Reactions to Legumes

Legumes are a group of foods that belong to the Fabaceae family and include beans, lentils, pulses, peas, lupin, fenugreek, soya, and peanut. Individuals with legume allergy may need to avoid only one legume or may have reactions to other legumes. People with a peanut and/or soya allergy do not automatically need to avoid all other legumes. Please refer to our factsheets on peanut and soya here.

More attention has been given to legumes because of the rising trend of plant-based vegetarian and vegan diets. Legumes are a dietary staple in these diets and present with many nutritional benefits. Increased consumption and use of legumes in foods may be one reason why reports of legume allergy are on the rise.

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Food AllergyFactsheets

Peanut Allergy

How common is peanut allergy? Peanuts are a common cause of food allergy, caused when the immune system reacts to...

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Food AllergyFactsheets

Soya Allergy

The soya bean belongs to the legume family, which includes fresh and dried peas, beans, carob, liquorice and peanut. Research has shown...

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Food AllergyFactsheets

Food Labelling

On this page: Food Standards Agency Guidelines Ingredients list example Allergens Hidden allergens Precautionary labelling Other allergens

How common is legume allergy?

There is significant variation in legume allergy across different countries, likely due to cultural diversity and dietary habits. In the UK, peanut is the legume most often causing symptoms. In other countries, such as India, lentils and chickpeas are a staple food and allergy is commonly reported whereas lupin allergy is seen frequently in European countries such as France, and in Norway, due to the addition of lupin to bread, in place of soya flour. In Spain, legume allergy is the fifth most common food allergy for children under five years.

Lupin, peanut, and soya must be clearly labelled on food packaging as they are three of the 14 allergens required to be listed by law. Unfortunately, there is no requirement for other legumes. It is thought that legumes are the next most common group outside the main allergens, although there is limited research to date.

Symptoms of legume allergy

Like other food allergens, the symptoms of legume allergy can present as mild such as itching, hives or vomiting to more lifethreatening reactions that affect breathing and circulation that require an adrenalin autoinjector (anaphylaxis). See further details on our website on how to treat a life-threatening reaction here.

Where will I find legumes?

Legumes can be found in a wide range of foods. Some common foods include:

  • Vegetarian food and plant-based meat alternatives (vegetarian sausages, burgers, sauces)
  • Processed meats (sausages, burgers, hotdogs, scotch eggs)
  • Gluten and free from free foods (gram, pea and bean flours used in bread products, pastry, breadcrumbs, batter. Lentil and pea used as pasta substitute)
  • Baking mixes and baked goods
  • Cereals
  • Sauces
  • Salads
  • Alternative milk products such as milk, cheese, yoghurts
  • Hummus
  • Falafel
  • Crisps/snacks
  • Soups
  • Chinese cuisine such as stir fries and fried rice
  • Indian cuisine such as dahl and bhaajis
  • Mexican cuisine such as chilli, burritos and enchiladas
  • Mediterranean dishes such as cassoulet

The increase in pea protein in food and drink manufacturing has increased in recent years as manufacturers respond to consumer interest in plant-based and highprotein foods and sustainable diets.

Types of legumes

There are various foods that fall under the legume ‘umbrella’; however, many are not part of the 14 main allergens which means food manufacturers do not have to highlight legumes as a  potential allergen in an ingredients list. This can make it particularly difficult to identify and time consuming when reading food labels. It is important to read the ingredients list carefully every time even if you have had the product before.

Below highlights the different legume groups and where some of these foods are typically found:

Category/GroupTypeFood Examples
BeansAdzuki, black, borlotti, broad (lima), cannellini,
carob, flageolet bean, faba, French, green,
haricot, kidney, lima, marrow, mung, pinto,
runner, soya, string, turtle
Tinned beans, Baked beans, Salads, Chilli con carne,
Burritos, Coconut milk (faba bean), Mediterranean
dishes, Vegan/vegitarian meals
LentilsBrown, green, red, puy, beluga, pardinaPoppodums (lentil flour), Chapatis, Puri, Dhal,
Docas, Bhaajis, Pakoras, Soups, Lentil crisps, Vegan/
vegetarian dishes such as lentil cottage pie
PeasGreen, snow, sugar snap, mangetout, black eyed,
pigeon pea, wasabi peas, chickpea (also known
as garbanzo bean or gram)
Mushy peas, Processed meat, Milk alternatives
(e.g pea milk or alongside other milks such as
oat milk), Bread, bagels, Indian style bread,
Gluten free bakery products , Bombay mix, Paella,
risottos, Vegan/vegetarian dishes, Sorbets, Gram
flour (chickpeas), Hummus (chickpeas), Falafel
(chickpea), Soups
LupinSeeds and flourLupin flour is commonly used in European pastries,
cakes, biscuits, pizza bases, gluten free products
Fenugreek, methiLeaves, seedsCurry powder, spice blends, Indian dishes

What about…

There are also reports of other legumes causing a potential reaction that you may of not be aware of, these include…

  • Guar gum: it is used as a thickener and emulsifier in foods such as yoghurts and salad dressings
  • Tragacanth is also a thickening agent and used as a stabiliser in food products such as salads and sauces. It is obtained from dried sap of several species in Middle Eastern legumes
  • Liquorice root is used as a flavouring in confectionary, drinks and other food.
  • Tamarind is from a brown bean pod and is used as a paste, concentrate or powder to flavour food such as chutneys and curries
  • Reports of reactions for guar gum, tragacanth, liquorice and tamarind are considered rare as there is limited research to date

Carob bean is commonly used as a thickening agent in anti-reflux formula. There have been case reports of allergic reactions in infants. In adults, reactions to carob have happened when exposed to carob flour in the workplace There have been case reports of allergic reactions from the inhalation of steam from boiling lentils. Reactions induced by inhaling fumes
from legumes are considered rare. If you are concerned discuss further with your allergy team.

Cross reactivity

Cross reactivity with other legumes can happen because certain proteins in one food can share similar structures in another food. Peanut allergy has been associated with lentil, chickpea and pea (although not commonly reported). Pea has also been associated with lentil allergy. In the Mediterranean, where chickpea, lentil and pea are widely consumed, cross reactivity has been frequently reported.

In a small UK study looking at 32 children with confirmed allergy to lentils, beans, chickpeas and/or green beans, 72% had allergy to one legume, with red lentil and chickpea being most common. In a Spanish study, chickpea allergy was frequently associated with lentil allergy. Having one legume allergy does not mean all legumes should be avoided. However, it is advised to speak with your allergy specialist to understand further what legumes you can tolerate and what should be avoided.