How to Use Chickpeas in Cooking

Chickpeas, versatile and nutrient-rich, have long been a staple in various cuisines around the world.

Whether you’re a novice in the kitchen or an experienced chef, understanding how to use chickpeas in your cooking can add both substance and variety to your meals.

The legume, also known as garbanzo beans, holds its shape well when cooked, making it ideal for adding texture to salads, stews, and other dishes.

Chickpeas being poured from a can into a colander, rinsed under running water, and then placed in a mixing bowl with various spices and ingredients

Preparing chickpeas is straightforward, with options to use either canned chickpeas for convenience or dried chickpeas for a more economical and less processed choice.

If opting for dried, they will require soaking—either overnight for a gentle softening or a quick soak method if you’re short on time.

Once soaked, the chickpeas are drained and simmered until tender, ready to be incorporated into your recipe.

Using chickpeas in cooking extends beyond just the basics of preparation. These beans can be transformed into a creamy hummus, roasted for a crunchy snack, or incorporated into veggie burgers for a hearty meal.

With a mild, nutty flavor, chickpeas can easily adopt the taste of the seasonings and ingredients they’re paired with, making them an incredibly adaptable component in a wide array of dishes.

Types of Chickpeas and Their Uses

Chickpeas are a versatile ingredient that come in various forms, each suited to different culinary applications. Understanding the characteristics and best uses of each type can enhance your cooking skills.

Dried Chickpeas

Dried chickpeas require soaking, either overnight or using a quick-soak method by boiling and then standing for an hour.

After soaking, they typically need about 45 minutes to an hour to cook.

Dried chickpeas are ideal for hummus, stews, and salads where you require a firmer, more textured bean.

Canned Chickpeas

Canned chickpeas are pre-cooked and ready to use, making them a convenient choice.

They are softer than cooked dried chickpeas and best used in dishes that don’t require chickpeas to maintain their shape, such as soups or as a quick addition to salads.

Chickpea Flour

Chickpea flour, also known as besan or gram flour, is ground from dried chickpeas.

It is gluten-free and rich in protein, making it a popular thickener for soups, a base for batters, or to make flatbreads and pancakes.

Desi Chana and Kabuli Variants

There are two main variants of chickpeas: Desi Chana and Kabuli.

Desi Chana has smaller, darker seeds with a rough coat, commonly used in Indian dishes like chana masala.

Kabuli chickpeas are larger, lighter in color, and have a smoother coat, typically used in Mediterranean dishes such as falafel or roasted as a snack.

Preparatory Techniques

Before cooking with chickpeas, proper preparation ensures the best texture and taste.

Whether you have time to pre-soak overnight or need a quicker method, the following techniques will guide you through the soaking and cooking processes.

Soaking Dried Chickpeas

To properly soak dried chickpeas, cover them with water by at least 3 inches to accommodate their expansion.

Soak them overnight or for a minimum of 24 hours.

This gradual absorption of water helps to reduce cooking time and improves their digestibility.

Quick Soak Method

If time is limited, the quick soak method can expedite the process:

  1. Place chickpeas in a pot and cover with 6 cups of water.
  2. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.
  4. Drain the chickpeas and they’re ready for cooking.

Cooking Pre-Soaked Chickpeas

After your chickpeas have soaked, follow these steps to cook them:

  1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas after soaking.
  2. Transfer them to a large pot and cover with fresh water by a few inches.
  3. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  4. Check for tenderness; once they’ve reached your desired texture, they’re ready to use.

Using Instant Pot for Chickpeas

Using an Instant Pot can make cooking chickpeas faster and more convenient:

  • Add pre-soaked chickpeas with enough water to cover.
  • For firm chickpeas, set the Instant Pot on high for 3 hours.
  • For softer chickpeas, set it on high for 4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

Culinary Applications

Chickpeas, with their nutty taste and grainy texture, provide a solid base for various dishes across many types of cuisine. Their nutritional profile and versatility have made chickpeas a staple ingredient in vegetarian and vegan cooking, as well as a valued component in meat-based dishes.

