The nutritional benefits of chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), like other beans, come from fiber but mainly their high PROTEIN content. One cup of cooked chickpeas is estimated to be about 14.5 grams of protein or 29% the Daily Value based on a daily 2,000-calorie adult diet.
Offering versatility across a wide spectrum of international cuisines, they are often a well-loved protein option for plant-based vegan and vegetarian diets.
The use of chickpea flour is also on the rise, although it’s been a long-time staple on the Indian subcontinent. We'll provide more details on using this type of flour further below.
Larger bean types, like garbanzo, are of course notorious for causing digestive upset for many people. This is a sign that you're not breaking them down into usable nutrients like amino acids.
We'll share how to cook garbanzo beans as well as give you a couple of secrets to preparing them for maximum digestibility and nutritional value, two elements that we feel go side by side.
But before we get to that, here are our personal top favorite ways to use chickpeas that can also simultaneously boost nutrient uptake.
One of the benefits of chickpeas is that when perfectly cooked and whipped up in a food processor they develop a smooth and creamy texture absolutely perfect for making a pate. The most popular chickpea-based pate, dip or spread on the planet is hummus, a Middle-Eastern tradition.
Hummus is a great way to take in all that this bean has to offer. The legumes are not only predigested from processing but are also combined with lemon juice and spices that assist in their digestion.
Making falafel is another popular way to use chickpeas. A traditional falafel recipe usually begins with dry whole beans that are soaked overnight. They are not usually cooked but ground into a paste-like mixture with garlic, onion, fresh green herbs, often cilantro and parsley, as well as spices like cumin and coriander.
This process gives them a greenish color, different texture and falafel-like flavor. It is important to let the mixture sit covered in a bowl for several hours or overnight in the fridge. This will help to break down the protein content.
They are usually served as a type of fritter that is commonly deep-fried. There are other ways to cook falafel however that make it a bit more nutritious. Instead of deep frying, for example, we prefer shaping into patties and baking or air frying to minimize oil use.
Another great way to use garbanzo beans is when making homemade tempeh. These days, tempeh can be incubated the modern way... in a pressure cooker like an Instant Pot. This is done using the yogurt setting which will slowly culture the beans over a 2-day period. All you need is a rhizopus tempeh culture to inoculate the cooked garbanzos.
While making DIY tempeh may not be for everyone, for vegans and vegetarians it's well worth getting down as it makes a great meat or tofu substitute. There is also nothing quite like the savory rich umami-like flavor of homemade tempeh, paling in comparison to any commercial store-bought variety.
Health-wise, the beans are cultured which makes them easier to digest and assimilate. (*)
We also enjoy using chickpeas when making homemade miso, but that’s another story for the super fermented food motivated.
We feel it's important to have healthier snacks on hand to reach for when you get the craving. Let’s just say, it's easy to stay out of the chip isle at your local supermarket when you know you have something else way better waiting for you on the pantry snack shelf. Hello seasoned crunchy chickpeas!
This recipe is super easy using cooked or canned garbanzo beans. You toss them with sea salt, a little olive oil, paprika and any other spice you want. They can then either be baked for 20-30 minutes or dehydrated in a dehydrator for a super crunchy satisfying snack food.
Cooked tender garbanzo beans are great to have on hand when making many kinds of soups and stews as a main protein or in addition to meat. We absolutely love them in quinoa minestrone!
The beans can also be utilized as a main meal stewed in many diverse cultural recipes and curries. They're also perfect dressed up with veggies in cold salads.
One of the most important but often overlooked things about cooking any bean is that you sort out the bad ones first.
Often, if you look at your dried chickpeas, you will see one or two that are discolored or look different. These should be removed and discarded.
It's these beans that can add to digestive problems because they don't completely cook or remain hard.
We always encourage soaking whole beans overnight (without salt) and then straining out the liquid before cooking on a stovetop or in a crockpot. This not only helps to reduce cooking time even further but also helps to remove any potential anti-nutrients that may inhibit complete uptake or cause digestive issues.
However, compared to other common bean staples, chickpeas generally tend to have a lower number of digestive inhibitors.
Adding some baking soda when soaking also helps to soften them. (About 1/2 teaspoon per 2 cups dry beans.)
We have found the very best (and fastest) way to cook soaked chickpeas is using a pressure cooker like an Instant Pot. A crock-pot or slow cooker, but it's just that... SLOW.
Pressure cookers really do the job when it comes to thoroughly tenderizing beans and take only 30 minutes to cook after soaked. This is compared to 2 or more hours on the stovetop.
After the cooking time, you may also want to rub the beans between your fingers to loosen the hulls and remove them.
What is chickpea flour exactly? It is very finely ground (typically stone-ground) flour made from uncooked whole yellow chickpeas as well as brown chickpeas known as kaala chana..
Chickpea flour is relatively new to the Western World but on the Indian subcontinent it has been a long-time staple ingredient known as besan or gram flour. Incidentally, it's not related to "graham" flour which is wheat-based.
Besan or gram flour is highly utilized in the cuisine of India, Burma, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean. Typically, other varieties of garbanzo are used to make the ground flour in these regions.
One of the advantages of using chickpea flour is that it adds more protein to recipes which can be useful for vegans or vegetarians.
It is widely marketed in recent times as a gluten-free flour alternative, although it doesn't work well as a wheat flour substitute in breads, pastas and baked goods.
One of the biggest disadvantages of using chickpea flour is that you do really need to make sure it's thoroughly cooked as it is, afterall, simply straight ground garbanzo bean.
Unfortunately, the most traditional ways to prepare many of the foods (typically street foods) that use chickpea flour or gram flour are via deep frying. For example, it's often used as a batter like when making pakora or to make sev, a deep-fried crispy noodle snack.
These methods will definitely cook the flour using highly heated oil, but are maybe not the most nutritious foods to eat on a regular basis.
One of our favorite ways to use chickpeas as a flour is to thicken gravies, kind of how kadhi is made, and also for making farinata or socca, a type of flatbread or crepe that's often popular for use as a pizza crust option.
Gram flour is sometimes roasted, as in Burmese cuisine. It's used as a type of salad seasoning, to thickens stews or used to make "Burmese tofu".
You can actually heat the flour with water and, because of its high fiber content, it will set when cooled.
It then develops a firm texture that can then be sliced somewhat like polenta. It is often fried or reheated and served with meals.
In some regions, gram flour is prepared as a cake and served as a type of breakfast food with curries.