You’d never guess by looking at it, but the humble chickpea is actually one of the most useful items in your pantry. Chickpeas are the main ingredient in classic favorites such as hummus and falafel, but they can also be used to bulk up vegetarian curries and stews. Even the water from canned chickpeas can be used to create a delicious vegan meringue. (Yes, you read that correctly!) Whether you love the convenience of canned chickpeas or the nutty flavor profile of dried chickpeas, there are plenty of good reasons to get inspired by this versatile ingredient.
Chickpeas are a nutritional powerhouse.
A single one-cup serving of cooked chickpeas contains an incredible 50 percent of your recommended daily intake of fiber and 14.5 grams of protein—a winning combination that will help you stay full throughout the day. With a modest 269 calories per serving, chickpeas are a natural pairing to fruits and vegetables as well as lean sources of protein such as chicken and fish. Chickpeas are also an excellent source of folate, which can help prevent anemia and birth defects when consumed in adequate quantities by pregnant woman, and manganese, a trace mineral your body needs for normal brain and nerve function as well as fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Chickpeas are a good source of iron if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, as a one-cup serving contains 4.7 milligrams or 26 percent of your recommended daily intake.
Chickpeas: Are they a fruit or a vegetable?
Neither. Chickpeas are legumes—a broad term that refers to either the fruit or seed of a plant. Chickpeas are actually the seeds of the chickpea plant, which is why they are classified as legumes rather than a fruit or veg.
Canned Versus Dried Chickpeas
Canned chickpeas win major points for convenience as there’s no overnight soaking or lengthy cooking period to take into consideration when using them. The main drawback of using canned chickpeas is that they tend to be on the bland side, lacking the depth of flavor found in dried chickpeas. Canned chickpeas are ideal for use in dishes whose flavor relies on other components, such as bean salads, curries, and soups. Dried chickpeas are much nuttier in flavor and are great for recipes such as hummus and falafel, where their flavor plays a starring role.
Cooking Dried Chickpeas Like the Pros
To make dried chickpeas from scratch, soak the chickpeas in plenty of cold water in a large bowl or nonreactive pot for 12 to 24 hours*, by which time the chickpeas should have doubled in size. Stainless steel is your best bet since reactive vessels, like those made of aluminum, copper, or cast iron might react with the chickpeas, adversely affecting their taste, color, or smell. Drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse with cold water. Transfer the soaked chickpeas to a large stock pot and cover with at least three inches of water. Bring the water to a boil and then lower to a gentle simmer, cooking uncovered for anywhere from 60 minutes to two (or more) hours. Taste periodically to test for doneness, making sure to replenish the cooking liquid as it evaporates. The perfectly cooked chickpea should be firm yet soft in the middle, but don’t fret if you’ve overcooked your chickpeas—these can be ideal for dips like hummus! *Forgot to soak your chickpeas? It’s not too late! You can cover dried chickpeas with boiling water and let them sit (off the heat source) for one hour in a nonreactive pot or large, heat-proof bowl before proceeding to cook them as you normally would.
Freezing Chickpeas 101
Chickpeas triple in size once they’ve been cooked, which means you might have leftovers that are ideal for freezing. Frozen chickpeas can be kept in resealable bags for up to six months and defrosted in under an hour at room temperature. For the best frozen chickpeas, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet to ensure they freeze individually (rather than in a chunk or pile) before transferring them into bags or containers.
Buying the Best Chickpeas
Even dried chickpeas need to be fresh, although it can be difficult to identify chickpeas that are past their prime. Bags of dried chickpeas that have sat for too long will wind up shriveled and discolored and can take much longer to cook than a fresher option would. The best place to shop for dried chickpeas is your local Middle Eastern, Greek, or Arabic grocery store as they tend to have higher turnover rates. If dried chickpeas are unavailable in your area, they can be purchased online.
Cooking with Chickpeas
Discover the magic of aquafaba!
