Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, have been a staple in global cuisine for thousands of years.
They have an impressive pedigree; archaeological evidence reveals chickpeas were used as a food source in the Middle East as early as 7,500 years ago.
Their popularity has spread far and wide since then, with chickpeas featuring prominently in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian, and African cuisines, among others.
Read also: Best Chickpeas Substitutes
🔬What are Chickpeas & What are They Made Of?
Chickpeas are legumes that belong to the Fabaceae family, which includes peas and lentils. They grow in pods on a plant and are usually harvested when the pods are dry and the seeds inside have hardened.
There are two main types of chickpeas – the larger, round ‘Kabuli’ type, which is commonly used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, and the smaller, darker ‘Desi’ type, which is used in Indian and African dishes.
Chickpeas are rich in protein, fiber, and a range of vitamins and minerals, including folate, iron, and phosphorous, making them a highly nutritious food choice. They are also a good source of plant-based protein, making them particularly popular among vegetarians and vegans.
👅 What do Chickpeas Taste Like?
Chickpeas have a slightly nutty flavor and a creamy yet firm texture when cooked. Their mild taste makes them excellent at absorbing the flavors of the ingredients they’re cooked with, making them incredibly versatile in the kitchen. Whether they’re used in a spicy curry, a tangy salad, or a savory stew, chickpeas adapt beautifully to a range of different flavor profiles.
💡 What are Chickpeas Good For?
Chickpeas are a wonderfully versatile and nutritious food that can be used in a myriad of dishes. Here are a few inspiring ideas on how to make the most of this humble legume:
- Salads and Grain Bowls: Chickpeas add a delightful crunch and a dose of protein to salads and grain bowls. They pair well with a wide array of ingredients, including fresh vegetables, feta cheese, olives, and various dressings, making it easy to customize your dish to your liking.
- Hummus: This classic Middle Eastern spread is primarily made of chickpeas. Blending them with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil results in a creamy, delicious hummus that’s perfect as a dip or sandwich spread.
- Roasted Chickpeas: Roasting chickpeas in the oven with your favorite spices can create a crunchy, nutritious snack. You can experiment with different seasonings such as paprika, cumin, or chili powder to give your chickpeas a spicy kick.
- Soups and Stews: Adding chickpeas to soups and stews enhances the dish’s nutritional value while adding a pleasing texture. Chickpeas work particularly well in tomato-based soups and brothy stews.
- Wraps and Pitas: Chickpeas can be used as a filling in wraps and pitas, along with other ingredients like lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a drizzle of sauce. The chickpeas add substance and protein, making the wrap or pita a satisfying meal.
- Vegetarian Burgers: Mashing chickpeas and forming them into patties can serve as a great base for vegetarian burgers. You can spice up the chickpea mixture according to your preference and grill the patties for a smoky flavor.
- Pasta Dishes: Chickpeas can be a great addition to pasta dishes, whether it’s a classic spaghetti aglio e olio or a creamy pasta salad. They add a protein boost and a satisfying bite.
- Curries: In Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, chickpeas are often used in curries. The chickpeas absorb the flavors of the curry and give the dish a hearty texture.
- Stir-fries: Chickpeas can also be used in stir-fries along with other vegetables. They add protein to the dish and take on the flavors of the other ingredients.
- Baking: Chickpeas can also be used in baking! From chocolate chip chickpea cookies to chickpea banana bread, these legumes can add moisture and a nutritional boost to baked goods.
- Sauces and Gravies: Chickpeas can be blended and used to thicken sauces and gravies. This not only adds nutritional value to the dish but also helps those on a gluten-free diet find an alternative thickener.
- Risottos and Paellas: Adding chickpeas to risottos or paellas can introduce an extra layer of texture and flavor. Plus, their protein content helps make the dish more filling.
Chickpeas, with their myriad culinary applications, can fit seamlessly into a wide range of recipes, enhancing them not only with their taste and texture but also their remarkable nutritional benefits.
🥘What are Chickpeas Used For?
