Chickpeas are my favorite legumes and one of the most versatile foods I know. They can be used in so many ways, and each time, they take on a completely different profile. Chickpeas can be used for appetizers, snacks, salads, burgers, soups, stews, entrees and even desserts. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, chickpeas can star in a delicious dish everyone will love. Dried chickpeas can also be processed into flour, or you can buy a bag of garbanzo bean flour that you can use to make batters, replace eggs and use anywhere you use other flours. Chickpeas are found in recipes around the globe, and the dishes can be so different, it is hard to believe one little round bean can do so much. Let’s visit a few different countries and see how chickpeas can be used in international dishes that are exotic, flavorful and amazing.
1. Indian Cuisine
In India, chickpeas are a favorite ingredient. The chickpeas themselves are known as chana, and the chickpea flour is called Besan or Gram. Chickpea flour is my favorite flour; I use it for almost every recipe that calls for flour. Besan can be used to make these Tofu Pakoras, Indian flatbreads like this Herb Roti and this Indian-Style Soft Steamed Chickpea Flour Cake.
Chana Masala is a beloved dish made with chickpeas. To make my version of it: saute a large chopped onion in oil for 4 minutes until browned. Add 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. ground coriander, ½ tsp. ground cardamom, ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon and 1/8 tsp. ground cloves and mix so the onions are coated in the spices. Add 4 minced garlic cloves, a 1-inch piece of grated ginger, 1 seeded and chopped chile pepper, 1 tsp. garam masala, 1 tsp. kosher salt and ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper. Mix and cook for about 1 minute or until fragrant. Add 1 ½ cups diced tomato to the pan and stir. Scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add 3 cups of cooked chickpeas and 1 tsp. agave nectar, stir and cover the pan. Continue to cook 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you have a saucy mixture. When it bubbles, remove the lid and lower the heat. Simmer 10-12 minutes until the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and add the zest and juice of one lime. Cover the pan and let it sit for 5 minutes while the flavors get absorbed. Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice.
2. Moroccan Cuisine
When I think of Moroccan food, I think about warm spices, salty olives and capers, and sweet carrots and raisins. This Chickpea Butternut Tagine has those warm spices and roasted squash served over couscous. Another tagine dish is this Chickpea, Sweet Potato, Kale, Green Olive, Dried Fruit and Cashew Tagine, which is a spicy meal that has it all – chickpeas, vegetables, olives, fruit, greens, nuts and seeds. Also try this Moroccan Sweet Potatoes and Chickpeas dish. If you prefer raw dishes, make this Raw Moroccan Vegetable and Chickpea Stew with Spicy Orange Cauliflower Couscous. It has cumin, cinnamon, and lemon paired with spicy cauliflower couscous with oranges, cranberries and walnuts. Oh, and a side of kale. Wow!
3. Italian Cuisine
When I became vegan, it wasn’t cheese that I missed most, it was eggs. I used to love having omelets on the weekend, so I quickly had to learn how to make a vegan version. I didn’t like tofu omelets, however, so I learned to make them with chickpea flour. It turns out that chickpeas omelets are classic Italian dishes known as Farinata, socca, torta di ceci or cecina. They are thin pancakes or crepes that originated in Genoa. I like to make mine with different fillings.
To make my Chickpea Omelets with Kale, Onions and Vegan Mozzarella: start with the chickpea batter by combining 1 cup chickpea flour, 1 ½ cups cold water, 1 tsp. black salt, ½ tsp. garlic powder, ½ tsp. dried thyme, ½ tsp. ground turmeric and ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg. Whisk until smooth and let sit for about 20 minutes while you make the filling. Make the filling by heating 1 Tbs. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 onion sliced into half-moons to the skillet and cook until it becomes softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add 1 large bunch of chopped Lacinato kale in bunches, adding more as it wilts down. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and toss to combine everything. Season with salt, black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg and remove from the heat.
To make the omelets: heat a 9-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Spray the skillet with cooking spray. When the pan is hot, add 1/3 cup of the batter to the center of the skillet. Using your wrist, turn the skillet to spread the batter until it covers the whole skillet. If you need more batter, add a bit more but you want an even layer of batter in the pan. Let the batter cook for about 3 minutes until the sides will lift off the skillet with a thin spatula. When you can lift the sides without the omelet sticking, add a few tablespoons of filling to one half of the omelet. Add some vegan mozzarella shreds on top of the kale and onions. Carefully lift and fold the other half of the omelet onto the half with the vegetables. Press it down gently to melt the cheese. Cook for another minute or two and carefully slide the omelet onto a plate. For another recipe, try this Chickpea Flour Omelette with Spinach, Onions and Bell Peppers. My Chickpea Fries are similar to the Sicilian dish panelle.
4. Middle Eastern Cuisine
Middle Eastern cuisine covers several countries, but one thing that is true across the board is that the food is delicious. Can we even talk about chickpeas and not think of hummus? There is classic hummus and it’s best to make it without canned beans, but hummus is a dish where people like to get creative. Try making Red Pepper Hummus, Raw Sprouted Hummus, Pumpkincredible Hummus, Low-Fat Yammus, Rosemary and Roasted Garlic Hummus, and Babbagahummus which is a mix of hummus and baba ganoush.
After hummus, falafel is another favorite Middle Eastern chickpea dish. Make this Baked Falafel Salad with 2 Creamy Dressings, this Baked Falafel and Cucumber Noodle Salad with Mint-Tahini Dressing, and Ayurvedic Falafel. If going traditional is not your style, try a few twists on falafel like this Falafel Waffle, Falafel Tacos, and Mayim Bialik’s Big Bang Vegan Chickpea Burger Patty.
