At my Sitti’s house, no meal is complete without a platter of hummus and chopped vegetables to start. And that’s a fact.
Chickpeas have dominated Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years. Falafel, hummus, couscous salad with a little feta, chicken fatteh, need I go on?
Nowadays, they’re a staple in most pantries, in either dried or canned form, thanks to their high protein content and versatile nature.
But hey – if you’re new to this chickpea business, let me be the first to say, welcome! Your world of snacks and meals just got a whole lot bigger.
What is a Chickpea?
Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum) have been keeping us full for a long time.
Traces of chickpeas were found in the Middle East, dating back to 9,500 years ago!
It’s also thought that chickpeas were first grown in Mesopotamia around 7,500 years ago. Which means that chickpeas are one of the earliest cultivated veggies on earth. Not just legumes – vegetables!
So, what makes them so special?
These beans grow on small, flowering bushes that, if conditions allowed, would produce fruit forever.
That’s right! These tiny plants could produce flowers and beans for years on end, so long as there’s enough sun. Every gardener’s dream come true.
Chickpeas fall under the pulse family, which are all edible and dry legumes.
Other pulses include lentils, split peas, and dried kidney beans. Eat-fresh varieties like green beans, of course, don’t make the cut.
In the family Fabaceae and subfamily Faboideae, chickpeas grow in small green pods alongside short delicate leaves. These pods can hold up to three chickpeas.
These bushes produce white or red flowers that either have pink, blue, or violet veins running through them. In my opinion, they look a little like tiny orchids.
There are two different types of chickpeas:
Desi and Kabuli
Desi peas are smaller and can range from light tan to black. There are even ones that are green! However, only the coat is colored.
The coat is removed in a process called decortication, after which the inner pea is revealed to be a plain yellow color.
Kabuli peas, on the other hand, are bigger and tend to stay in the cream and tan range of colors.
Although chickpeas are a known staple in Middle Easter cuisine, most of the world’s chickpeas are now grown in India.
What Can I Expect When Trying Chickpeas?
Depends on how you’re making them. If you’re eating them raw, say in a salad, the texture will be different than if you were to roast them.
In general, chickpeas have a very mild flavor profile, most like cannellini or Great Northern beans. They are a very versatile, protein-filled ingredient.
You can eat them straight out of the can, roast them, sauté them, boil them, and even turn them into flour.
Did I mention you can bake them, say into blondies? Your imagination will love chickpeas.
When roasted, chickpeas can be very crunchy and firm, like corn nuts.
Lightly cooked, they retain their slight give and softer nature. They aren’t marshmallows, to be sure, but they’re not stiff or hard either.
Are Chickpeas and Garbanzo Beans the Same Thing?
Yes! But while all garbanzo beans are chickpeas, the opposite is not true.
There are two main chickpea classifications: Desi chickpeas and Kabuli chickpeas. Desi chickpeas tend to be smaller and can vary in color, whereas Kabuli chickpeas are bigger and have thinner shells.
If you’re in the store and see a can labeled “garbanzo beans,” they’re Kabuli peas, not some other legume masquerading as a chickpea.
What Do Roasted Chickpeas Taste Like?
Frankly, it depends on if you cook them right or not. I’ve poorly roasted many a sheet pan full of chickpeas in my life, and they wind up being a bit chewy instead of crunchy.
However, when done right, roasted chickpeas are dry, crunchy bites of joy.
I love seasoning mine with heaps of garlic and onion powder, plus cumin, chili powder, and paprika to spice things up.
While achieving the perfect level of crunch can be difficult, I promise it’s worth a shot.
What Does Hummus Taste Like?
As someone who grew up eating hummus and its many iterations, I cannot possibly begin to express my voracious love for this dish on this page. I will, therefore, whip up another batch this weekend and call it good.
Your basic hummus combines chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and salt, then blends ‘till smooth.
Some folks add sumac or red peppers to their recipes for a nice twist, but I say you can’t go wrong with the basics.
Hummus encompasses the tahini, oil, and lemon flavors, with the chickpeas acting as a smooth base.
However, depending on the recipe or your own personal tastes, you may increase the amount of lemon juice or salt to fit your needs better.
I love throwing a spoonful of hummus into a salad to add fat and protein, serving it as a dip for a snack, or simply eating it straight out of the bowl with a hunk of pita bread.
