Any plant-based diet should include legumes, frequently. Perhaps daily. Chickpeas (aka. garbanzos) have been part of the human diet for thousands of years. They’re a staple food in India and around the Mediterranean region, and are widely available in the Western Hemisphere. They have a unique and (in my opinion) non-beany flavor, more rich and nutty.
Humans have been eating chickpeas for thousands of year. Archaeological evidence shows these legumes were domesticated in the Middle East. From there, chickpea cultivation spread around the Mediterranean and into India. Today India accounts for over 70% of chickpea production.
There are many types of chickpeas, ranging in color from black-ish to green to “white”, the pale colored beans most familiar to Western shoppers. They’re available canned, dried and — unlike other legumes — ground into a flour. Chickpea flour is used to make pancakes, flatbread, fritters (example: Indian pakora), and falafel, and as a coating for fried food.
I recently came across an article about adding chickpea flour to yeast bread. I was intrigued, as this is a way to boost protein content, so I gave it a try. I only used 1/2 cup of chickpea flour in a recipe that made 2 loaves of bread, but the bread rose just fine and tasted just fine. I was actually a little disappointed that I didn’t get more of a chickpea flavor. Next time I’ll add more, but not too much. Chickpea flour does not behavior like wheat flour in baked goods. Too much chickpea flour would interfere with bread rising; the loaves would be heavy and dense.
Chickpea (garbanzo) nutrition
Chickpeas have a nutrient profile much like other legumes: good source of plant protein, significant fiber and a variety of other nutrients. A cup of drained beans has about 200 calories, 11 grams protein, almost 10 grams of fiber and significant magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron.
Cooking with chickpeas
I think chickpeas might be a more versatile legume than, say, kidney beans or black beans. They can be served hot or cold, and work as a stand-alone dish, or be added to grain or pasta dishes. They’re great in salads and you could even put them on a pizza or into a wrap.
Chickpeas and chickpea flour are essential ingredients for falafel, hummus, flatbreads, savory pancakes, snacks and even desserts. Chickpeas feature prominently in Indian curry style recipes. The spices combine nicely with the chickpea flavor.
Rather than reproduce a recipe using whole chickpeas (the internet is a great resource for those), here’s one for a chickpea pancake. There are many variations on this theme (again, check the internet or perhaps a cookbook you own), but this method is pretty basic. You can add other herbs or chopped vegetables.
Savory Chickpea Pancake
This is a very basic recipe. You can garnish with different chopped herbs, Greek style plain yogurt, crumbled feta or other grated cheese or cooked ground meat. Spice mixes like Za'atar, Harissa or other Mediterranean mix would work well. Roasted garlic paste or sauteed minced garlic would taste great, as would pesto.
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- 1-1/3 cup water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- sea salt, cumin and coriander powder, sesame seeds, other dry herb or spice mixes noted above.
- Step 1 Put the flour, water, salt, olive oil and baking powder in a blender. Blend until the mixture is well combined, no lumps!
- Step 2 Let this sit for 15 minutes or so. Meanwhile heat the oven to 425º.
- Step 3 Skim any foam off the top of the batter.
- Step 4 Heat 1 TB olive oil over moderately high heat in an 8-10 inch oven proof pan, preferably cast iron or heavy duty stanless steel.
- Step 5 When hot, pour in the batter. Cook the pancake for about 2 minutes. The top will still be liquidy.
- Step 6 Turn off heat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and lightly sprinkle with dry herb/spice mixes.
- Step 7 Put the pan in the oven. Bake until the pancake is firm to the touch, 20-25 minutes.
- Step 8 Remove from oven. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt or other flaky salt.
- Step 9 Garnish with any fresh herbs or cheeses.
- Step 10 Slice and serve.