Chickpeas are a nutrient-rich, budget-friendly, versatile ingredient that definitely should be in your pantry!
“Vegetarian and frugal it may be, but the chickpea is one of the most versatile ingredients you could keep in your cupboards.”
— Yotam Ottolenghi
With inflation having such an impact on our food budgets, it can be helpful to identify pantry-friendly foods that not only are kind to our wallets but also provide a high amount of nutritional benefit. Chickpeas may not immediately come to mind but they definitely should.
Known by several names – garbanzo bean, Egyptian pea, or Bengal gram – chickpeas are part of the “pulse” family of edible beans, peas, and legumes. The earliest recordings of chickpeas date back to 3500 BC in Turkey, making them quite an ancient ingredient. Chickpeas are currently grown in more than 50 countries, with India being the largest producer.
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT CHICKPEAS?
Chickpeas are consumed widely across the world, especially in those areas known as Blue Zone regions in which people have been found to have above-average life spans. They are considered both a vegetable and a “complete protein” since they contain all nine essential amino acids.
In addition, these tiny beans are packed with vitamins and minerals that support heart health, brain function, healthy weight goals, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of cancer, and help improve gut health.
WHY I LIKE COOKING WITH CHICKPEAS
- Chickpeas are a budget-friendly, readily available healthy ingredient.
- They are delicious and can be added to almost anything – both savory and sweet.
- Their nutritional benefits are available no matter what form they are used – whole, mashed, pureed, from a paste, or even as a flour.
- Chickpeas add their own unique flavor to dishes, and also can take on the specific seasonings of a dish.
Chickpeas can be purchased in dried form (prepackaged or in bulk), canned, or frozen at most any grocery store. For bulk purchases, choose markets that value quality and have high product turnover.
When buying canned chickpeas, I recommend looking for low or no-sodium varieties. Check that the cans are smooth and well-sealed. Do not purchase cans that are dented, bulging, or leaking.
- Place dried chickpeas into an airtight container in a cool, dry place such as a pantry.
- They are best used within a year from purchase for the best quality. Increased cooking time may be required for older, drier chickpeas.
- Store unopened cans of chickpeas in a cool, dry place such as a pantry.
- Once opened, store any leftover canned chickpeas in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to one year.
Packaged Frozen (cooked)
- Store in the original packaging or an airtight container in the freezer for up to one year.
Chickpeas bring a buttery and slightly nutty flavor to recipes. Once cooked, they are an easy ingredient to add to so many dishes – like appetizers, snacks, salads, soups, stews, pasta dishes, meatballs, burgers, and even desserts. They can be used whole, mashed, pureed, or ground into flour.
Need a bit of inspiration? Check out these ideas from The Veggie Newsletter (New York Times) – Five Ways to Cook a Can of Chickpeas.
Prepping Dried Chickpeas
Choosing dried chickpeas is the most inexpensive way to purchase them. Preparation takes a bit more time – I recommend soaking them ahead of cooking – but it’s a great way to get a lot of nutritional bang for your buck.
To start, place them in a fine-mesh strainer, give them a rinse, and sort through them removing any stones or other debris that may have gotten into the packaging.
Then, transfer the chickpeas to a large bowl and cover them with at least two inches of cold water. Allow them to soak for a minimum of three hours, and better yet, overnight.
Once soaking is complete, the chickpeas are ready to cook. Depending on the appliance used, the cooking time for soaked chickpeas ranges from:
- 60 – 70 minutes when simmering on the stovetop
- 3 – 4 hours on high in a slow cooker
- 15 – 20 minutes in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot (cooking times vary greatly by device and model)
To learn more specifics and a few tips about cooking dried chickpeas, check out these handy guides:
- We Tested So Many Ways to Cook Dried Chickpeas – Food52
- How to Soak and Cook Dried Chickpeas – The Spruce Eats
Using Canned or Frozen Chickpeas
Canned or frozen chickpeas are already cooked and ready to use, making them a terrific option to have on hand for quick meals.
When using canned chickpeas, place them into a fine mesh strainer to drain the canning liquid, and rinse them thoroughly with cold water to remove as much of the sodium as possible. Frozen chickpeas are not stored in liquid so do not require any rinsing.
- Just as with cooking other dried beans and legumes, it is best to add acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, vinegar, and citrus juice, after the chickpeas are tender. If added too early in the cooking process, the acid will slow the cooking time of chickpeas and can cause them not to soften very well or become tough.
photo: Love + Craft Kitchen
Have a favorite way to use or enjoy chickpeas? Share it with us in the comments section.
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