
- Pinto beans: 15 grams (*)
- Kidney beans: 14 grams (*)
- Navy beans: 13 grams (*)
- Great Northern beans: 13 grams (*)
- Lentils: 12 grams (*)
- Lima beans: 13 grams (*)
- Chickpeas: 17 grams (*)
- Green beans: 2 grams (*)
- Soybeans: 4 grams (*)
Unfortunately, most beans should be avoided on keto. They’re much too high in carbs, ranging from 15-25 grams of net carbs per half-cup serving.
While you may be able to make beans fit in your keto diet on rare occasions, it would be unsustainable to try to make them a major part of your keto diet because of their carb count.
Here are some of the best beans and bean products that you can enjoy in small quantities on keto.
Black soybeans are the best low-carb bean to enjoy on keto, especially if you’re looking for something to replace traditional beans like pinto beans and black beans. You can purchase them online, canned or dried, and use them in any dish you’d normally use beans in — including refried beans.
They contain five grams of net carbs per ½ cup serving (*).
Green beans are more like a non-starchy vegetable than a bean, any they can easily be worked into a low carb or keto diet. They’re great as a side dish or as an addition to soups or frittatas.
Green beans contain roughly two grams of net carbs per ½ cup serving (*).
Edamame are young, white soybeans. They’re usually served in the pod, steamed with salt. They make an excellent snack or protein-rich addition to salads. One half-cup of edamame contains four grams of net carbs (*).
Tofu is a pressed soybean product that’s commonly used as a meat alternative in plant-based diets. You can cook it in a variety of ways, but the texture isn’t an identical match for beans.
Half a cup of tofu contains two grams of net carbs (*).
Although you may have to order them online, lupin beans are a great keto-friendly bean option. Lupin flour is also a popular choice for keto baking. They are bright yellow and traditionally eaten pickled. Cooked lupin beans contain five grams of net carbs per half a cup (*).
Mung beans are commonly used in Asian cooking. They’re lower in carbs than many other types of beans, but still not a great fit for keto. You may be able to include small amounts of them occasionally, though.
Cooked mung beans contain 12 grams of net carbs per half cup (*).
Lentils are small and bead-like, and commonly added to soups, used as a vegetarian protein source, or used as a side dish. They come in a variety of colors, as well. However, they’re not a great fit for keto diets.
Cooked lentils contain 12 grams of net carbs per half cup (*).
Another bean that may be more appropriate for flexible low carb diets than strict keto diets is lima beans. These beans have a buttery texture and mild flavor, and are often prepared with ham.
A half cup of cooked lima beans contains 12 grams of net carbs (*).
Tempeh, like tofu, is made of pressed soybeans. However, tempeh is made from pressed whole, fermented soybeans — so it’s richer in protein than tofu. Tempeh is also a great source of fiber.
A three-ounce serving of tempeh contains one gram of net carbs (*).
Although chickpeas are too high in carbs for keto, hummus — a dip made from chickpeas, tahini, and olive oil — can work on keto in small amounts.
A quarter-cup of hummus contains roughly 5 grams of net carbs (*).
If you’d rather avoid beans altogether, there are some other keto-friendly foods you can use as substitutes. These include:
- Mushrooms: Like beans, mushrooms can absorb the flavor of what they’re cooked in. Although the texture is different, they can be a good substitute for beans in a variety of dishes.
- Eggplant: Eggplant is another good alternative in cooking, although you may want to peel them before cooking because the skin can be bitter. For a more keto-friendly alternative to hummus, you can also try baba ganoush — which is a dip made from eggplant instead of chickpeas.
- Squash: Squashes like yellow squash and zucchini may also be suitable substitutes for beans in cooking thanks to their mild flavor. They’re also very low in carbs.
- Sausage: For more protein and fat, ground or diced sausage can be used as a flavorful alternative to beans in keto dishes.
- Ground meat: Likewise, you can substitute beans for ground meat to keep the protein
Although none of these are perfect substitutes for beans, they may give you the flexibility to make keto-friendly versions of your favorite bean dishes like chili and soup.
Most beans are too high in carbohydrates for the keto diet, but some may be a good fit — namely, green beans, lupin beans, and black soybeans. You can also consider some alternatives to beans for recipes like chili and soup, such as mushrooms, eggplant, squash, or sausage. Whatever you choose, there are ways to enjoy many of your favorite bean recipes on keto while still hitting your macro goals.