There’s nothing wrong with hummus! But chickpeas can do so much more.

By Margaret Eby
Updated July 09, 2020
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Eva Kolenko

Unless things are truly dire, there are a few ingredients I always have on hand in my kitchen, foremost among them chickpeas. Right now I have them in both canned and dried form, because I am a known bean freak, and because the outside world is a mess and I’m trying to avoid going grocery shopping until I really truly have to. 

But truthfully, I usually have both forms on hand anyway. Cooking dried chickpeas is more economical and allows for more flavor intervention to make them delicious, but even though I am an enthusiastic cook, I am also a human person who sometimes cannot possibly deal with all that rigamarole. Having a can of chickpeas means that no matter what, I have an easy dinner on hand. Do you have a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon juice (or any kind of wine vinegar), and some Parmesan cheese? Great: Mix those with a can of chickpeas, and you have a simple, cheap meal. 

When I mention chickpeas, the first thing people respond with is "hummus." And yes! I love hummus. It is incredible as a dip, and a spread, and as an easy vegetarian snack. But man cannot live on hummus alone, or at least he would get bored of it eventually, so if you have a bag or can of chickpeas hanging out, here are some quick ways to turn them into a non-hummus meal. 

How to Cook Dried Chickpeas

Do you have a bag of chickpeas that you need to turn into food? The first step is cooking them. If you have patience and remember to, you could soak them, but to be honest, I rarely remember or bother to soak my beans. As Cool Beans author Joe Yonan told me, it doesn’t cut down cooking time all that much, and it mostly means people are more intimidated by cooking beans than they should be, thanks to not being back to time travel to the day before to set their chickpeas in a pot of water. Basically all you need to do is simmer the chickpeas for a few hours in a pot of water. If that’s all you can handle, that’s totally fine!

If you want, this is also an opportunity to add some flavor to the chickpeas. I usually keep it fairly simple so I can use the chickpeas for different dishes without worrying about the flavors clashing, and just add onion and garlic, because I’m an allium fan for life. I just cut the onion in half or quarters (no need to peel it) and smash the garlic, cook them at the bottom of a stockpot with a glug of olive oil until they turn golden brown, and then add the chickpeas, cover them with an inch or two water, throw in a pinch of salt and a couple bay leaves, and simmer until they’re tender.

Thanks to Joe Yonan, I’ve also started adding in a strip of kombu, a kind of kelp popular in Japanese cooking, which helps soften the beans and cuts down on their fartiness, allegedly—but don’t stress if you can’t find any. You could also put in a few sprigs of herbs with the water, or caramelize a dollop of tomato paste after you brown the garlic and onions for extra flavor. You could also throw in a few spices that you like—put them in once the onion and garlic are done and stir them in the hot oil until they’re fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Then add the chickpeas and water. Check on them every half-hour to hour, stirring to make sure that the beans aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. That’s it! If you have an Instant Pot or another kind of pressure cooker, do all the things mentioned previously (sauté onion and garlic and/or tomato paste and spices, add beans and water) and set it to high pressure for 35 to 40 minutes for unsoaked chickpeas, or 20 to 25 minutes for soaked ones. Taste them once they’ve cooked, and if they still need time, just push the saute button and let them simmer a bit longer. 

Make a Simple Soup or Stew

Perhaps you’re aware of a certain viral stew that made the rounds a couple years ago? Chickpeas are a central ingredient, because chickpeas are very good in soups and stews, as in this excellent Chickpea and Spinach Stew. The easiest, most vegan version of this, a technique I took from Joe Yonan’s Tunisian Soup recipe, is to just blend a cup or two of cooked chickpeas with a fourth of a cup of olive oil and a half cup of the cooking liquid or just plain water, then transfer that into the pot with another cup or two of whole cooked chickpeas. Add in salt and pepper, chopped, sauteed onions and garlic, and whatever spices you like—a dollop of harissa or curry paste, a tablespoon of taco seasoning, a bunch of oregano and rosemary, whatever you like. It’s easily adaptable to whatever you have on hand. You can also saute or roast some bite-sized vegetables and add them in, or add a handful of spinach. A splash or two of coconut milk would be nice, if you have it, and a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to add some acid. Simmer it together so the flavors can meld, and improvise with what you have. 

Abby Hocking

Chana Masala All Dang Day

One of my all-time favorite comfort foods, Chana Masala, is an Indian chickpea dish that also happens to mostly use pantry ingredients—garlic, ginger, spices, canned tomatoes, and chickpeas. It’s one of those dishes that’s easy to riff off of. Don’t have canned tomatoes? Use tomato paste. Hate cilantro? Skip it. Only have garlic powder instead of fresh garlic? That’s OK! Want to throw in a handful of chopped kale or spinach at the end? Why not. Don’t have a fresh hot pepper? Use chile flakes. No laws, no masters. 

Roast Chickpeas for a Crunchy Snack or Garnish

One of the easiest ways to turn cooked chickpeas into a snack (aside from blending them into hummus) is roasting them until they get crisp and crunchy. To make crunchy chickpeas, the only finicky thing is that you have to dry out your drained canned (or home-cooked) chickpeas really well. If you have a salad spinner, use that. If not, dry them as best you can in a colander, dump them onto a sheet pan lined with a clean dish towel or a couple layers of paper towel, and let them air dry for an hour or more, until they feel pretty dry. Then toss them with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and a teaspoon or two of salt and whatever spices you like—black pepper, curry powder, ranch powder, or you can try this chili powder and cumin number. Roast in an oven set to 400F for 45 minutes to an hour, keeping an eye on them and tossing theem if they geeet too toasty on one side. They’re delicious plain, as a snack, but also wonderful as a garnish, on soups or in salads, as you would use croutons. If you want them crunchy, faster, you can also fry them, as the wise Justin Chapple does in his Kale Caesar with Fried Chickpeas.

Chickpeas and Pasta Forever

Chickpeas also make an excellent addition to pasta dishes, like in this Orecchiette with Greens, Mozzerella, and Chickpeas, or in this Lemony Broccoli and Chickpea Rigatoni. My favorite, extremely simple pantry chickpea meal is pasta e ceci, a quick one-skillet meal made from tomato paste, short pasta, garlic sizzled in olive oil, chile flakes and a can of chickpeas. You can also add them to a creamy sauce for textural contrast and a bit of extra dietary fiber. Don’t be shy! Chickpeas are your friend. And after all that, if you just want hummus, hey—make some hummus. Sometimes you have to play the hits.