Chickpeas (a.k.a. ceci beans, garbanzo beans, chana, and Bengal gram) navigate the world of global cuisine with ease, and they’ve been doing it for a while: chickpea remains from over 7,000 years ago were found in modern day Turkey. These legumes are on heavy rotation in Mediterranean, Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African cuisines, and have become a staple in many a savvy American pantry.
Whether cooked and served whole; split and stewed; mashed; roasted; or dried and ground to flour, and then formed into patties and flatbreads, chickpeas take many forms in the kitchen. Given that chickpeas and their derivatives are so globally pervasive, it can be tough to sort through all the types and regional names associated with the legume. Let this primer be your guide.
- Kabuli chickpeas are the seeds you are most likely to encounter in the grocery store whether in canned or dried form.
- The cream-colored legumes have a smooth seed coat and a rounded, uniformly tapered shape.
- Kabuli chickpeas are most commonly grown in the Mediterranean and Northern Africa.
- Desi pulses are smaller seeds with dark, lumpy outer shells, and are sometimes called black chickpeas, though they come in red, green, and brown shades, too.
- This variety is used to make chana dal (or Bengal gram dal), a split dried chickpea with the skin removed.
- Desi legumes are more prominently found in Indian cuisine.
- Fresh green chickpeas are picked when they are young and resemble edamame in flavor and texture.
- Also called habara, this immature kabuli seed is plucked from the bushy chickpea plant while still in its fuzzy peapod-like shell.
- Green chickpeas are most often found in the freezer section; if you’re lucky enough to find them fresh, they can be eaten raw.
- Made of dried and finely ground chickpeas, chickpea flour refers to flour made from kabuli chickpeas.
- Gram flour, or besan, is specifically made from the desi variety of chickpea.
- Flour made from chickpeas is gluten free, and frequently included in gluten-free flour blends for its nutty flavor and high protein content.
- The well-known snacktime favorite, hummus, is made from a combination of cooked chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, and tahini paste.
- Chickpeas are ground together with abundant green herbs (flat-leaf parsley and cilantro take the lead), garlic, and cumin, and then fried for falafel.
- Farinata from the Liguria region in Italy (called cecina in Tuscany, socca in Nice) is a thin and chewy foccacia-like flatbread made from chickpea flour that is commonly sold as street food. The crêpe-like pancake is cooked in cast iron, and then sliced and folded up.
Meatless Monday Coconut Curry with Green Garbanzos (pictured above, left)
Grilled Flatbread Salad Provencal (pictured above, right)
World's Easiest Falafel and Tzatziki [Food52]
Bisi Bela [Food52]
Socca with Sesame and Cilantro [Food52]
Smoky Fried Chickpeas [Food52]
How do you like to cook with chickpeas? Share your cooking tips and serving suggestions in the comments section below.
All photos by Joseph De Leo; styled by Mariya Yufest.
Like this post? Check out last week's From Scratch topic: Sorting Out Fruit Spreads.