Canned or dried chickpeas are a handy, healthy pantry staple.
What are they?
Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are versatile, nutritious, roundish, beige legumes. They can be ground and used as a flour (sometimes called gram flour) or kept whole. Cooked chickpeas are great in soups and casseroles (with or without meat). Most people are familiar with canned chickpeas, but dried chickpeas are also simple to prepare.
Chickpeas have a slight nutty flavour and go particularly well with garlic and coriander – hence the delicious dip, hummus.
How do you use them?
Once cooked, chickpeas can be added to casseroles, soups and stews. Not only do they add extra flavour and texture, but they also extend meat by adding bulk. Other than hummus, chickpeas often feature in Middle Eastern dishes such as falafel (chickpea patties). Chickpeas can be used in all sorts of Italian dishes and they are one of the ingredients in three-bean salads. Dried chickpeas have a better flavour, firmer texture and are a lot cheaper than the canned variety. They are a great choice in salads as they absorb dressing ingredients well.
Where can I buy them?
Dried chickpeas are available from supermarkets. They are sometimes sold with lentils and other legumes, or can be found in bulk bins.
How to prepare dried chickpeas
Dried chickpeas need soaking before cooking. There are two ways to do this:
- Place chickpeas in a large bowl. Pour over enough cold water to cover completely. For 1 cup chickpeas, add about 4 cups water. Set aside overnight to soak.
- After soaking, transfer chickpeas to a colander to drain. Remove and discard any discoloured chickpeas. They are now ready for cooking.
- Place chickpeas in a large pan. Cover with 3 times their volume of cold water.
- Bring quickly to the boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with a lid and leave to soak for 1-2 hours.
- Drain. The legumes are now ready for cooking.
To cook chickpeas
- Place soaked chickpeas in a saucepan and cover with plenty of fresh, cold water. Simmer until plump and tender.
- Drain. The legumes are now ready to use. They will look plump.
- Whichever method you choose, do not add salt before chickpeas are fully cooked to avoid toughening.
- Store excess cooked chickpeas in a sealed container in the fridge for up to four days. Alternatively, freeze cooked chickpeas.