5. Spanish Cuisine
You might not think of chickpeas when you think of Spanish food, but chickpeas are an important ingredient in many Spanish dishes. In the winter, it is common to make stews with chorizo, sausages, vegetables and chickpeas. I like to make a simple but flavorful dish of Espinacas con Garbanzos or spinach and chickpeas that are cooked in an almond paste sauce.
Over medium-high heat, heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a large saucepan with a lid. Add 1 cup of day-old bread cubes and 12 raw almonds. Cook until they are browned and crispy. Add 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. paprika, ¼ tsp. black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Toss the bread and almonds with the spices and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Transfer the ingredients to a food processor and add 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar. Process until it becomes a thick paste. Return the paste to the pan and add in 2 cups cooked chickpeas and 1/3 cup tomato sauce. Mix everything so the chickpeas are coated in sauce. Add ¼ cup of water to make the sauce looser. Wilt in 3-4 cups of fresh spinach, adding it in batches and mixing it with the chickpeas. Season the dish with a pinch of nutmeg and kosher salt. Taste for any seasoning adjustments that may be necessary. Serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil on top and crusty bread to dunk in the sauce.
A similar dish that also has potatoes is this Warm Potato Salad with Spinach and Chickpeas. Another amazing Spanish-inspired dish is this Chorizo, Apple, and Chickpeas with Fresh Kale and Cashew Sauce. For a tasty tapas, make these Roasted Chickpeas with Chipotle and Lime.
6. Mexican Cuisine
I touched on Mexican cuisine when I wrote about the Falafel Tacos in Middle Eastern cuisine. These Crunchy Curried Chickpea Tacos are a mash-up between Mexico and Morocco. Another take on tacos is Cilantro Avocado Chickpea Salad Tacos which have light, crisp corn taco shells that provide the perfect balance to rich, savory, lime-infused, mashed chickpeas and avocado. Chickpeas would also make a perfect filling for burritos with lettuce, Black Bean and Corn Salsa, Mexican spices and a choice of sauces such as ancho chile sauce, salsa verde or Chipotle Cashew Creme.
7. Ethiopian Cuisine
When you add beans to a meal, it transforms from a side dish to a meal. There is an Ethiopian recipe on my blog that once held the place for most popular recipe. To make my Ethiopian beans and greens, saute minced garlic and thinly sliced ginger in oil until softened and browned. Add one small diced onion and saute until golden. Mix in a tablespoon or two of Berbere, an Ethiopian spice blend, and toss to coat the onions. Add 1 ½ cups of chickpeas and 2 diced plum tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes soften and break down, about 5 minutes. Wilt in the spinach, by the handful, stirring often. Serve the dish as is or over quinoa.
8. Caribbean Cuisine
Caribbean food, including Jamaican and Rastafarian food, are all favorites of mine. I love the hot spices, the rice and peas and all the layers of flavor. I used to love Curried Chicken and of course, I can make a vegan version with tofu, but Caribbean Curried Chickpeas is also amazing. Here’s how to make it: In a deep skillet or saucepan, heat 2 Tbs. coconut oil over medium-high heat. Saute 1 chopped onion and 4 minced garlic cloves until the onions are softened, about 4 minutes. Add 4 chopped red potatoes and mix in 2 Tbs. curry powder, 2 tsp. dried thyme, ½ tsp. ground allspice, ½ tsp. red pepper flakes and ½ tsp. kosher salt. Toss to coat the veggies with the spices and let the potatoes cook for 5 minutes. Mix in 3 cups cooked chickpeas and cook for another 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of water; there should be enough to just cover the vegetables. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender and the mixture has thickened. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Serve with roti or tortillas.
9. Greek Cuisine
In Greek, chickpeas are revithia and revithosoupa is Greek Chickpea Soup. To make it: add 1 Tbs. olive oil to a large pot and heat it over medium heat. Add 1 large diced onion, 1 large diced carrot and 1 diced stalk of celery. Cook the veggies for 4 minutes until they start to soften. Add 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp. paprika, ½ tsp. black pepper, ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley and 2 fresh bay leaves. Add 3 cups cooked chickpeas, 6 fresh lemon slices and 6-8 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add kosher salt to taste. Serve the soup with dried Greek oregano and lemon wedges for garnish.
10. Portuguese Cuisine
There is a popular dish in Portugal called Salada de Bacalhau com Grao, which is Chickpea Salad with Cod. This salad is often served during the summer at picnics and cookouts. In addition to chickpeas and cod, the dish usually contains black olives, mayo and hard-boiled eggs. Sometimes, tuna is used instead of cod to make a quick version of the salad. I was thinking about how to make a vegan version of this when I realized I sort of already did. My Chickpea “Tuna” Salad is my version of my childhood tuna salad. So I thought I could make a Portuguese version that was similar to the cod/tuna salad but minus the fish and the eggs (though you could make vegan “eggs” with tofu).
To make my Salada de Grao: mash 2 cups cooked chickpeas so that very few of them are intact. Mix the mashed chickpeas with 3 chopped celery stalks, 2 Tbs. unsweetened dill pickle relish, 2 tsp. kelp or seaweed flakes, 1/2 tsp. each onion powder, dill, parsley, celery salt and Old Bay seasoning, ¼ tsp. black pepper, and 2 Tbs. vegan mayonnaise. Taste for any seasoning adjustments. This is the “tuna” part of the dish. Mix this vegan “tuna” with 1 cup whole chickpeas, ½ cup chopped black olives, ½ chopped red onion, and ½ cup chopped fresh parsley. Toss with olive oil and red wine vinegar and serve on a platter with greens or with crusty bread.
See? I told you chickpeas are amazing, and I didn’t even get into roasting them with various ethnic spice blends or Buffalo sauce to make the best snacks ever. What’s your favorite global chickpea dish? Let us know in the comments.
Lead Image Source: Chickpea Butternut Tagine