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Exploring Chickpeas: History, Nutrition, and Recipes

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.


Hard and dry, a chickpea is inedible.

Hard and dry, a heart is unlovable.

Presoak it in dance, music and art.

— Khang Kijarro Nguyen

What Is a Pulse?

There are two definitions, separate and distinct but also intertwined. A pulse can be the throb of a heartbeat. And a pulse is also defined as a type of food that is beneficial to one’s heart. Dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas are “pulses.”

Chickpeas—there are many other names. In Italian they are ceci, in India, they are gram, in Hebrew, chana; the Spanish name is garbanzo.

However, the name is inconsequential; their nutritional value is what has made chickpeas one of the most valuable foods in the world. These wrinkly round seeds, reminiscent of hazelnuts, are a supremely beneficial food source.

Let's Talk About Protein

Chickpeas Are #4

Chickpeas Are #4

Where Did They Come From?

Botanically they are Cicer arietinum, a legume cultivated in Turkey perhaps more than 10,000 years ago. They would sprout quickly in the cool wet season, available for harvest before the summer drought.

There are two general varieties of chickpea. First, there is desi which is most like the wild chickpea, small, dark and having a tough outer seed coat. These are grown mostly in Iran, Ethiopia, and Mexico. And then there is the Kabuli, larger, cream-colored, with a thin seed covering. This is the chickpea of the Middle East and the Mediterranean, the basis for hummus, falafel, and lablabi.

Anthropologists do not know how and when the chickpea migrated to other regions, but it was being cultivated in India 4,000 years ago, appeared in Buddhist writings of 400 B.C.

During the 16th century, garbanzo beans were brought to other subtropical regions of the world by both Spanish and Portuguese explorers as well as Indians who emigrated to other countries.

Let's Not Forget Charlemagne

Charlemagne (742-814), was a successful military commander and the first ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. Did you know that he also was an accomplished gardener? He held claim to numerous estates, with properties in Northern Italy, France, and Germany. And he is responsible for the writing of “Capitulare de villis vel curtis imperii,” roughly translated as “A Chapter on Farmsteads of the Imperial Court.” This publication is a compilation of gardening knowledge from the early Middle Ages and lists the almost 100 herbs, medicinal plants, vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and beans cultivated on his land holdings.

Many of the plants listed and still known and used today—sage and coriander, rosemary and onions, crucifers and cucumbers, and (notably) the chickpea.

And Then, to America

The chickpea is now wildly popular in America, and for this, we can thank hummus. It was that creamy, garlicky dip for our pita chips that introduced 20th-century American palates to the chickpea. Once hummus became a staple in our refrigerators, the health-conscious recognized its value as not just a dip but a nutritious source of protein and fiber.

For those who wish to eschew the traditional meat-laden American diet, the chickpea is a welcome foodstuff.

But Wait, There's More!

Vitamin B-6


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  • 12.1 million tons of chickpeas are cultivated each year.
  • Chickpeas are one of the oldest cultivated crops on the earth.
  • They are the second most widely grown legume in the world (soybeans are number 1).
  • They are also the best source of folate (aka Vitamin B-9 which is essential for making red blood cells, enhancing brain health, and crucial in preventing neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly).
  • Since the late 1700s, chickpeas have been used as a caffeine-free substitute for coffee beans.
  • Growing chickpeas can help stabilize the soil and reduce the chance of erosion.
  • The chickpea plant enriches the soil with nitrogen.

Worldwide Production in 2017

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How to Prepare and Cook

  • As with any other dried legume, dried chickpeas should first be spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and examined for debris, small stones, or beans that are withered or damaged. Then place them in a wire mesh strainer and rinse under cool running water to remove any dust.
  • Cover your dried chickpeas with water, lots and lots of water. They will need to soak for 8 hours (or overnight) and you will be amazed at how much water they take up.
  • After soaking, drain your chickpeas and place them in a large saucepan. Cover with fresh water (at least 2 inches above the level of the beans). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the beans are soft, at least 20 to 25 minutes. Some people prefer to have their chickpeas even softer and creamier. If that is your choice you might cook them for as long as 40 to 45 minutes.
  • If you are short of time, you can substitute canned chickpeas. Unlike other processed vegetables, there is little difference in the nutritional value of dried vs. canned beans. Three-fourths of a cup of dried beans is about 1 1/2 cups cooked, the equivalent of one 15-ounce can drained and rinsed.


Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala

Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala

Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala

Beth's mission is to create food on a budget that doesn't mean eating ramen and beans (even chickpeas) out of a can. One can do delicious without breaking the bank.

Her cauliflower and chickpea masala is inexpensive, incredibly easy, and supremely flavorful. I present this as just one of the many vegetarian/vegan recipes one can make with chickpeas. And, it isn't hummus!

Spicy Chickpea Wraps With Spinach and Avocado

Spicy Chickpea Wraps With Spinach and Avocado

Spicy Chickpea Wraps With Spinach and Avocado

Deryn creates recipes that prove that vegan doesn't mean bland and boring. Her chickpea wraps are filled with a blend of chickpeas, onions, and spices that are reminiscent of the filling for a tuna or egg salad sandwich. Avocado lends a creamy texture and cilantro gives a fresh, citrusy snap to the filling.