Aquafaba is the totally amazing but entirely unassuming liquid found in all cans of chickpeas. If you thought a good vegan meringue, marshmallow, or egg white cocktail was an impossibility, prepare to have your mind blown by aquafaba. Amanda Li, registered dietitian, founder of Wellness Simplified, and professor at the Chef School at George Brown College, is a huge fan of aquafaba as a vegan alternative to egg whites. She suggests “[saving] the water from canned chickpeas and pouring it into your KitchenAid mixer with the whisk attachment. Add a bit of sugar and whisk on high for 10 to 15 minutes. You’re left with an incredible white foam, which you can than bake into meringues or use in desserts that require beaten egg whites like souffles or angel food cake.” To replace egg whites in a recipe with aquafaba, substitute 2 tablespoons of aquafaba for every one medium egg white. Note that the liquid leftover from cooking dried chickpeas will probably be too thin for achieving your desired result, so sticking to the aquafaba from a can of chickpeas is your best bet.
Enhance your protein-packed dishes with chickpea flour.
Chickpea flour is made from grinding up chickpeas, which means it retains all the amazing health benefits of regular chickpeas (aka tons of protein, fiber, and iron). Popular in Indian, Italian, French, and Bangladeshi cuisines, chickpea flour is just starting to gain momentum in the States. Chickpea flour can be used to make fritters, flat breads, crepes, and in Li’s case, her Savory Chickpea Waffle recipe. Li is a huge fan of chickpea flour not only for its taste but “because even for people who may not like beans or legumes, it’s a great way for them to start incorporating these fabulous high-fiber goodies into their diet!”
Most of us are familiar with falafel thanks to street stands and Middle Eastern restaurants, but did you know these vegan patties are easy to make at home with chickpeas? Try this homemade version made with dried chickpeas next time you’re hankering for falafel. Tuck them into pita bread or add them to your next Buddha bowl. Instead of the traditional frying method, this recipe relies on baking the falafel in order to cut down on excess fat.
Servings: 6 to 8 (makes about 24 falafel patties)
- 2 cups of dried chickpeas (canned chickpeas won’t work)
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, finely minced (or about 1 Tbsp. of jarred minced garlic)
- ½ cup fresh parsley, loosely packed
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, loosely packed
- 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. cumin (make sure the cumin is fresh as it needs to have a pronounced taste for this recipe)
- Pinch of cayenne (optional)
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- ¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. baking powder (this acts as the leavener in this recipe—ensuring airy, lightly textured falafels)
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2 to 3 Tbsp. grapeseed oil (opt for this oil for its neutral flavor and high smoke point)
- Large bowl
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Food processor
- Large cast iron pan OR large rimmed baking sheet
- Long-handled tongs
- Soak the chickpeas in a large bowl that has been filled with cold water, making sure all of the chickpeas are covered with at least 3 inches of water. Let them soak for at least 12 hours (up to 24 hours is ideal). The chickpeas should be double in volume by the end of their soaking time.
- Preheat the oven to 375° F before proceeding to the next step.
- Drain the soaked chickpeas in a colander and transfer to a food processor. Add the red onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, cumin, cayenne, salt, black pepper, baking powder, and the juice of half a lemon to the food processor and pulse until smooth.
- Using your hands, roll the falafel mixture into small balls about 1 inch in diameter. You should end up with about 24 falafels.
- Coat the bottom of a large cast iron pan or wide-rimmed baking sheet with grapeseed oil (you might need to use two vessels to cook all the falafel at once).
- Place the pan or baking sheet in the hot oven for 10 minutes or until the oil begins to look shimmery.
- Remove the pan or baking sheet from the oven. Working quickly and using long-handled tongs, space out the falafel balls in the hot oil so that they aren’t touching before moving them to the oven.
- Bake the falafels for 15 minutes. Carefully turn them over and bake for another 15 minutes. When you remove them from the oven, the falafels should be golden-brown and slightly crispy.
- Serve the falafels warm in a pita or in a salad with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and tahini.
