Important Review: Consider the Best Legume-Free Dog Foods

Written by Judie Sigdel
Updated: November 11, 2022
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Key Points

  • The #1 Overall Best legume-free dog food is Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Dry Adult Dog Food.
  • Legumes are a common ingredient in many dog foods because they’re an inexpensive protein source, but some dogs may be allergic or sensitive to them.
  • Research indicates that there may be a link between legumes and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy, a disease that weakens dogs’ hearts and may lead to heart failure.
  • We’ve researched, ranked and rated the five best legume-free dog foods so you can just pick the one that’s right for your canine best friend.

Legumes, such as peas, lentils, and chickpeas, are found in many dog foods. They add vitamins A, C, and K to foods and help manufacturers boost the protein content without adding more expensive meats. Legumes became more common in dog foods as grain-free foods became more popular; they offer an alternative to helping provide fiber and energy to dogs.

However, some dogs may be allergic or intolerant to peas or other legumes. You may also be looking for a legume-free dog food after finding out that there appears to be a possible link between legumes and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy, a heart disease that weakens the heart and may lead to heart failure.

Regardless of the reason behind your search for legume-free dog food, we know you only want the overall best food for your pup. We conducted some careful research to put together this list of the best legume-free dog foods for puppies, adults, and older dogs.

Whether you’re looking to splurge on your pup or looking for more of a value pick, we think you’ll find some great options below! We’ve also expanded this super-important legume-free dog food list for 2022 with two bonus recommendations that provide all the nutrition your dog needs without any potentially harmful peas, lentils, etc.

  1. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Dry Adult Dog Food
    • Dog food with real salmon, sweet potato, and canola oil
    • Balanced nutrition for healthy bones, heart, digestion, skin, and teeth
    • Great for dogs with sensitive stomachs or allergies
    • 12lb bag
    Check Chewy Check Amazon
  2. Stella & Chewy's Perfectly Puppy Chicken & Salmon Dinner Patties Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food
    • Freeze-dried patties with chicken & salmon
    • Promotes healthy digestion, teeth and gums, skin and coat
    • Grain free, no unnecessary fillers, no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives
    • No potatoes, peas, lentils, or by-product meals
    Check Chewy Check Amazon
  3. Inception Chicken Recipe Wet Dog Food
    • Wet chicken and chicken meal recipe free from legumes
    • Provides protein, amino acids, and trace minerals
    • Healthy millet and oats serve as source of carbohydrates
    • 12 13oz case
    Check Chewy Check Amazon
  4. Stella & Chewy’s Wild Red Stews Wet Dog Food
    • High-Protein recipe with cage-free chicken and turkey in a savory broth
    • Fortified with vitamins, minerals and amino acids to aid in digestive health
    • Veggies for an antioxidant boost
    • Grain-Free with no unnecessary fillers and only the finest ingredients


    Check Chewy Check Amazon
  5. Stella & Chewy's Classic Kibble
    • Packed full of protein with beef, pork, and lamb
    • Crafted without legumes or poultry
    • 81% of protein is from actual animal sources
    • "Whole prey” ingredients including muscle meat, organ meat, and cartilage
    • No fillers, artificial colors, artificial flavors, or preservatives.


    Check Chewy

The Top Picks for the Best Legume-Free Dog Food: Ranked

#1 Best Overall: Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Dry Adult Dog Food

This grain-free salmon & sweet potato dog food from Natural Balance is our number one favorite dog food formulated without any legumes. The first ingredient on the list is salmon, which delivers amino acids to help dogs develop and maintain strong muscles.

Another key ingredient in this dry food is sweet potato, a healthy replacement for legumes. Sweet potato provides healthy fiber and works to support a dog’s digestive system. Natural Balance also added omega-6 fatty acid-rich sunflower oil to this recipe to improve a dog’s skin and coat.

There are no poultry by-product meals, fillers, artificial preservatives, artificial colors, or artificial flavors found in this dog food. The ingredient list is quite limited compared to many other brands, making this a good option for dogs who may be dealing with other allergies as well.

If you’re looking for the best value for the money, choose the 24-pound bag, but you can also purchase a 4-pound or 12-pound bag.

Some long-time buyers indicated that the quality and quantity of this product have diminished recently. Also, some say that it is too expensive.

