Chickpeas are such a versatile ingredient – use them whole, or crushed to make falafel or veggie burgers, or mashed to a creamy consistency for hummus or a side dish. They're a healthy food, too. You only need 3 tbsp of chickpeas to count as one of your five-a-day and 100g contains 7g of protein, plus they're rich in plant hormones called isoflavones.
You may find them labelled as garbanzos (this is what they're called in America and Spain), or gram and chana in recipes from the Indian subcontinent. There are several varieties of chickpea; desi varieties are smaller and often darker (sometimes green) and are the more common variety grown in Asia, though a rarer black variety, kala chana, also grows in Puglia and Basilicata in Italy where they are called ceci neri. Kabuli varieties are bigger, smoother and lighter and grown in Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa and South America.
You can buy chickpeas both dried and pre-cooked in cans. Dried chickpeas are available in different sizes and can be variable in quality while large castellano garbanzos are grown in Southern Spain. Garbanzo de Fuentesauco, also from Spain, carry a PGI status (Protected Geographical Indication).
Canned or jarred chickpeas just need to be reheated if you are eating them in a hot dish, or can be used straight from the can for a recipe like hummus. Like dried chickpeas, they vary in quality and size, as do some of the jarred varieties from Spain.
Buying canned chickpeas will also give you aqua faba, or chickpea water, which can be used to make vegan meringues. Like other pulses, chickpeas can also be a budget food, especially if you buy them dried and cook them yourself. Home-cooked chickpeas can be frozen for later use.
How to cook dried chickpeas
Dried chickpeas generally need to be soaked before cooking as they are very hard. Depending on where you buy your chickpeas from, you may need to sort through them first and remove any stones or discoloured ones.
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Slow soaking dried chickpeas: Tip them into a bowl and cover with cold water, and use plenty of water as they will swell as they soak. Leave overnight or for 8-12 hours to absorb water and swell. Adding bicarbonate of soda can help the soaking process, especially if you live in a hard water area. It will soften the skins and, if you are making hummus, give a lighter, smoother result. Use 1 tbsp per 500g dried chickpeas.
Quick soaking dried chickpeas: Tip your chickpeas into a saucepan and cover them with lots of cold water, bring to a boil (again add bicarbonate of soda, if you like) and then boil for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and leave to soak for 1 hour.
Stove top cooking dried chickpeas
How long your chickpeas will take to cook will depend on how long they have been dried and stored for.
- Drain your soaked chickpeas and tip them into a pan.
- Add cold water until you have twice the volume of the chickpeas.
- Bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer the chickpeas for 45 mins (if you are going to cook them further in another dish) or up to 1 hour. Taste to see if they are tender. If not, continue cooking, checking the tenderness every 10 mins. Drain.
If you want to cook a whole bag at a time and freeze them in batches then cool them first. They will freeze for up to a month or keep in the fridge for up to three days.
Instant pot or pressure-cooking dried chickpeas
Chickpeas can be cooked from dry or pre-soaked in a pressure cooker. If you soak them for 12 hours, then they will cook in minutes, but you can also skip the soaking altogether. Chickpeas can be pressure-cooked from dry in 40 minutes, plus the time it takes for the pressure to rise and fall.
You can roast pre-cooked chickpeas in the oven to make a crisp snack or to sprinkle over a salad or other savoury dish like these crispy chickpeas.
Skin the chickpeas to make super silky hummus
If you have ever eaten a very smooth hummus, then it’s likely that the cooked chickpeas were skinned. Chickpeas have a thin skin that can easily be slipped off if you have the time or inclination.
Dried chickpeas recipe
Depending on their final use, you can add flavour to the cooking water such as garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and chilli.
- 500g dried chickpeas
- 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda (optional)
- Tip the chickpeas into a bowl and sort through them. Throw away any discoloured ones.
- Cover with cold water, add the bicarbonate of soda, if using, and leave to soak for 8-12 hrs.
- Drain the chickpeas and tip into a saucepan.
- Add cold water to come to about 8-10 cm above the chickpeas and bring to a boil.
- Turn down the heat and simmer for 45 mins - 1 hr, or until the chickpeas are tender. Drain well.
Canned chickpeas recipe
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 400g can chickpeas, drained
- chopped parsley, optional
- Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic.
- Cook for 1 min, then stir in the chickpeas.
- Season well and heat gently, stirring, until all the chickpeas are hot.
- Stir in the chopped parsley, if you like.
5 of the best chickpea recipes
What's your favourite chickpea recipe? Leave a comment below...