Short on time? Skip the chickpea prep with a pre-made falafel mix like this one from Tarazi.
Basic Hummus (and Some Suggestions on how to Spice it Up!)
Hummus is so delicious and easy to make at home that you’ll be wondering why you’ve been settling for store-bought all this time. This basic recipe for hummus uses canned chickpeas, but it’s also a great way to use dried chickpeas that have been overcooked. Once you’ve mastered this basic hummus recipe you can create your own variations on the classic dip (or try one of the suggestions below).
- One 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained OR scant 2 cups of overcooked chickpeas
- Juice of one lemon
- ¼ cup tahini*
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced**
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil + more for drizzling
- 1 tsp. cumin
- ½ tsp. kosher salt + more to taste
- 2 to 4 Tbsp. iced water***
- Small handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
*Tahini is a thick paste made from ground sesame seeds. It has a nutty smell and flavor and is an important ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking. Tahini can separate easily, so stir in the top layer of oil before using. **The garlic used in hummus will become significantly stronger after even a day in the fridge. If you plan on having leftovers, restrain yourself to a single clove of garlic. Your loved ones will thank you! ***Using iced water helps with emulsion, resulting in a hummus that is whipped and rich.
- Food processor
- Measuring spoons
- Shallow bowl for serving
- Add the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, cumin, and salt to a food processor. Blitz until smooth (this may take several minutes), scraping down the sides with a spatula as needed.
- Beginning with 2 tablespoons of iced water and using up to 4 tablespoons, pulse the chickpea mixture until completely emulsified. The hummus should have a texture like whipped clay and be completely smooth.
- Transfer the hummus to a shallow serving dish and serve at room temperature with warm pita bread or crudites. Top the hummus with a dusting of paprika, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.
Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, you can play with these and other variations to find your favorite.
Add 1 teaspoon of Ras el Hanout and one preserved lemon. Top with cilantro and mint.
Sweet Potato Hummus
Add the flesh of one steamed or roasted sweet potato and the juice of one orange (in place of the lemon juice). Top with Aleppo pepper.
Add the flesh of one avocado, 1 teaspoon chili powder, the juice of one lime (in place of the lemon juice), and top with chopped tomatoes, red onions, and cilantro. Like the convenience of single servings? Make sticking to your meal plan easy with pre-portioned hummus packs like these made by Sabra.
Basic Roasted Chickpea Recipe
Roasted chickpeas can be seasoned with wide variety of herbs and spices, making them an easily customizable snack for any occasion. When making roasted chickpeas it’s important to ensure the chickpeas are completely dry before adding the oil and seasoning or they will end up with a soggy coating and a mushy texture. Watch the chickpeas carefully as they are roasting as they can go from undercooked to burned in a matter of minutes. Store roasted chickpeas in an airtight lidded contained away from direct sunlight for up to two weeks.
Yield: 4 Snack-Size Servings
- One 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and patted dry
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- ½ tsp. kosher salt + more to taste
- Your choice of seasoning: smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, Italian seasoning, dill, herbes de Provence, curry powder, za’atar, or garlic powder
- Paper towel or clean tea towel
- Mixing bowl
- Large spoon or spatula
- Parchment paper
- Rimmed baking sheet
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Dry the chickpeas completely, rolling them in between two paper towels or in a clean tea towel.
- Transfer the chickpeas to a mixing bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the chickpeas and add the kosher salt and your favorite herbs and spices. Taste a chickpea before roasting to see if they need more salt or other seasoning.
- Spread the chickpeas in a single layer on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.
- Roast the chickpeas for 30 to 40 minutes, giving the baking sheet a good shake once or twice to ensure the chickpeas are evenly roasted.
- Remove the chickpeas from the oven and enjoy them hot or at room temperature.
Need roasted chickpeas on the go? Li recommends the Balsamic & Cracked Pepper chickpeas from Three Farmers. Her favorite way to use them? “I absolutely love them topped on my salads as croutons!”