The traditional perception that legumes would not be suitable for extrusion cooking is now completely outdated. In recent years, an increasing number of studies have been conducted to assess the behavior of various types of legume flours in extrusion cooking, proving that legumes have excellent potential for the production of extruded ready-to-eat foods by partially or totally replacing cereals. This review identifies the optimal processing conditions for legume-based and legume-added extruded foods, which allow the improvement of the expansion ratio and give the extrudates the spongy and crisp structure expected by consumers. In particular, the effect of the individual processing parameters on the physical-chemical and nutritional properties of the final product is highlighted. The extrusion cooking process, indeed, has a positive effect on nutritional characteristics, because it induces important modifications on starch and proteins, enhancing their digestibility, and reduces the content of trypsin inhibitors, lectins, phytic acid, and tannins, typically present in legumes. Therefore, the extrusion of legume flours is a viable strategy to improve their nutritional features while reducing home preparation time, so as to increase the consumption of these sustainable crops.
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