Introducing chocho
Credit: Photo courtesy Five Suns Foods

In the past few years we’ve seen an explosion of plant-based protein, from yellow pea milk to chickpea butter to lentil flour cereal. Now, chocho, a new plant-based protein soon to come to the market, claims to be the best one yet.

Boasting more protein per serving than salmon, tofu, or chickpeas, chocho (also known as Andean Lupin) is a plant with an edible bean that’s mostly eaten in Ecuador, as well as Peru and Bolivia. With a fairly neutral flavor, chocho can be prepared like any other legume: roasted, stewed, brined, fried, ground into flour, and even pressed into liquid.

According to Five Suns Foods, which is in the process of bringing chocho to the United States, the bean is high in fiber and gluten-free. It’s also considered keto- and paleo-friendly, which is surprising as those diets typically exclude legumes. Five Suns Foods calls chocho “the bean-free bean."

Chocho is also apparently a sustainable, regenerative crop. According to the Sustainable Development Goals Fund, chocho is “recognized as one of the most efficient legumes for stabilizing atmospheric nitrogen,” meaning that as the crop grows, it makes the soil more conducive to growing. Five Suns Foods says that although they’ve developed a unique method of processing and drying the bean, they recognize that the plant has been grown in South America for over 1500 years, and they’re “committed to the fair trade and regenerative utilization of this special species.” The company works directly in Ecuadorian farmers and co-ops to ensure healthy growing practices that elevate local economies.

As of now, Five Suns Foods expects to bring products made from chocho to the US in May 2019. It will be fascinating to watch the commercialization (likely by the wellness set) of yet another plant like quinoa or chia. Hopefully, if chocho is as sustainable as the SDG Fund and Five Suns Foods predict, it will continue to be a plentiful protein and economic source for the Ecuadorian population while exciting new plant protein-seekers in the US.