Ahhh, the lowly chickpea.
Masquerading as a simple dried bean, garbanzos are actually a powerhouse of protein eaten all over the world. Its subtle flavor belies its role as the key ingredient in Arabic hummus, Indian chana dal, and a panoply of soups, stews and curries.
Dried and ground into flour, we find Middle Eastern falafel, the Sicilian fritters panelle and the East Indian sweet laddu. The simplest recipe consists of chickpeas soaked overnight, spiced and roasted or sautéed, eaten as a snack called leblebi in Arabic and delicious in any language. In some parts of Mexico, the green pods, guasanas, are steamed, salted and eaten like the more common edamame made from soybeans.
It was difficult to choose recipes as there are just so many. (And we won’t even talk about aquafaba — the liquid left after cooking chickpeas or in a can of garbanzos — that can be whipped like egg whites to make meringue.)
You’ll find dried chickpeas in bulk in almost every grocery store, in the produce section, bagged ones in the bean aisle and canned ones with the other canned frijoles. Chickpea flour is harder to find, depending on where you live; try a health food store or the “gourmet” aisle in a big grocery store. Called garbanzos in Spanish, they’re inexpensive and a good staple to keep on hand.
If you haven’t cooked with chickpeas, try adding them to any simple soup or stew, like chicken noodle or minestrone, or sprinkling them in a salad. If you’re a toast or hors d’oeuvre aficionado, hummus is surprisingly easy to make. And the first recipe, for sautéed chickpeas, is an all-round winner.
While you can substitute canned chickpeas for cooked dried ones, for some dishes the results won’t taste quite the same. Garbanzos don’t need as much cooking as other dried beans, though (generally about two hours), and if you soak them overnight or for eight hours the cooking time will be shortened even more.
Crispy Sautéed Chickpeas
I love these for breakfast, but they’re good for a side dish with any meal. Using dried chickpeas soaked overnight will give you a crispier result than if you use canned ones.
- 1 (15.5-oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed, patted dry, or 2 cups soaked chickpeas
- 2-4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
- ½ tsp. turmeric
- Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
- Optional: ½-inch piece fresh ginger, minced, 1 cup chopped mixed herbs (parsley, cilantro, chives, basil)
Pour oil into a large skillet; add garlic, chickpeas and turmeric and ginger if using.; Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas are crisped and some have split open, 10–15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; stir in herbs, if using.
Fried Chickpeas with Chorizo & Spinach
- ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, as dry as possible
- Salt & pepper
- 4 oz. chorizo, diced
- ½ lb. spinach, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup sherry
- 1- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- Crema for serving
Heat broiler. Heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add chickpeas in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, shaking pan occasionally, until chickpeas begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add chorizo. Continue cooking for 5-8 minutes until chickpeas are crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove chickpeas and chorizo from pan; set aside.
Add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to pan. Add spinach and sherry, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook over medium-low heat until very soft and liquid has evaporated. Add chickpeas and chorizo; toss quickly to combine. Top with breadcrumbs, drizzle with a bit more oil and run pan under broiler to lightly brown the top. Serve hot, topped with crema.
- 1 (15½-oz.) can chickpeas
- 1-2 lemons
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- ½ cup tahini (sesame seed paste), well mixed
- ¾ tsp. salt
- Black pepper
- Optional: ¼ tsp. ground cumin
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- Sesame seeds (for serving)
- Optional: red bell pepper, fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped jalapeños
Drain chickpeas and rinse well. Juice lemons and set aside. Mix tahini, chickpeas, lemon juice, salt and pepper in food processor. Drizzle in olive oil. Process till creamy. Stir in any optional ingredients.
Carol’s Fantastic Chickpea Fritters
These are made with chickpea flour, also called besan flour. I’ve had them several times and they’re truly delicious!
- 1 cup sifted chickpea flour
- Salt & pepper
- 3½ cups water
- Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Put chickpea flour in large saucepan with a pinch of salt and beat in the water gradually. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring continually, for 5-10 minutes until mixture is thick and smooth. Stir vigorously to avoid lumps, covering your hand with a cloth if mixture spatters.
Pour mixture into a shallow baking tray or cookie sheet. Let cool to a slightly rubbery mass.
(Mixture should not stick.) Turn out onto a board and cut into strips 3-inch long by ¾ inch wide. Deep fry in hot oil until golden. Lift out with slotted spoon and allow to drain on paper towels. Serve hot sprinkled with salt and pepper.
Chickpea Fritters #2
These are made with canned chickpeas; a little easier with a slightly different flavor.
- 1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup sliced scallions
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- ½ cup flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. salt
- Olive oil
In a food processor, pulse together chickpeas, scallions and cilantro until a coarse paste forms. Mix in flour, egg, and salt. Heat ¼ inch olive oil in a large skillet over medium high. Add dollops of chickpea mixture to skillet, about 3 Tbsp. each, pressing to form patties. Cook until golden brown on both sides, turning once, about 5 minutes total.
- 1/8 cup plain regular yogurt
- 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
- Salt & pepper
- 1 Tbsp. EACH minced fresh dill, parsley and cilantro, plus more for serving
- 1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed
- 1/3 cup finely diced celery
- ¼ cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts
Combine yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper in small bowl. Whisk until smooth, add herbs, stir to combine. Set aside.
Place chickpeas in large bowl. Use a fork to lightly mash about 1/3 of them. Add celery and scallions. Pour dressing over salad, toss well. Let sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving.
Janet Blaser has been a writer, editor and storyteller her entire life and feels fortunate to be able to write about great food, amazing places, fascinating people and unique events. Her first book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, is available on Amazon. Contact Janet or read her blog at whyweleftamerica.com.