Chickpeas, sometimes known as garbanzo beans, are a versatile legume that is used in many cuisines around the world including Mediterranean, Indian, and Middle Eastern.Overhead of hummus with toppings and crudites

What are chickpeas?

There are different varieties of chickpeas which vary by the plant itself. Most commonly, there is desi or kabuli. These vary in size and coat texture. They grow in pods on vines much like other peas.

They have a mild, nutty flavor and hold onto some of the snap that they have raw even after they have been cooked fully.

And I am betting most of you didn’t know that they come in a variety of colors aside from the beige that immediately comes to mind. They also have green, black, brown, and red varieties.

Dried Chickpeas

These are great because you can get a truly wonderful texture by cooking them yourself. Going this route also tends to be a bit more economical.

The drawback: you need a bit more time as you need to soak them overnight before you begin the cooking process. The good news, once they start cooking, you only need to babysit them every now and again. And those beans that don’t get eaten can easily be frozen for later.

When it comes to buying the dried variety, look for smooth even skin. If you are seeing a bunch of wrinkling, the beans might have been on the shelf for a while. There is nothing wrong with these chickpeas, but there is a good chance that they will never cook all the way through.

Dried chickpeas that have been soaked are what are most commonly used to make falafel.

Canned Chickpeas

These are great when you are short on time. Fully cooked, all they need is a quick drain and rinse before you are ready to use them. These are great for soups, curries, hummus, and just about anything else.

Fresh Chickpeas

While a lot rarer than the canned or dried varieties, some specialty stores will carry these. They are typically in season in the last spring and early summer. To prepare them, all you have to do is pop open the pod, peel the single pea, and then blanch them in boiling, salted water. Drain them and sprinkle them with salt and they are ready as a side or for on top of your next salad.

Chickpea Flour

Gluten-free, this flour alternative is great for baking. Substitute 1 cup of white flour for ¾ cup of this flour in any of your cakes or cookies. It is also great for making the savory pancakes also known as socca.

Here are some amazing recipes using chickpeas:

What are the health benefits of chickpeas?  

These little legumes are a wonder alright. High in fiber and low in calories, they are a great addition to any diet whether you happen to be carnivorous or vegan. They are high in protein making them a great replacement for meat if that is your thing. They also boast folate, iron, phosphorous, copper, and manganese.

Some characteristics of them may help protect against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

How do I cook canned chickpeas?

Canned chickpeas are all but ready to go. Drain the can, give them a good rinse, and then go about using them in whatever you want whether that be a delicious hummus or in a dish like korma.

If you want to add more flavor and serve them as a side, put the rinsed beans into a medium saucepan with ½ cup of water. A teaspoon or two of cumin or your favorite spice (much less if you are going with something like cayenne), some salt, and a bit of olive oil. Heat over low for 20 minutes or so and you are ready to eat.

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