It’s especially wonderful for plant-based eaters or folks who struggle to eat enough protein.
Simple, delicious, easy, and you can freeze it? This half-Lebanese food writer approves!
If you're already a hummus novice, these four unique and simple chickpea recipes can definitely help change up your weekly meal plan.
Can You Eat Raw Chickpeas?
Well, you could, but I doubt you’d enjoy the after-effects.
Raw chickpeas contain a sugar called oligosaccharides that humans can’t digest. So, when eaten raw, chickpeas can cause intestinal discomfort, stomach aches, or general abdominal pain. No good!
Luckily, the cooking process removes most of the oligosaccharides and lectin, a toxin that most raw legumes contain.
While canned chickpeas are cooked pre-packaging, their dried counterparts are not.
So, dried chickpeas are not safe to eat straight out of the bag, as they may cause an upset stomach while also potentially chipping a tooth.
How Do You Cook Dried Chickpeas?
While dried chickpeas require more time and effort than canned ones, they do come with their own pros.
Since you’ll be the one cooking them, you get to control the texture of the beans.
Do you prefer them soft? More firm?
That may also depend on the recipe:
Softer beans work better in spreads like hummus, whereas firmer ones are a nice addition to a pasta salad.
There are a few hacks to cooking dried chickpeas involving Instant Pots and Crockpots. Check out this youtube video if you have an Instant Pot.
For today, let’s level the playing field and assume everyone only has water, a bowl, and a pot to work with.
After sorting through the beans and picking out any debris, toss them in a bowl, add lots of cold water, cover it all, and put it in the fridge overnight.
**While 12 hours is best, you can also speed up the process should the need arise.
Remove your beans from the fridge, rinse them in cold water and drain well.
Then put them in a pot and cover them with a few inches of fresh water.
Next, you’ll bring the pot to a boil, cook them for one minute, and then take it off the heat, cover, and let sit for one hour.
Drain your rehydrated chickpeas and throw them in a big pot. Cover them with water (about twice as high as the chickpeas) and bring it all to a boil.
Finally, you’ll cover the pot, turn the heat down low, and let the beans simmer for an hour or so, depending on your textural preferences. Drain and cool once they are to your liking.
Do Canned Chickpeas Taste Different Than Dried Chickpeas?
In general, most folks actually prefer dried chickpeas to canned ones.
Why? The flavor and texture, of course!
While the beans remain the same, canned chickpeas are soaked in aquafaba and, well, come as they are.
Dried beans, on the other hand, are cooked at home to whatever texture you desire, without any of that aquafaba flavor.
If you have the time, try soaking dried chickpeas overnight and see if you can tell the difference.
Are Chickpeas Good For You?
Short answer: yes.
Long answer: still yes.
Chickpeas are a great source of protein and fiber, but that’s not all.
They’ve also got loads of healthy unsaturated fatty acids, amino acids, and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
And I mean, tons of potassium. Like, 276mg of potassium per serving! Whew!
They’re high in fiber, starches, and more; these tiny powerhouses have come to save the day.
What Can You Do With the Chickpea Water?
That “chickpea water” is actually a liquid called aquafaba, and it has lots of interesting properties associated with it!
Since aquafaba is the liquid the beans are cooked in, it’s very starchy and acts as a great binding agent.
Best of all, though, is its ability to trap air. Yes! Like egg whites, you can whip aquafaba into a stiff foam to fluff up any of your favorite recipes.
Check out this awesome youtube video to dive into the world of aquafaba.
For example, I reserve and freeze leftover aquafaba to replace eggs in baking recipes, or use as a base for a mousse. They foam and fluff up very easily, which makes them an ideal addition to baked goods.
If you’re craving a vegan meringue or marshmallow, try to use aquafaba as a replacement! You’ll need to whisk it first to ensure it’s fully aerated and foamy before folding it into the rest of the ingredients.
Dried or canned, chickpeas will come in clutch when you need a serious protein hit.
Serve them blended and smooth as a rich hummus, dried and ground in falafel, or thrown into a veggie-filled curry to fill your belly. Falafel with a side of Tzatziki is sounding really good right about now.
Just remember to never eat them raw! They come cooked and canned for a reason!
Of course, you can always rehydrate and cook your own beans, often achieving a better taste and texture. To each their own!
I’m off to make another batch of hummus; what will you be cooking tonight?