Chickpeas can be the star of the show or play a supporting role in a variety of dishes. Here are some examples:
Hummus, a popular Middle Eastern dip, has become a global favorite for its creamy texture and savory taste. This dish is made by blending cooked chickpeas with tahini (a paste made from sesame seeds), garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. It’s often served with pita bread or raw veggies for dipping, but it’s also great as a spread in sandwiches and wraps. This chickpea-based delight is not just delicious, but it’s also packed with proteins, fibers, and healthy fats.
Chana masala is a beloved North Indian dish featuring chickpeas as its star ingredient. The chickpeas are simmered in a flavorful sauce made with tomatoes, onions, and a medley of spices including garam masala, coriander, and turmeric. The result is a hearty and warming dish, usually served with rice or flatbread like roti or naan. The rich spices and the creamy texture of chickpeas make this a comfort food par excellence.
Falafel, a famous Middle Eastern street food, are crispy balls or patties made from ground chickpeas mixed with herbs and spices. They are deep-fried to achieve a golden-brown crust and a soft, flavorful interior. Falafels are usually served in a pita wrap with fresh salad, pickled vegetables, and drizzled with tahini sauce. This dish showcases the versatility of chickpeas, transforming them into a delicious and satisfying meat substitute.
Chickpeas are a wonderful addition to salads, providing a boost of protein, fiber, and texture. One popular variation is the Mediterranean chickpea salad, which includes fresh vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions, along with feta cheese and a zesty dressing. Chickpeas lend a satisfying bite and help make the salad a fulfilling meal on its own.
Chickpea soup is a comforting and nourishing dish perfect for colder days. Chickpeas are simmered along with vegetables like carrots, onions, and celery, and herbs until everything is tender and flavorful. The chickpeas not only provide a hearty element to the soup but also help thicken the broth, giving the soup a rich consistency.
Socca is a traditional dish from Nice, France, made from chickpea flour. It’s essentially a thin, savory pancake cooked in an oven or on a griddle. Crispy on the edges and soft in the center, socca can be enjoyed as a snack or appetizer, often garnished with fresh black pepper and rosemary.
Chickpeas make a fantastic main ingredient for various curries. For instance, in the Caribbean, there’s channa and aloo, a curry made with chickpeas and potatoes. There’s also the popular Moroccan dish, chickpea tagine, where chickpeas are slow-cooked with an array of warming spices, vegetables, and often, meat.
Roasted chickpeas make a nutritious and delightful snack that’s both flavorful and easy to make. Simply toss the chickpeas in your choice of spices and a bit of oil, and then roast them in the oven until they’re crispy. They are a great alternative to popcorn or potato chips, offering a satisfying crunch with much more protein and fiber.
Chickpeas have also made their way into the world of pasta. Chickpea pasta, made from chickpea flour, is a gluten-free option that’s gaining popularity due to its high protein content and lower carb levels compared to traditional wheat pasta. Its texture and taste are similar to regular pasta, and it pairs well with all kinds of sauces and toppings, from classic marinara to creamy alfredo.
For a meat-free alternative to traditional hamburgers, chickpeas can be mashed and combined with vegetables, spices, and a binding agent to form patties. These are then cooked until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Chickpea burgers are not just a fantastic option for vegetarians and vegans but also for anyone looking to incorporate more plant-based proteins into their diet.
Chickpeas and chickpea flour are becoming popular in baking for those looking for gluten-free alternatives. From chickpea chocolate chip cookies to chickpea banana bread, these legumes can add moisture and a nutritional boost to your baked goods. You can even use the aquafaba (the water from a can of chickpeas) as a vegan substitute for eggs in some baking recipes.
Chickpeas can also be included in stir-fries. Their nutty flavor pairs well with a variety of vegetables and sauces, and their texture holds up well to high-heat cooking methods. Plus, they add a nice protein boost to the dish.
From dips and salads to hearty mains and even in baking, chickpeas prove to be a truly versatile ingredient. Not only do they add a delicious taste and texture to a wide array of dishes, but they also bring significant nutritional benefits, making them a favorite in kitchens around the world.