Chocho: The Secret South American Plant Protein
High up in the Andes Mountains, there is a modest legume that is proving to us that we still have much to learn and discover. Chocho is a small bean with a big nutrient punch. High in protein, regenerative, and always non-GMO, chocho is making a big impact on the future of plant protein and regenerative farming.
What Is Chocho?
Chocho is a type of bean grown in the Andes Mountains. Not only is chocho high in protein, it is a complete protein and also has calcium, vitamin E and D, and omegas. Chocho is an ancient ingredient that has been used in Peruvian and Ecuadorian cuisine for thousands of years. While you can eat chocho whole, it can also be made into a powder to be used in baked goods, breads, and drinks. Because of its protein content and overall health advantages, chocho is starting to become more popular in the U.S.
Chocho is part of the lupini bean umbrella, but what makes them different from the European variety is they have been essentially unchanged since pre-Inca times. Many European varieties have been genetically altered to remove the alkaloids, which gives these varieties a sweeter taste. Chocho must be soaked for many days and then boiled in a debittering process. This process removes the alkaloids, which can make people sick if ingested.
Where Did Chocho Originate?
Chocho is found high up in the Andes Mountains and has been around since before the Incas. While it has been a part of Ecuadorian and Peruvian cuisine for a very long time, it is very new to other places in the world. We still have a lot to learn about the benefits of this ancient bean.
While chocho has long had the stigma of “poor people's food” and has mainly been used to enhance the soil for other crops, more and more health benefits of this powerful bean are being discovered, and it's finally getting the recognition it deserves.
What Are the Benefits of Chocho?
Chocho is relatively new on the health food radar in the US, but we are quickly learning its many benefits, from its protein content to the wholesome way it is produced. It’s been a while since a new plant protein has made it to the market, and with all its benefits, this one looks like it is here to stay.
It’s a Whole Food
Whether you eat the whole bean or powder, you are getting a whole food protein. Many plant-based proteins use isolate instead of the whole plant to make the protein powder. Chocho is over 50% protein and has omega 3s, fiber, and vitamins.
It Has a Mild Taste
The taste of chocho is very mild. Plant proteins are typically processed with additional ingredients to make for a more palatable taste, but with chocho, the taste is already so mild, nothing needs to be added to it! When added to baked goods or beverages, you will not detect any taste at all, making for an east way to add protein to virtually anything.
As a whole bean, it does not have a strong bean taste, but a firm texture like a cross between edamame and garbanzo beans. Adding chocho beans to soups, curries, or making it a ceviche are all great options to add this nutritious little bean into your everyday recipes.
It’s Easy To Digest
Chocho lacks anti-nutrients usually found in other beans, seeds, and grains, which allows chocho to be easily digestible. It’s also free of the types of carbohydrates that can cause gas and GI discomfort in the body.
Most Are Non-GMO
Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, are any organism (plant, bacteria, animal, etc) that has been changed at a cellular level. This is more than simply cross-breeding a plant or animal, but it is done by a scientist in a lab to make the crop hardier and more likely to produce bigger and more profitable plants.
Chocho has not been changed — it has retained its original DNA since pre-Inca times. Unlike European varieties that have been genetically modified to take away the alkaloids that give chocho a bitter taste, chocho found in the Andes Mountains are still as pure and untouched as they ever were.
It’s a Regenerative Crop
Health doesn’t start at the food we eat, but how that food is made. The health of the planet is important in our individual health as well. Our food should come from farms with nutrient-dense soil, biodiversity, and insecticide-free fields. Regenerative agriculture has become very popular and has surprising cost-saving benefits on top of the benefits to the environment and our health.
Chocho is a perfect example of a regenerative crop. This plant relies solely on rainwater, requiring no human-made irrigation. It also pulls in nitrogen from the air and brings it into the soil, which can result in natural fertilizing effects. Chocho is also often planted with other plants like corn, potatoes, and other vegetables, so other crops can reap the benefits of the naturally fertilized soil.
It’s Paleo, Keto, and Vegan-Friendly
Vegan: Being made from a plant, chocho is vegan-friendly. It also offers a whole food, complete protein that can be used in many different recipes and can be prepared in a ton of different ways.
Paleo: The paleo diet consists of foods that would have been eaten 30,000 years ago by our earliest ancestors. While legumes were thought to not be paleo, there have been recent discoveries of legume starch granules on Neanderthal teeth. With this discovery, beans (including chocho) are now considered paleo-appropriate.
Keto: Keto is a diet that is low in carbs, has moderate protein, and has high fat. Chocho is a zero net-carb food, therefore, it is perfect for keto. This is also an option for a person who may be both vegan and keto.
What Does Chocho Taste Like?
Chocho has a very mild flavor. While there are many ways to consume chocho; the whole bean is often thought of as a cross between a garbanzo bean and edamame. The chocho protein powder has very little taste, and will not change the taste of your baked goods or smoothies, giving you the benefit of protein-packing without changing the flavor of your favorite recipes.
What Can I Make With Chocho?
While chocho is very new to us, people in Peru and Ecuador have been using chocho for thousands of years. Here are a few examples of how you can add in chocho to your meal plan!
Ceviche doesn’t always have to have shrimp or fish to be delicious. Chocho ceviche is a great vegan way to enjoy the fresh flavors of ceviche.
You can make a simple chocho ceviche by adding red onion, tomato, cilantro, the juice of oranges and limes, and salt and pepper to the chocho and letting them marinade together. Let this sit for a few hours in the refrigerator, and it’s ready to be enjoyed. You can garnish with avocado, roasted corn, corn chips, and some fresh cilantro. This is a delicious dish for an appetizer, picnic, or an easy lunch!
Chocho is a versatile bean to add to any soup. Because chocho is easier to digest compared to other beans and does not have a dominant taste, you can add texture to your soup and increase the protein level without changing the flavor. This is a great option for vegan soups!
We love smoothies — they’re an easy way to fit a lot of nutrients into one beverage, and adding protein powder never hurts. Most protein powders are highly processed, and some are not even whole foods. Chocho protein powder can be used in smoothies to add that boost of protein you are looking for along with other nutrients to bump up the nutrient value of your smoothie.
Chocho powder can also be used as a gluten-free flour option. There are more and more recipes coming out with this powder as an ingredient, but it’s worth noting that the consistency can be more like rice flour, or mochi, rather than all-purpose flour. Easy places to add in chocho powder are muffins, cookies, and bread.
The Bottom Line
While chocho has been around for thousands of years, it is only now starting to make its mark for being one of the most beneficial plant proteins. Not only is it full of protein, but it is regenerative, non-GMO, and appropriate for most lifestyle diets.
At Kroma Wellness, you'll never find GMOs on our product list. We love chocho protein, and have added it to our smoothies. Try it! You can taste for yourself the benefits of chocho.
Regenerative agriculture: merging farming and natural resource conservation profitably | nih.gov
Neanderthals Ate Plants, Too | The Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program | si.edu