Once I was diagnoses with celiac, I started to broaden my horizons in the kitchen. Quite frankly, I was in a culinary rut anyway.
I started to look into chickpeas, and have never looked back. There are so many times when I lament not investigating them sooner, celiac or not.
Chickpeas are a dietary mainstay for so many people around the world, and for good reason. They are incredibly healthy, versatile and delicious.
When buying chickpeas, the main options are canned, dried, and ground into a flour. I like to have all three on hand.
- Canned chickpeas are handy for when I am short on time. They are already cooked and ready to go.
- Dried are by far the cheapest to use, but do take some planning because they need to be soaked and cooked. Here is a guide to cooking dried beans.
- Ground flour is very convenient and versatile. I always keep a bag sealed in the freezer so that it stays fresh.
A Chickpea By Any Other Name
Chickpeas have many names. These are some of the names you may see when looking in the store or at recipes:
- Garbonzo Beans
- Bengal Gram
- Egyptian Pea
Fun Fact: The word “hummus” is actually the Arabic word for “chickpea”.
Chickpeas are popular because they are a creamy, nutty legume that packs a nutrient punch. They are high in protein, fibre, iron and many other nutrients that have a very positive impact.
How to Use Chickpeas
- Cooked and eaten cold in salads
- Cooked and eaten warm in soups or stews
- Baked, fried or roasted
- Ground into a flour and made into a batter and baked or fried (cakes, flatbreads, pancakes, etc.)
- As a thickener
Although you may be familiar with whole chickpeas tossed in a salad or processed into hummus, there are other options as well. Chickpea flour is a fantastic ingredient that creates many delicious dishes.
Yup, chickpea flour is very popular. It is used to create many baked and fried foods that are both filling and nutritious.
I like to shop at Indian, Asian, or Middle Easten grocers when buying my chickpea flour. It tends to be more economical because it is considered a staple food in these stores. At my local mainstream grocery stores, this flour is considered a “specialty item” and is priced higher. That is if I can even find it there.
When you go into the store, here are some of the common names for chickpea flour:
- Chickpea Flour
- Besan Flour
- Gram Flour
- Garbanzo Bean Flour
Some brands will label their flour as roasted or raw. If they do not, it is usually just raw. There is a slight taste difference. Raw chickpea flour is said to have a more bitter taste, but I have never noticed this. I find roasted flour has a stronger taste and I usually just use raw. This flour will need cooking, so do not use it in raw dishes.
But, the flour cooks very fast, just like regular wheat flour.
My favourite things to do with chickpea flour is to make “Socca”. Socca is simply thin unleavened pancakes or crepes made from chickpea flour. You can find it called by these names as well:
- Torta di ceci
Socca is incredibly versatile and can be made as thick or thin as you like. It is made with the basic socca ratio: equal parts chickpea flour to water + a dash of olive oil and salt.
After that it is up to you. It can be made thin and soft or thin and crispy. It can also be thick and tender or thick and crispy.
What you end up with depends on how you cook it and how thick the batter is in the pan.
- Place a thin (1/4 inch) layer of batter in a pre-heated pan in a hot oven for 8-10 minutes gives a thin, crispy “flatbread”
- Place a thicker (1/2 inch) layer of batter in a pre-heated pan in a hot oven for 15 minutes gives a “flatbread” or pizza crust that is crispy on the outside and more tender in the middle
- Place a very thin (1/8 inch) layer of batter in a pre-heated pan on the stovetop and cook until just browned on each side gives a soft, flexible crepe
The batter can be left plain or spices can be added.
The times listed above are approximate and depend on your oven temperatures. Experiment and have fun with it.
Grind Your Own
Yes, you can grind your own chickpeas into flour. But, you need the right equipment.
Dried chickpeas are extremely hard and can easily damage a spice mill, coffee grinder, or food processor. I have tried to grind chickpeas without an actual mill and I never got the grind quite fine enough.
But, it is much easier to find chickpea flour in the stores now, so I recommend buying it already milled.
A Word About Gas
Some people who have never eaten chickpeas before may experience gas, bloating, or stomach cramps. But why? Here are a few things to consider:
- Chickpeas are a legume that are very high in fiber. Fiber is considered “Natures Toothbrush” because it helps to keep us regular. If you are not accustomed to eating high fiber, your digestive track may be in for a bit of a shock. The best way to avoid excessive gas is to gradually add these high fiber foods over time.
- Some people are allergic to soy. There is some research that indicates that those with this allergy may also react to chickpeas. Use with caution and consult your doctor if you have an allergy to soy.
Chickpeas are an awesome addition to anyone’s pantry. Don’t just relegate them to the occasional hummus dip. There is so much that can be done with this simple, humble legume.
Do you use chickpeas regularly? What is your favourite way to use them?