Salads and Cold Dishes

You can use chickpeas to add a protein-packed dimension to your salads.

For a Mashed Chickpea Salad, mash chickpeas and mix them with creamy dressing, onions, and herbs.

Looking for a unique twist? Prepare a Chickpea Tuna Salad by combining chickpeas with flaked tuna, vegetables, and a light dressing.

A Curried Chickpea Salad offers a burst of flavor with its mix of curry spices, yogurt or vegan mayo, and crunchy veggies.

  • Mashed Chickpea Salad:
    • Mash chickpeas with mayo or yogurt
    • Add onions, celery, garlic powder, and fresh dill
  • Chickpea Tuna Salad:
    • Combine chickpeas, canned tuna, chopped onions, and diced bell peppers
    • Season with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper
  • Curried Chickpea Salad:
    • Mix chickpeas with curry powder, vegan mayo or yogurt, diced apples, and raisins
    • Chill before serving for deeper flavors

Soups and Stews

Beyond salads, chickpeas are excellent in soups and stews. They thicken the broth and contribute to a heartier meal.

You can simmer chickpeas in a tomato-based broth with spices for a simple yet delectable Chickpea Stew, or blend them into a creamy Chickpea Soup that’s both comforting and nutrient-dense.

  • Chickpea Stew:
    • Sauté onions, garlic, carrots, then add chickpeas, tomatoes, broth, and seasonings
    • Cook until the vegetables are tender and the flavors meld
  • Chickpea Soup:
    • Cook chickpeas with garlic, onions, broth until tender
    • Blend until smooth, then warm with cream or coconut milk

Main Courses

When it comes to main courses, chickpeas are a powerhouse. They effortlessly become the star of the dish or a substantial side.

You can create a variety of chickpea recipes, such as falafel, chana masala, or chickpea curry, each boasting rich flavors and textures that cater to diverse palates.

  • Chana Masala:
    • Sauté chickpeas with onions, tomatoes, garam masala, cumin, and coriander
    • Simmer until chickpeas are soft and the sauce thickens
  • Chickpea Curry:
    • Fry mustard seeds, curry leaves, then add chickpeas, coconut milk, and spices
    • Serve over rice or with flatbreads like naan

Snacking and Appetizers

Chickpeas are also a smart choice for snacks and appetizers.

One popular choice is crafting a smooth Hummus Recipe, or roasting chickpeas with spices for a crispy, savory treat.

Their ability to absorb flavors and their satisfying crunch make them an excellent snack option.

  • Hummus Recipe:
    • Blend cooked chickpeas with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil
    • Serve with vegetables, pita bread, or as a creamy spread
  • Spicy Roasted Chickpeas:
    • Toss chickpeas with olive oil, your choice of spices, and roast until crispy
    • Enjoy as a snack or garnish for soups and salads

Special Diets and Health Considerations

A chef adds chickpeas to a vibrant stir-fry, showcasing their versatility in healthy cooking. Ingredients like vegetables and spices surround the chickpeas, emphasizing their role in special diets and health-conscious meals

When incorporating chickpeas into your diet, you can easily align with various dietary restrictions and health goals.

Whether you’re following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, managing celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or focusing on protein intake, chickpeas offer a versatile and nutritious solution.

Vegan and Vegetarian Alternatives

For vegan and vegetarian diets, chickpeas serve as a robust source of plant-based protein.

You can substitute chickpeas for animal-based ingredients in recipes like burgers, meatballs, or stews. Use them to create hearty, satisfying meals that align with a meat-free diet.

  • Vegan Chickpea Burger: Mash chickpeas and mix with spices, breadcrumbs, and a binding agent like flax egg to form patties.
  • Vegetarian Chickpea Stew: Simmer chickpeas with tomatoes, vegetables, and spices for a filling entrée.

