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a spoonful of chickpea soup

Chickpeas might be best known as the blond beans at the end of the salad bar. But they’re also the main ingredient in hummus, and they have even been grown as a coffee substitute. No matter how you eat them, adding this versatile bean to your diet will give your body a rich variety of nutrients.

Food Basics

Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are part of the legume family and have been grown in the Mediterranean, India and western Asia for more than 7,500 years. A popular ingredient in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, they have a firm, buttery texture and a mild, nutty taste. There are two general types in cultivation: Wild chickpeas, or desi, are small, dark and have a tough seed coat; the more common kabuli are round, irregular-shaped and cream-colored. A few stores carry fresh chickpeas, but you’re most likely to find them canned or dried. There is very little difference in nutritional value between precooked canned chickpeas and the dried variety you cook yourself.

Nutritional Know-How

A 1-cup serving of chickpeas provides nearly all the recommended daily folate and magnesium necessary to support heart health. Chickpeas also are high in fiber. Soluble fiber helps stabilize blood-sugar levels and whisks the cholesterol trapped in bile out of the digestive system. Insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation and conditions like diverticulosis. When combined with brown rice or other whole grains, chickpeas provide a complete protein comparable to meat or dairy. These legumes also provide the body with molybdenum (which helps detoxify), manganese (necessary for fighting free radicals) and iron.

Eat Up!

  • Purée chickpeas with olive oil, fresh garlic, tahini (sesame seed paste) and lemon juice to make hummus, which you can serve with pita, vegetables or as a sandwich spread to accompany meats, vegetables or fish.
  • For a crunchy, flavorful snack, season chickpeas with olive oil, salt and pepper, toss with rosemary and balsamic vinegar, then roast at 200 degrees F for 45 minutes. Stir, then roast for another 15 minutes.
  • Add chickpeas to vegetable soups to enhance flavor and protein content.
  • Sauté chickpeas in olive oil with garlic, then combine with spinach, tomatoes, feta and quinoa pasta for a fast, delicious and nutritionally balanced meal.
  • Chickpea (garbanzo) flour makes a flavorful, light and nutritious whole-grain alternative to wheat flour in pancakes, fritters, crackers and polenta.
  • Try this comforting chickpea casserole that’s packed with lentils, veggies, and a vegan cream sauce.

Kitchen Tricks

  • Before soaking dried chickpeas, spread them out on a plate or baking sheet to remove any debris. Then place the beans in a strainer and rinse thoroughly under cool running water.
  • Before cooking, cover dried beans with cool water (about 3 cups water for every cup of beans), place in refrigerator and soak for at least eight hours.
  • To cook the beans after soaking, drain, rinse and cover with fresh water, vegetable stock or chicken stock. Bring contents to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 60 to 90 minutes until tender. Skim off any skin or foam that forms on the surface.
  • Avoid using salt or other acidic seasonings when cooking chickpeas, since they will cause the beans to toughen and increase cooking time. Season with desired spices only after beans are fully cooked.


Makes 2 1/2 cups

  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas (two 15-ounce cans)
  • 4 small garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbs. Tahini (sesame) paste
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 cup water or the liquid from the can
  • 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Place the chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, Tahini, cumin and salt in the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Process to start to break up the beans, about one minute. Add the olive oil and water. Purée until smooth and creamy. You may need to scrape down the sides to ensure all the beans are puréed.
  3. Chill for half an hour before serving.
  4. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika for extra flavor and color.

Per serving (1/4 cup): Calories 110; Protein 4 g; Total Fat 3 g; Saturated Fat 0 g; Carbohydrates 18 g; Dietary Fiber 3 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 330 mg

Falafel-Baked Chickpea Cake

Makes five servings

  • 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas (one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 small whole garlic cloves
  • 1 tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbs. water
  • 2 tbs. unbleached flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place chickpeas in a strainer and rinse under cool running water.
  3. In a food processor, add all the ingredients except the flour. Purée until chickpeas have formed a smooth dough.
  4. Add the flour and pulse a few times to combine.
  5. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  6. Scoop out the falafel with a tablespoon measure and form into little cakes. Place the cakes on the baking sheet. You will have 20 cakes.
  7. Lightly spray the top of the cakes with cooking spray.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn over and bake for five minutes.
  9. The cakes will be golden brown and a little crispy on the outside.