Pros and Cons of Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Dry Adult Dog Food

ProsCons
The first ingredient in this legume-free dog food is salmon, which is rich in amino acids that build and maintain strong muscles.The quality and quantity per bag of this dog food may have diminished lately.
The recipe also includes sweet potatoes, a source of healthy fiber that supports a dog’s digestive system, and sunflower oil, which is rich in omega-6 fatty acid to improve their skin and coat.The product is expensive.
This formula is free from poultry by-product meals, fillers, artificial preservatives, artificial colors, and artificial flavors.
Because it has a limited ingredient list, this dog food is a good option for dogs with food allergies.
It’s available in 4-pound, 12-pound, and 24-pound bags.
Best Overall
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Dry Adult Dog Food
  • Dog food with real salmon, sweet potato, and canola oil
  • Balanced nutrition for healthy bones, heart, digestion, skin, and teeth
  • Great for dogs with sensitive stomachs or allergies
  • 12lb bag
Check Chewy Check Amazon

2. Best for Puppies: Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Patties

Puppies will almost certainly love Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Patties. All of Stella & Chewy’s foods for puppies and adults are legume-free, and the company produces these tasty freeze-dried raw dinner patties in small batches to ensure high quality. The patties are formulated with 95% meat, organ, and bone to help ensure dogs get the essential and healthy protein they need.

This food is formulated to meet the needs of puppies. It includes guaranteed levels of DHA, L-carnitine, and vitamin E to ensure a puppy grows and develops properly. Additionally, chia seeds promote healthy skin, and a healthy coat. Alongside these omega-providing chia seeds, you’ll find other superfoods in the ingredients list.

Some of the other benefits associated with feeding your puppy this freeze-dried raw food diet include improved digestion, allergy relief, healthy gums and teeth, a healthy immune system, and improved stamina.

The puppy-formulated patties are available with a chicken & salmon flavor or beef & salmon flavor. 5.5-ounce and 14-ounce bags are both available, but the 14-ounce bag is the best value option.

The primary complaint from pet parents is that the product is too expensive.

Pros and Cons of Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Patties

Pros
Cons
These freeze-dried, raw food patties are made with 95% meat, organs, and bones to ensure your puppy gets the essential, healthy protein it needs.This dog food is expensive.
Puppies have very specific nutritional needs, which is why the manufacturer included guaranteed levels of DHA, L-carnitine, and vitamin E to ensure that your pup grows and develops properly.
The recipe also includes chia seeds for omega fatty acids and ingredients for improved digestion, allergy relief, healthy gums and teeth, a healthy immune system, and improved stamina.
Choose from chicken & salmon flavor and beef & salmon flavor
It’s available in 5.5-ounce and 14-ounce bags.
Best for Puppies
Stella & Chewy's Perfectly Puppy Chicken & Salmon Dinner Patties Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food
  • Freeze-dried patties with chicken & salmon
  • Promotes healthy digestion, teeth and gums, skin and coat
  • Grain free, no unnecessary fillers, no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives
  • No potatoes, peas, lentils, or by-product meals
Check Chewy Check Amazon

3. Best Wet: Inception Wet Dog Food

If you’d prefer to feed your dog wet food, Inception Wet Dog Food is a great choice. This legume-free option is excellent for all life stages, making it a great choice for puppies, adults, and older dogs. Four tasty flavors are also available to allow you to choose your pup’s favorite or feed them a variety. The flavors include chicken, chicken & pork, fish, and pork.

The first two ingredients on each can of wet food are animal protein to ensure that your dog’s nutritional needs are met. All Inception foods are legume-free. They also do not contain any potatoes, corn, soy, wheat, artificial colors, artificial flavors, or artificial preservatives.

Additional healthy ingredients that are fortifying this food include essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acid-rich flaxseed, oats, and millet.

A small minority of buyers said that their dogs didn’t like this food, and one reported that two of their five dogs had flatulence and diarrhea a few hours after eating it.

Pros and Cons of Inception Wet Dog Food

ProsCons
This wet food is appropriate for dogs of all ages: puppies, adults, and seniors.Some dogs may not like or eat it.
It’s available in the following flavors: chicken, chicken & pork, fish, and pork.One buyer reported that two out of their five dogs experienced digestive issues after consuming this food.
The first two ingredients in this canned food are animal protein to ensure that your dog’s nutritional needs are met.
All Inception foods are legume-free and free of potatoes, corn, soy, wheat, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and artificial preservatives.
This recipe is fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acid-rich flaxseed, oats, and millet.
Best Wet
Inception Chicken Recipe Wet Dog Food
  • Wet chicken and chicken meal recipe free from legumes
  • Provides protein, amino acids, and trace minerals
  • Healthy millet and oats serve as source of carbohydrates
  • 12 13oz case
Check Chewy Check Amazon

4. Best Grain-Free: Stella & Chewy’s Wild Red Stew – Grain Free, Protein Rich Wet Dog Food

Stella & Chewy’s Wild Red Stew – Grain Free, Protein Rich Wet Dog Food is another high-quality, grain-free wet food suggestion from the manufacturer. You can rest easy knowing that 96% of the protein comes from real, trusted animal sources.

