I have to admit, chickpeas were one of those foods I could take or leave.
The only time I ever really ate chickpeas was when they were in three bean salad or hummus. That all changed recently, when I started looking for a way to pep up our meals at home. Now these flavor and nutrient powerhouses have become a regular feature in our meal rotation.
So, what are chickpeas?
It turns out that these hearty little legumes go by many different names. Some folks call them chickpeas, while others insist on garbanzo beans as their moniker. The Italians call them cece. Don’t worry — no matter what you call them, these beans are delicious.
The most common form of chickpeas are pale yellow in color, but they can also be black, brown, green, or red. Their flavor and texture have been described as somewhere between chestnuts and walnuts. When cooked, they have a creamy consistency with a mildly nutty flavor profile. This makes them the perfect base for spiced dishes and stronger flavors.
Originally from the Middle East, chickpeas are the most widely-consumed legume in the world. Did you know that? I was surprised!
Chickpeas are legumes, which means that they have seed pods in the plants, and are similar to beans or peas. Each chickpea seedpod usually contains two to three edible peas.
So, why should you make chickpeas a part of your diet?
Well, for one thing, they are full of nutrients! A cup of cooked chickpeas contains 15 grams of protein, with only about 269 calories and 4 grams of fat. There is no cholesterol in chickpeas, and they are very low in sodium. They are also sources of folate, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and zinc. Like other beans, they are a great source of dietary fiber (12 grams per serving). For a closer look at the nutrient profile of chickpeas, check out the post MyPlate Flavor Exploration: Beans and Peas.
But how can you make chickpeas a part of your diet?
Chickpeas can be purchased canned and ready-to-eat. This is convenient, but unless they are canned without salt, they are generally pretty high in sodium.
Chickpeas can also be purchased as dried beans. Like other dried beans, they need to be soaked before cooking and generally have a long cooking time. To cook dried chickpeas, drain them and rinse well to remove any foam. Set them in a big saucepan and add water in a 3:1 ratio (3 parts water for every 1 part dried chickpeas). Bring the whole shebang to a boil over high heat, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. When I made chickpeas, I soaked them overnight and then cooked them on low in the slow cooker for five hours. I ended up with perfectly cooked beans!
Once cooked, chickpeas can be stored, covered, in the fridge for up to a week. Since one pound of chickpeas makes about 8 cups, I had lots of beans to use. Once you are open to experimenting, chickpeas can be used as you would other beans. I put them in salads, stews, soups, casseroles or ground as hummus. Extra cooked beans can be frozen.
Some of my favorite chickpea recipes come from the Food and Health Free Recipe Database. Take a look…
- Greek Pasta Salad
- Carrot Hummus
- Mediterranean Chef Salad
- Light Valencia Paella
- Pasta Bean Soup
- Mediterranean-Style Garbanzo Beans
- Lemon Spinach Couscous
No matter what they’re called, I’m glad I gave these little nutrition powerhouses a try. I’ll do it again!
By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University
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