Gluten-Free Cooking

Chickpeas are a gluten-free staple that can enrich your culinary experience without the risk of gluten contamination.

Their versatility extends to flours and other derivatives, offering a safe and flavorful alternative in gluten-free baking and cooking.

  • Gluten-Free Baking: Use chickpea flour as a substitute for wheat flour in recipes for bread, pancakes, or pizza crust.
  • Cooking Thickener: Utilize chickpea flour to thicken soups and sauces without introducing gluten.

Using Chickpeas as a Healthy Protein Source

Chickpeas contribute a high-quality, healthy protein that is essential for muscle repair and growth.

They are also packed with fiber, aiding in digestion and potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.

  • Salads: Add chickpeas to your salads for an extra protein boost.
  • Snacks: Roast chickpeas with seasonings for a crunchy, protein-rich snack.

Cooking Methods and Tips

When cooking chickpeas, you have several methods at your disposal, each offering different textures and flavors.

Your choice of method will depend on the time you have and the equipment at hand. Here’s how to master each technique for perfect chickpeas every time.

Stovetop Simmering

To cook chickpeas on the stovetop, first soak them overnight, then drain and rinse.

Add your chickpeas to a pot and cover with several inches of water. Bring the water to a boil before reducing to a simmer.

Cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until they reach your preferred tenderness.

Ensure the pot remains covered and add more water if needed to keep the chickpeas submerged.

Slow Cooker

Using a slow cooker provides a hands-off approach.

You don’t need to pre-soak the chickpeas, but if you do, the cooking time will be reduced.

Place the chickpeas in the cooker and cover them with water.

Set your slow cooker to high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours.

There’s no need to watch over them; just make sure there’s enough water so they don’t dry out.

Baking and Roasting

For a crispy outcome, baking and roasting chickpeas are great options.

Preheat your oven to 400°F (204°C).

After soaking and boiling your chickpeas, dry them thoroughly, toss them with a bit of oil and your favorite seasonings, then spread them out on a baking sheet.

Roast for 20-30 minutes until crispy, making sure to stir them occasionally for even cooking.

Instant Pot and Pressure Cooker

If you’re short on time, the pressure cooker method is highly efficient.

In an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, combine your soaked or unsoaked chickpeas with water and a pinch of baking soda to soften their skins.

Cook on high pressure for 40-50 minutes for soaked chickpeas, or 50-60 minutes if they haven’t been soaked.

Let the pressure release naturally before opening.

Flavoring and Seasoning

Chickpeas being sprinkled with various seasonings and flavorings in a kitchen setting

Chickpeas are a versatile canvas for a wide array of flavors and seasonings. Ensuring they’re well seasoned can elevate your dish from good to exceptional.

The key lies in understanding how to effectively use spices, oils, and marinades to enhance the natural nuttiness of chickpeas.

Adding Spices and Herbs

To infuse chickpeas with rich flavors, incorporate a variety of spices and herbs into your preparation.

Start with foundational spices like cumin for its earthy warmth and garlic cloves for a pungent kick.

For a simple yet profound impact, toss your chickpeas with kosher salt, minced garlic cloves, and a combination of dried oregano and thyme.

Alternatively, consider enhancing freshness with chopped fresh herbs; add them towards the end of cooking to preserve their volatile oils and delicate flavors.

Salting and Using Oils

Salt is essential in seasoning chickpeas; it amplifies other flavors and should be used judiciously.

Opt for kosher salt for its ability to dissolve easily and offer a clean, unadulterated taste.

Pairing salt with olive oil not only helps spices adhere to the chickpeas but also adds a subtle fruity undertone.

For roasted chickpeas, drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with salt before baking; this ensures a crispy exterior and well-seasoned bite.

Creating Marinades and Dressings

Marinades and dressings can transform chickpeas into a flavor-packed component of your meal.

Create a marinade by whisking together olive oil, a splash of acid like lemon juice or vinegar, your preferred spices, and minced garlic.

