If I had to choose one staple food that defines Middle Eastern cuisine, it would be chickpeas! From world famous dishes like hummus and falafel to nutritious salads and stews, chickpea is an important and very versatile ingredient.
In this article, you will learn more about chickpeas, its uses and benefits, cooking techniques and some delicious Middle Eastern recipe ideas.
What are Chickpeas?
Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are part of the large legume family which includes both beans and lentils. Chickpeas are believed to originate in the Middle East where they have been cultivated since 3000 BCE.
Today, chickpeas are grown and used in many parts of the world. They are a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian and North African cuisines.
There are several varieties of chickpeas. The two common ones are the big cream-colored Egyptian chickpea and the smaller dark brown ones. The cream-colored one is by far the most common and is what you’ll need for most recipes calling for chickpeas.
Garbanzo Beans vs Chickpeas
Chickpeas and garbanzo beans are the same thing! In fact, they are synonyms and refer to the exact same thing. The name garbanzo bean is derived from Spanish, while chickpea is the common English name.
What Do Chickpeas Taste Like?
Chickpeas have an earthy, slightly starchy taste with a nutty and buttery flavor. The more they are cooked, the milder they are in taste. What’s great about chickpeas is that they absorb the flavor of other ingredients and spices easily. That said, you can create many dishes with a very distinct taste all with chickpeas as their main ingredient.
Substitute for Chickpeas
White Beans are the closest to chickpeas and perhaps the best substitute. White kidney beans (cannellini beans) and lima beans are the most comparable to chickpeas in terms of look and taste.
Benefits of Chickpeas
Chickpeas are a nutrient-dense legume. They are rich in proteins, slow-releasing carbs, fiber, iron, minerals, B vitamins and healthy fats. It’s the perfect plant food to keep your cholesterol and sugar levels normal.
As a fiber rich food, chickpeas are particularly filling which means you’ll not get hungry anytime soon after having a bowl of chickpeas.
Chickpeas are naturally gluten-free. For this reason, chickpea flour (gram flour) makes a great alternative for anyone intolerant to gluten.
Dried Chickpeas vs. Canned Chickpeas
Chickpeas can be purchased dried or canned. Both have their advantages and drawbacks.
Dried chickpeas have a better taste and can easily be bought in bulk. The only downside to dried chickpeas is they need to be soaked overnight before you can use them. For most dishes, you then have to boil the chickpeas for at least 45 minutes.
Canned chickpeas are pre-cooked and ready to use. This makes them a convenient solution when you’re short on time or would like to make chickpeas spontaneously. I generally use canned chickpeas when I only need a small quantity. In larger quantities, they are more expensive when compared to dried chickpeas. Last but not least, canned chickpeas don’t taste as good as freshly cooked dried chickpeas.
How to Cook Chickpeas?
Since canned chickpeas are pre-cooked and ready to use, the following steps refer to dried chickpeas. Dried chickpeas can be cooked in multiple ways: on the stovetop or in the pressure cooker (Instant pot).
Stovetop cooking is probably the most used method, as you can cook your chickpeas in a simple saucepan (see pressure cooker / Instant method directions below).
Soak the Chickpeas
Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and fill it up with water. Add at least 4 cups of water for 1 cup of chickpeas, as the chickpeas will double in size by the next day. Soak overnight (12-24 hours).
Drain the Soaked Chickpeas
Drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse them with cold water.
Cook the Chickpeas
Transfer the chickpeas to a large saucepan and add plenty of water. Be sure to add at least 3-4 times the amount of water. Using hot water from the tab or the kettle is recommended to bring to a boil faster. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to medium.
Add Baking Soda (Optional)
The cooking time depends on how tender you want your chickpeas to be. Cook them for 45-60 minutes to have tender chickpeas for salad or stews. For hummus (chickpea dip), they need to be very tender (almost mushy), which is achieved with a cooking time of 75-90 minutes. To soften the chickpeas while cooking, you can add some baking soda halfway.
Drain the Cooked Chickpeas
Drain the cooked chickpeas in a colander. Use for salads, stews or process into a dip (such as hummus).
Chickpea Cooking Time
Depending on how tender you’d like your chickpeas to be, the cooking time of soaked dried chickpeas is 45-60 minutes (tender) to 75-90 minutes (very tender).
A pressure cooker or Instant pot greatly reduces the cooking time. If you have a pressure cooker, it will take about 13-15 minutes to cook dried chickpeas. If you want them very tender you can cook them a little longer (18-20 mins).
Dried chickpeas (uncooked) usually last for several years. Store them in a dry cool place. I usually transfer them into an airtight container and store them in my pantry after opening a new bag.
Cooked chickpeas store well for 3-4 days in the fridge and up to a month in the freezer.
Recipes with Chickpeas
- Hummus (Middle Eastern chickpea dip)
- Falafel (Middle Eastern deep-fried chickpea patties)
- Ful Medames (Breakfast stew made from fava beans and chickpeas)
Any Questions or Feedback?
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How to Cook Chickpeas
- 200 g (1 cup) dried chickpeas
- 1 l (4.23 cups) water for soaking
- 1.5 l (6 cups) water for boiling
- 1 tsp baking soda optional, helps soften the chickpeas
- Place the chickpeas in a large bowl. Fill up with water (at least 4 cups of water for 1 cup of chickpeas). Soak overnight (12-24 hours). The chickpeas will double in size by the next day.
- Drain the chickpeas in a colander. Rinse with cold water.
- Transfer the chickpeas to a large saucepan. Add plenty of hot water to the saucepan (at least 3-4 times the amount). Bring to a boil on high heat.
- Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to medium.
- Depending on how tender you want them to be, the cooking time varies. Cook the chickpeas for 45-60 minutes to have them tender enough for salad or stews. For hummus, they need to be very tender (almost mushy), which is achieved with a cooking time of 75-90 minutes. Optionally, add some baking soda halfway through (helps soften the chickpeas).
- The recipe outline above suggests cooking the chickpeas in a conventional saucepan, which is what most people have at home. You can also use a pressure cooker or Instant Pot instead (omit the baking soda in that case!). Cooking chickpeas in a pressure cooker will take about 13-15 minutes (tender) or 18-20 minutes (very tender).
Nutrition information is only a rough estimate and may vary depending on factors such as the cooking method, exact weight, type, and brand of ingredients used.