How to Cook Chickpeas

Today’s tip is how to cook chickpeas. The marvelous versatile chickpea is an essential part of the pantry here at mezze & tapas.  I always have both canned and dried varieties on hand. I eat chickpeas every single day in one form or another.  Most often, they are topping my salad at lunch. I also use them when making falafel, many soups, and roasted as a snack.  

Today, I will share a bit of the history of the chickpea.  I’ll cover the many ways to use them in Mediterranean food. I’ll cover the basics about why it is so darn popular and good for you.  And finally, I’ll share my method(s) for soaking and cooking dried chickpeas.  

Ancient and honorable

Chickpeas are  widely used throughout the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia.  They are also known as garbanzo beans, cece beans, Egyptian peas, and chana.  You can also find them in the foods of Latin America and the Philippines.  

The history of chickpeas traces back thousands of years . The earliest discoveries of chickpeas are in stone-age regions of Turkey and the Middle East.  Evidence of chickpeas have been found in ancient Greek and French archaeological sites. In parts of Ethiopia, chickpeas have been cultivated continuously for more than 2,500 years! 

There are references to chickpeas in the the documents of Charlemagne.  The rules laid down for administration of his royal estates specifically reference “chick-peas”.  (See section 70 here). Over the years, chickpeas have been used for their medicinal qualities. They have also been viewed as an aphrodisiac, and used as a substitute for coffee.  

how to cook chickpeas falafel

One of my favorite movies has always been Forrest Gump.  There is something for everyone to love in that naive, loyal and optimistic character.  The scene where Forrest’s Army buddy Bubba recounts all the ways to use shrimp is one of the movie’s more iconic.  I am reminded of that scene whenever I think about chickpeas. Like Bubba’s shrimp, there are untold ways how to cook chickpeas and how to use them.

  • Toss them in olive oil and toast for a healthy snack food
  • Roughly grind chickpeas as the core ingredient for falafel.  
  • Grind into a paste and partner with tahini, it becomes hummus.  
  • Serves chickpeas alongside pasta in ciceri e tria , a dish from Puglia Italy. 
  • There are several traditional soups across the Mediterranean that feature chickpeas. 
    • Try cocido madrileño from Spain, harira from Morocco or revithia from Greece.  
  • Toss cooked chickpeas with seasoning and some cut vegetables for a quick salad
  • Cook and cool chickpeas to be an excellent topping on salads.  They, are a wonderful addition to a traditional Greek salad.  
  • Grind chickpeas finely into a flour.  Use to make pasta or bake with. Garbanzo bean flour has become a popular option of gluten free baking.  
  •  The flour is also used for making a thin crepe like pancake along the Italian and French coasts. 
    • It is called farinata in the Ligurian region of Italy.
    • Along the French Riviera it is referred to as socca.  
  • Although not Mediterranean, one of my favorite uses for the chickpea is the Indian flatbread called Papadam.  In India, the chickpea is called chana.  
Good for you
how to cook chickpeas pasta

Besides being so universal, the chickpea is also very good for you.  They are nutrient rich and high in protein and fiber and low in fat.  They are popular in vegetarian and gluten free diets. Vitamins in a chickpea include B vitamins, iron, manganese, folate, and potassium.  There is evidence to suggest that chickpeas as part of the healthy diet can help in a variety of ways. They may help to control high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and manage weight.  There is also research that suggests chickpeas could help manage diabetes.  

Chickpeas, as well as beans and lentils, are well-known foods with a low glycemic index, making them good choices for diabetes, but new research suggests that eating legumes may actually have a therapeutic effect. 

Cooking Light Magazine

No matter how you look at it, chickpeas are a versatile, healthy and inexpensive addition to your food repertoire.  Whether canned or dried. Canned is a quick and easy option, and I use them frequently for soups. Yet, I find that there are certain places that dried chickpeas are a better option.  I think they offer a better consistency when used in falafel and hummus. I like them better as a salad topping as well. It takes a little forethought and planning to use dried chickpeas though.  A few simple steps and some waiting time are your keys to unlocking the power of the chickpea in your kitchen!

How to cook chickpeas
Step one

I use a two step soak/cook method for preparing my chickpeas.  

The first step is to soak the dried chickpeas overnight if possible.  Quickly rinse your chickpeas and inspect for pebbles, sticks or other foreign matter.  Then put in a bowl large enough to hold them once they’ve grown. Chickpeas will almost double in size during soaking, so be sure your bowl is big enough.

Once the chickpeas are in the bowl, fill the bowl with water to cover them by about two inches.  Add a teaspoon of baking soda, this will help to soften the chickpeas. Place a loose towel or large plate over the bowl and let them sit overnight or about eight to twelve hours.    

At the end of the soak, drain and rinse the beans.  

Step two

For the second step, cook the beans.  I always think about what I will be using the cooked beans for.  Depending on use, there are several minor variations to the cook step.  

Always start by putting the chickpeas in a medium pot and covering with several inches of water.  Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce to medium low. Let the beans simmer for about an hour.   Done.  

If I’m going to be using the chickpeas in a soup or stew, I don’t worry if I under cook them a little.  They will cook more in the soup/stew. I will also reserve a cup or two of cooking water to add to the soup/stew to add flavor and texture. 

If I am using them for hummus, I will add another teaspoon of baking soda to the water.  I also let them cook at a more vigorous boil for almost twice as long. This super softens the beans, helping to give a creamy texture to the finished hummus.  

If I will be using them as a salad topping or roasting them for a snack, I will cook without variation.  When done, I’ll drain and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process and to cool quicker for storage.   

Store unused chickpeas in an airtight container for up to a week.  The same is true for the canned variety once opened. That said, they probably won’t stick around for the whole week.  I know they never do at my house. 

Some of the historical background for the chickpea can be found here and here.
Some of the health benefit information can be found here and here

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