Not only will you feel good about serving this stew to your canine family member, but it’ll be an easy switch when your dog tastes the bold flavor from real, quality chicken and turkey.

He or she won’t even notice the abundance of health-supporting nutrients. The ingredients list also names pumpkin, carrots, biotin, beta-carotene, and vitamins A and E for eyes, skin, and coat, B12 for the immune system, and plenty of other sources of antioxidants and digestion support.

Some buyers described this stew as “soupy,” but said that their dogs loved it anyway.

Pros and Cons of Stella & Chewy’s Wild Red Stew – Grain Free, Protein Rich Wet Dog Food

ProsCons
96% of the protein in this grain-free wet dog food is from animal sources like chicken and turkey.This stew may be soupy.
The recipe also includes health-promoting ingredients like pumpkin, carrots, biotin, beta-carotene, vitamins A and E, B12, antioxidants, and ingredients for optimal digestion.
Best for Seniors
Stella & Chewy’s Wild Red Stews Wet Dog Food
  • High-Protein recipe with cage-free chicken and turkey in a savory broth
  • Fortified with vitamins, minerals and amino acids to aid in digestive health
  • Veggies for an antioxidant boost
  • Grain-Free with no unnecessary fillers and only the finest ingredients


Check Chewy Check Amazon

5. Best High-Protein: Stella & Chewy’s Wild Red Dry Dog Food Classic High Protein Wholesome Grains Recipe

That’s right, Stella & Chewy made the list yet another time with Stella & Chewy’s Wild Red Dry Dog Food Classic High Protein Wholesome Grains Recipe. This dog food may not be grain-free, but unless your dog has a specific grain allergy or intolerance, it’s still a perfectly wholesome low-carb recipe.

That’s because you won’t find any unnecessary or nutrient-lacking fillers in this dog food. These ingredients do not have any legumes or artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Just real, high-protein meat ingredients with calcium phosphate and glucosamine for bone and joint health.

Plus this food has omegas, vitamins E, A, B12, and D3, zinc, iron, taurine for heart health, and more.

This formula is ideal for dogs of any size, breed, and age, including puppies. The careful balance of nutrients provides plenty of nourishment for optimum digestion, joints, heart, skin, and coat.

The most common reviewer complaint is that some dogs refused to it it.

Pros and Cons of Stella & Chewy’s Wild Red Dry Dog Food Classic High Protein Wholesome Grains Recipe

ProsCons
This legume-free, low-carb recipe features healthy grains.Some dogs don’t like this food.
It’s free from legumes, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, plus it doesn’t include any unnecessary, nutrient-void fillers.
This dog food includes nutrients that support digestion, joints, heart, skin, and coat, including high-protein meat ingredients, calcium phosphate, glucosamine, omega fatty acids, vitamins E, A, B12, and D3, zinc, iron, taurine, and more.
This recipe is formulated for dogs of all breeds, sizes, and ages, including puppies.
Best Overall
Stella & Chewy's Classic Kibble
  • Packed full of protein with beef, pork, and lamb
  • Crafted without legumes or poultry
  • 81% of protein is from actual animal sources
  • "Whole prey” ingredients including muscle meat, organ meat, and cartilage
  • No fillers, artificial colors, artificial flavors, or preservatives.


Check Chewy

Why Choose a Legume-Free Dog Food?

Legumes commonly used in dog foods include peas, chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, soybeans, and kidney beans. When used in the right ratios, legumes can be a good addition to dog food. They provide healthy nutrients, protein, fiber, and carbs.

However, many manufacturers overrepresent legumes, which means a larger percentage of the food’s protein comes from legumes than animal protein. High-quality animal protein is essential for dogs, so when a dog food contains too many legumes as filler to ‘water down’ a food, dogs are missing out on the hands-down most important macro-nutrient for dogs’ health.

This is known as ingredient splitting. You may not always be able to tell that the majority of the protein in dog food doesn’t come from animal protein, since the first ingredient may still be meat. But, when manufacturers add multiple different legumes of split the pea ingredients into categories such as pea protein, pea fiber, pea starch, and pea flour, it pushes the ingredients further down the list. However, the cumulative amount of legumes is still too high.