Chickpea Meatballs in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Chickpea Meatballs in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Chickpea Meatballs in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Eva is the face and genius of the blog "The Curious Chickpea." With a name like curious chickpea, why would I not look here for imaginative chickpea recipes? She uses brown rice, chickpeas, and pecans as the meaty basis for her meatballs in roasted red pepper sauce. Those three provide the perfect texture. Nutritional yeast lends umami flavor. The sauce is a blend of roasted red peppers, coconut milk, and earthy spices.

Both the sauce and meatballs can be made in advance. Keep them stored separately in the fridge so they don't get soggy. There’s no need to cook the sauce until this point either, move it straight from blender to fridge.

When it’s time to eat, cook the roasted red pepper sauce, bringing it to a simmer and then add the chickpea meatballs. Cook until the meatballs are heated through, turning them in the sauce to coat.

Carb Diva's Moroccan Chickpea Soup

Carb Diva's Moroccan Chickpea Soup

Carb Diva's Moroccan Chickpea Soup

I don't recall where I found this recipe, but it has become one of my favorites. It's relatively inexpensive to make, doesn't take much time, and certainly makes a large quantity. This hearty Moroccan chickpea soup is vegan, and I promise that you won't miss the meat. If you don't have (or don't like) orzo you can omit it, or use broken angel hair pasta or vermicelli.

Kale Chickpea Sandwich Spread

Kale Chickpea Sandwich Spread

Kale Chickpea Sandwich Spread

Tess calls herself a "blendaholic." No, she isn't proposing a soup and pablum diet. She avocated using the blender as an everyday kitchen tool, not just as a mixer for margaritas. This kale-chickpea sandwich filling is plant-based and gluten-free but packed full of flavor, texture, and nutrition.

Curried Sweet Potato and Chickpea Patties

Curried Sweet Potato and Chickpea Patties

Curried Sweet Potato and Chickpea Patties

Curry, coriander, and garam masala flavor these chickpea patties that are low in calories but rank at the top for taste and texture. Serve with a cooling, creamy Indian raita (it's vegan too).

Vegan Chickpea Curry

Vegan Chickpea Curry

Vegan Chickpea Curry

This chickpea curry is made with ingredients that you probably already have on your pantry shelf. Canned garbanzoes, coconut milk, and diced tomatoes will help you create this meal in less than 30 minutes. Serve with basmati rice (or cauliflower rice if you are trying to reduce your carbs).

Chickpea Vegan Meatloaf

Chickpea Vegan Meatloaf

Chickpea Vegan Meatloaf

Alissa (the Connoisseurous Veg) admits that as a child she never liked meatloaf. Her memories of what one tastes like are murky and obscure, a faded remnant of hot school lunches. For someone with such a tragic meatloaf past, she has certainly created a wonderful present.

Her chickpea meatloaf is meaty and full of rich flavors. One caution—when you are mixing this up, don't make the mistake of over-processing. Leave some of the chickpeas a little chunky so that your loaf will have texture.

Chopped Thai Chickpea Salad

Chopped Thai Chickpea Salad

Chopped Thai Chickpea Salad

It's easy to toss chickpeas into a pile of lettuce and call it a salad, but this one is so colorful I just had to include it. First, I love the colors—my daughter's kindergarten teacher taught the class years ago that we should eat a rainbow. And research shows that to be true. Eat from the spectrum of colors and you will get all the vitamins and nutrients you need in a healthy diet.

Monique adds interesting textures as well to this chopped Thai salad—creamy salty cashews, crunchy red cabbage, and brings it all together with a curry peanut sauce.

If you want to make this salad even more hearty stir in chicken, shrimp, tofu, or quinoa.

Vegan oatmeal-chocolate chip bars

Vegan oatmeal-chocolate chip bars

Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars

I have a weakness for chocolate chip cookies, but portioning individual scoops of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet once, twice, three times (or more) just does not fit into my busy life.

For that reason, I adore bar cookies. Take for example these oatmeal chocolate chip bars created by Ela Vais. It takes only minutes to prepare the dough, spread it into your prepared pan and bake. In just 45 minutes (including baking time) you can have a pan of moist, soft, rich bars.

But wait, there's more. These cookies are vegan, gluten-free, and a good source of protein (you could have cookies for breakfast). And, they have a secret ingredient. Believe it or not, these bars are made with chickpeas!

What if you don't like chocolate chips? No problem, you can leave them out or replace them with dried fruit. Adapt them to your taste, bake them, and enjoy them.

Three-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Chickpea Bark

Three-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Chickpea Bark

Three-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Chickpea Bark

Rachel's mission is to help everyone learn that healthy and delicious food is at their fingertips and is only a quick recipe away. She says that no one should have to sacrifice flavor in their food to feel “healthy." She delivers on that promise with this three-ingredient dark chocolate bark.


© 2019 Linda Lum

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