Let the chickpeas soak to absorb the flavors before cooking.

Dressings can be drizzled over cooked chickpeas to add a zesty finish.

Consider a dressing that balances acidity, sweetness, and savory notes to complement the creamy texture of the chickpeas.

Storing and Preservation

Proper storage of chickpeas maximizes their shelf life and preserves quality, ensuring they are ready for use when you need them. Here’s how to maintain the freshness of cooked chickpeas, effectively freeze them, and utilize their by-product, aquafaba.

Storing Cooked Chickpeas

Once you’ve cooked your chickpeas, it’s essential to store them correctly to retain their texture and flavor.

Cool the chickpeas to room temperature before placing them into an airtight container.

Ensure they are completely dry to inhibit bacterial growth.

Refrigeration is ideal, and stored this way, your cooked chickpeas can last for 4-5 days.

  • Refrigeration Checklist:
    • Cool to room temperature
    • Dry thoroughly
    • Use an airtight container
    • Consume within 4-5 days

Freezing Techniques

For long-term storage, freezing cooked chickpeas is an efficient option.

Spread your chickpeas on a tray and freeze them initially for a few hours.

Once frozen, transfer them to freezer bags or containers.

They can be stored for up to 6 months, and this process helps maintain quality and reduces clumping.

  • Freezing Steps:
    • Initial freeze on a tray
    • Transfer to freezer-safe bags
    • Label with date
    • Store for up to 6 months

Utilizing Aquafaba

Aquafaba, the liquid from cooked chickpeas, is a valuable vegan substitute for eggs in many recipes.

Store aquafaba in a clear, sealed container in the fridge for up to three days or freeze it in ice cube trays for easy portioning.

Remember, three tablespoons of aquafaba is roughly equivalent to one egg.

  • Aquafaba Storage:
    • Fridge: Sealed container, up to 3 days
    • Freezer: Ice cube trays for portioning
    • Pro Tip: Label containers with the date of storage.

Innovative Chickpea Recipes

Chickpeas are incredibly versatile, serving as a staple ingredient in a diverse array of global recipes.

From authentic Middle Eastern dishes to contemporary fusion creations, chickpeas are your ticket to nutritious and flavorsome eating.

Global Dishes

Chickpeas take center stage in a variety of global dishes that showcase the legume’s adaptability.

Explore the rich flavors of Moroccan cooking with a traditional Moroccan couscous entwined with chickpeas, or experience the heartiness of an Italian farinata; a chickpea-based pancake that exudes rustic charm.

These recipes not only provide a deep dive into cultural cuisine but also offer healthful benefits.

  • Moroccan Couscous:
    • Blend cooked chickpeas with fluffy couscous, raisins, and a mix of warming spices like cumin and cinnamon.
    • Garnish with toasted almonds and fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley.
  • Italian Farinata:
    • Combine chickpea flour with water and olive oil, pour into a hot skillet, and bake until set.
    • Season with rosemary and sea salt for a crisp, golden finish.

Authentic Middle Eastern Fare

Embrace the essence of Middle Eastern cuisines with chickpea-centric dishes like falafel and hummus.

Falafel are deep-fried balls crafted from ground chickpeas and herbs, famously served in warm pita bread with tahini sauce.

Chana masala, a curry beloved in Indian cuisine, incorporates chickpeas in a tangy tomato-based sauce.

  • Falafel:
    • Blend together chickpeas, garlic, onions, parsley, and spices, shape into balls, and deep-fry until golden.
    • Serve in pita with vegetables and drizzle with creamy tahini sauce.
  • Chana Masala:
    • Sauté chickpeas with tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, and a bounty of Indian spices like garam masala and turmeric.
    • Enjoy with rice or flatbread for a warm, comforting meal.

Contemporary Twists and Fusion

Modern fusion recipes breathe new life into chickpeas, pairing them with unexpected companions for a fresh take on Mediterranean cooking and beyond.

