Although legumes are rich in protein and fibre, and low in saturated fat and Na, traditional legume-based recipes include substantial amounts of processed meat, salt and potatoes, which could counteract the potential benefits of legumes. This prospective study aimed to assess the longitudinal association of consumption of different types of legumes, and traditional legume-based recipes, with unhealthy ageing in older adults. Data were taken from 2505 individuals aged ≥60 years from the Seniors-ENRICA cohort. Habitual legume consumption was assessed in 2008–2010 with a validated diet history. Unhealthy ageing was measured in the 2013, 2015 and 2017 follow-up waves, with a fifty-two-item multidimensional health deficit accumulation index (DAI) which ranges from 0 (best) to 100 (worst health). The mean age was 68·7 years, with 53·1 % of women. Among study participants, 78·4 % reported consumption of legumes, with a mean intake of 57·9 g/d. Multivariable-adjusted linear regression models did not show an association between total legume consumption and the DAI over a 7-year follow-up (non-standardised coefficient for the second and highest v. the lowest tertile of consumption: 0·94 (95 % CI −0·30, 2·17) and 0·18 (95 % CI −1·07, 1·43), respectively; Ptrend = 0·35). Similar results were observed for the 3-year and 5-year follow-ups and, separately, for lentils, beans, chickpeas and traditional legume-based recipes. According to the results obtained, consumption of legumes and traditional legume-based recipes is not associated with unhealthy ageing and can be part of a healthy diet in old age.