Another potential reason to avoid legumes in dog food is due to a possible link between peas and other legumes and heart disease. Some reports from the FDA have suggested that legumes in dog food may lead to Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy. This form of heart disease causes a dog’s heart to weaken and become enlarged. Eventually, it can result in heart failure. Desperately-needed research is still on this topic is still ongoing, as there is no conclusive evidence tying legumes to this heart disease, just a potential link.

What to Look For in Legume-Free Dog Food

Find legume-free food that suits your dog’s size, breed, age, activity level, and respective daily caloric needs.

Prioritize foods based on ingredients lists overflowing with real and recognizable foods like chicken, turkey, duck, beef, lamb, and other meats, non-legume vegetables, and possibly whole grains. The fewer fillers the better, because excess fillers essentially mean a food is just “junk food” for dogs.

If you can also find words like taurine, DHA, EPA, beta-carotene, amino acids, fatty acids, glucosamine, chondroitin, calcium phosphate, and antioxidants in the dog food ingredients, that’s a big plus!

Alternative Ingredients to Consider

If you’d like to avoid legumes, there are other ingredients you can consider whether you’re looking for food for puppies, adults, or older dogs. You may find these ingredients in both wet and dry foods as well.

Squash, Especially Pumpkin

Squash is very nutritious. They can help a dog’s digestive system and contain many vitamins and nutrients that contribute to healthy eyes and skin. Pumpkin is the most common squash ingredient in dog food, but there are a few foods that feature other squash vegetables such as acorn squash or butternut squash. However, since pumpkin often pairs with peas in dog food, finding legume-free food with pumpkin isn’t always easy.

Starches

Starches are another alternative to consider. Sweet potatoes, which are particularly nutritious, are a popular choice for many dog owners looking to avoid legumes. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, iron, and calcium.

Potatoes and tapioca are other starches you may find in dog foods, but they are not as nutritious as sweet potatoes.

Whole Grains

If you’re not concerned with keeping your dog on a grain-free diet, choosing food with whole grains may be a good option. Whole grains are healthier than selecting food with highly processed grains. Some good whole grain options include whole oats, brown rice, and millet.

Up Next…

  • The Best Dog Food for Shedding — Not sure why your dog is shedding too much? Read about possible reasons why and potential solutions in the form of dietary changes!
  • Best Dog Bowl Stand — Find out why elevating your dog’s food during meals can be a helpful trick!
  • The Best Freeze-Dried Dog Foods — Discover how a raw, freeze-dried diet can be an easy way to max out your dog’s nutrition and mealtime enjoyment!

About the Author

My passion is writing about animals. I’ve published articles on pet parrots, birds, and small animal care and reviews about pet food and products. I have an ever-evolving aviary and menagerie that has included cockatiels, parakeets, conures, European starlings, a chukar partridge, guinea pigs, dogs, and cats. I’m also the author of Faith without Labels: a Guide to Eclectic Spirituality.

Important Review: Consider the Best Legume-Free Dog Foods FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What dog food does not have legumes?

There are a variety of different dog foods that are made without legumes. If you are not sure whether a food has legumes, check the ingredient label. Some of the most common legumes found in dog foods include peas, lentils, kidney beans, soy beans, fava beans, and chickpeas. Our overall top pick for the best dog food without legumes was Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Salmon and Sweet Potato. We also liked Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Dinner Patties for Puppies and Inception Wet Dog Food.

Are legumes bad in dog food?

Legumes are actually quite nutritious. They include carbohydrates, fiber, and protein and can help a dog get many of the vitamins and minerals they need. This is true when legumes are properly balanced with other ingredients that dogs need, especially high-quality meat proteins.

However, some dog food companies don’t properly balance legumes with other food. Legumes are often over-represented in a dog food, preventing dogs from getting sufficient animal protein.

Some have also suggested a link between legumes in a dog’s diet and developing Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy, a heart disease.

Why are legumes bad for dogs?

Overall, when added in proper ratios, legumes can be beneficial for dogs. They add fiber, carbohydrates, and protein. However, when manufacturers use legumes to take the place of more valuable animal protein, they can prevent dogs from getting what is most important to them.

Some dogs may be allergic or intolerant to legumes. As with any other allergens, if this is the case for your pup, you’ll want to avoid feeding them foods with chickpeas, peas, lentils, or other legumes.

While more research is still needed, the link between legumes in dog food and the heart disease Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy is also concerning. This disease can cause a dog’s heart to become weakened and enlarged, which can eventually lead to heart failure.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.