Also known as gram flour, besan flour or garbanzo bean flour, chickpea flour hails from India and the Middle East. While typical white flour derives from milled wheat grains and is often bleached, chickpea flour typically contains nothing but pure, ground chickpeas. While the battle between chickpea flour and other types boils down to personal preferences, taking an objective look at chickpea flour's qualities may help you find a place for it in your kitchen.
Flavor and Texture
Like chickpeas themselves, chickpea flour has a slightly nutty or bean-like flavor, making it a bit richer than wheat-based flours. While the gluten in regular flour lends a spongy elasticity to baked dishes, chickpea flour makes for a more dense -- though no less moist -- consistency. Because of its density, chickpea flour sometimes serves as a thickening agent. For most baked goods, about 7/8 of a cup of chickpea flour can stand in for a whole cup of wheat flour.
Chickpea flour commonly acts as a substitute for wheat flour, the most common form of flour on the shelves, especially for those who are gluten-intolerant. Although this type of flour is gluten-free, it packs a significant amount of iron, phosphorous and protein -- a single serving of chickpea flour contains more than 10 percent of the recommended daily values for each.
While chickpea flour serves an all-around substitute for wheat flour in baked goods -- including cookies, breads, muffins and more -- its subtle flavor works particularly well in certain dishes. Dishes traditionally made with chickpea flour include hummus, chickpea pancakes called socca, chickpea fries, falafel, pancakes, crepes, curries and fritters. It also lends itself as a light breading or batter for savory meat dishes, such as salmon tikka.
Making Your Own
On store shelves, chickpea flour often comes at a premium price. However, it's easy to make your own at home. Simply grind dry chickpeas in a food processor, blender or coffee grinder, sift the ground peas through a sieve to catch any large pieces, grind those pieces finely and repeat. You can store homemade chickpea flour in air-tight containers in the freezer and thaw it before use. For a bolder, richer flavor, toast the chickpeas until they're lightly browned before grinding. About 15 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit does the trick for two cups of dried chickpeas.