Per serving (four cakes): Calories 110; Protein 5 g; Total Fat 1.5 g; Saturated Fat 0 g; Carbohydrates 19 g; Dietary Fiber 5 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 240 mg

Chickpea Napoleons with Pan-Roasted Vegetables

Makes 10 servings

For the chickpea lavosh:

  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tbs. chopped roasted garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp. seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tbs. water
  • 1 1/4 cups chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper

For the pan-roasted vegetables:

  • 1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups julienned parsnips
  • 1 cup julienned butternut squash
  • 1 cup julienned carrots
  • 1 cup julienned oyster mushrooms
  • 2 cups lightly packed Swiss chard, cleaned and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbs. fresh herb mix
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 freshly ground black pepper
  • Balsamic reduction

Directions for the Lavosh

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place the onion, garlic, vinegar and water in a food processor. Purée until smooth and all liquid has been released from the onion, about three minutes. (The liquid from the onion is what binds this dough together.)
  3. Add 1 cup of the chickpea flour and all remaining ingredients and process until a dough is formed.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead with remaining 1/4 cup of chickpea flour until dough is smooth and firm.
  5. Cut the dough in quarters and roll out on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough out until very thin, and then cut into 3-inch triangles. You should be able to cut about six triangles out of each quarter piece of dough.
  6. Place the triangles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Prick the triangles with a fork and brush lightly with water.
  7. Bake for five to seven minutes, or until golden brown.

Directions For the Vegetables

  1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add the parsnips, squash, carrots and mushrooms and cook until they have softened, about two minutes.
  3. Mix in the Swiss chard and sauté until wilted, about one minute.
  4. Season with the mixed herbs, salt, and pepper.
  5. To assemble: Place 2 tablespoons of the vegetable mixture in the center of a plate. Place one lavosh cracker on top of vegetables. Place 2 tablespoons of the vegetables on top of the lavosh. Top with another piece of the lavosh, rotating it slightly clockwise. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the Napoleon in thin lines.

Per Napoleon: Calories 130; Protein 5 g; Total Fat 1 g; Saturated Fat 0 g; C arbohydrates 26 g; Dietary Fiber 3 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 125 mg

Minestrone with Chickpeas

Makes 7 cups

  • 1/4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 chopped leeks
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup peeled, chopped eggplant
  • 1/2 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow squash
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbs. dried parsley
  • 1 tbs. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup packed spinach, rough chopped
  • 2 1/2 tbs. pesto for garnish


  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the olive oil to just coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onion, leek, garlic, red pepper, eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash.
  3. Cook until the onions have just softened, about two minutes.
  4. Add the bay leaf, parsley, basil, oregano and marjoram.
  5. Add the tomatoes and vegetable stock and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Add the salt, pepper and chickpeas and cook an additional five minutes.
  7. Add the spinach just before serving.

Per serving (1 cup of soup and 1 teaspoon pesto): Calories 250; Protein 12 g; Total F at 6 g; Saturated Fat 1 g; Carbohydrates 40 g; Dietary Fiber 10 g; Cholesterol 5 mg; S odium 320 mg

Rosemary Roasted Chickpeas

Makes eight servings

  • 2 cups dry chickpeas
  • Water to cover
  • 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbs. finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves


  1. When thoroughly roasted the peas should taste cooked, nutty and potato-like, not raw.
  2. Place the chickpeas in a large pan and cover with water. Soak at overnight at least eight hours. Drain.
  3. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  4. Spread the chickpeas onto a nonstick baking sheet in one layer.
  5. Bake for about 45 minutes.
  6. Combine the olive oil and spices in a small bowl. Pour mixture over chickpeas and stir well.
  7. Return to oven and roast 15 minutes or until chickpeas are crunchy.
  8. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Per serving (1/4 cup): Calories 170; Protein 7 g; Total Fat 6 g; Saturated Fat 0.5 g; Carbohydrates 23 g; Dietary Fiber 6 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 125 mg

Recipes presented by Conscious Cuisine

This article has been updated. It originally appeared online on March 1, 2009.

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