A healthy snack option might be crispy roasted chickpeas with various seasonings, while a chickpea pasta dish weaves together classic Italian elements with the robust texture of chickpeas.

  • Crispy Chickpea Snack:
    • Toss chickpeas with olive oil and your choice of spices such as za’atar or smoked paprika, roast until crunchy.
    • Perfect as a stand-alone snack or a garnish for soups and salads.
  • Chickpea Pasta:
    • Utilize chickpea pasta as a protein-rich, gluten-free alternative to traditional pasta.
    • Mix with vibrant veggies, fresh herbs, and a squeeze of lemon for a light yet satisfying meal.

Creative Uses Beyond Cooking

Chickpeas are versatile legumes that stretch far beyond traditional meal prep into the realms of drinks, baked goods, and even non-food applications. Explore these innovative ways to get the most out of chickpeas.

Chickpea-Based Beverages

Aquafaba, the viscous water in which chickpeas have been cooked, serves as a miraculous egg-white substitute. You can use it to craft vegan cocktails such as a frothy whiskey sour or a rich, non-dairy latte.

Simply whip the aquafaba until it’s frothy before incorporating it into your beverage for a delightful foam.

Chickpeas in Baking

Chickpea flour, a gluten-free alternative, is your golden ticket to a range of baked goods. For a start, create sturdy yet tender gluten-free bread or make batter for pancakes.

Remember to mix chickpea flour with a binder, like baking soda, to help your baked goods rise. Using parchment paper will ensure your creations don’t stick to the pan.

  • Bread: Mix 2 cups of chickpea flour with 1 teaspoon of baking soda, water, and salt.
  • Pancakes: Combine 1 cup of chickpea flour with a pinch of salt and enough water to make a batter.

Non-Food Uses of Chickpeas

Did you know you can roast chickpeas for something other than eating? Dried and roasted chickpeas can become biodegradable fillers for packages or a natural alternative to pebbles in potted plants for drainage support.

Spread chickpeas on a tray lined with parchment paper, roast until completely dry, and use as needed.

Remember, when roasting chickpeas for non-food uses, ensure they are fully dehydrated to prevent mold growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

A bowl of chickpeas surrounded by various cooking utensils and ingredients, with a cookbook open to a page on chickpea recipes

In this section, you’ll find concise answers and efficient methods for cooking chickpeas, tailored to both novices and seasoned cooks looking to expand their repertoire.

What are some simple chickpea recipes for beginners?

You can start with the classic hummus, requiring just pureed cooked chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic.

Another beginner-friendly dish is the chickpea salad, mixed with diced vegetables, herbs, and a simple vinaigrette.

Can you suggest some vegetarian dishes that incorporate chickpeas?

Chickpea vegetable stew combines chickpeas with seasonal vegetables in a tomato-based sauce, and a hearty chickpea and spinach curry is both fulfilling and easy to make.

How can chickpeas be prepared for a quick and healthy snack?

For a quick snack, toss cooked chickpeas with olive oil, salt, and your choice of spices, and bake until crispy.

Alternatively, mash them with lemon juice, garlic, and herbs for an instant chickpea sandwich spread.

What are the steps to making a traditional chickpea curry?

Begin by sautéing onions, garlic, and ginger, then add tomatoes, spices, and soaked chickpeas.

Simmer until the chickpeas are tender, and finish with a splash of cream or coconut milk for richness.

How do you roast chickpeas for a crispy, savory treat?

Preheat your oven, dry the cooked chickpeas, then toss them with oil, salt, and your desired seasonings.

Spread them on a baking sheet and roast until golden and crunchy.

What are some Middle Eastern dishes that feature chickpeas prominently?

Chickpeas are the star in dishes like falafel, where they are ground and fried into balls. They’re also essential in chana masala, a spiced, tomato-based dish.

In fattoush salad, they are combined with greens and crispy pita.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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