Flavorful chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are an inexpensive source of protein, fiber, potassium, iron and calcium. These versatile legumes are traditionally used to make hummus as well as other Mediterranean and Indian foods. Take advantage of their mild, slightly nutty flavor by adding them to a variety of dishes, including salads, soups, stews and main dishes. Dry chickpeas have a richer flavor but require soaking and cooking before use. Canned chickpeas are ready to use, making them a great time-saver for busy moms.
Soak Dry Chickpeas
Check carefully before soaking, as dry chickpeas often contain a few twigs or shriveled, damaged chickpeas. Soak dry chickpeas in at least 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of chickpeas. Soak them for at least 4 hours, but overnight is best. Once they are soaked, rinse the chickpeas with clear water before cooking, as rinsing removes gas-causing sugar and carbohydrates.
Cook Dry Chickpeas
Cook soaked chickpeas in a saucepan filled with enough water to cover the chickpeas. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the chickpeas, with the cover on, for 1 to 2 hours. Soaking the chickpeas for 12 to 24 hours decreases cooking time to about 30 minutes, although older chickpeas are harder and require a longer cooking time.
Soups, Stews and Salads
Although chickpeas are good added to nearly any soup or stew, they are best when incorporated in broth-based soups rather than cream-based soups. Make a kid-friendly, nutritious soup by adding cooked or canned chickpeas to a homemade vegetable soup. Cook soups and stews slowly, as hard boiling damages the outer covering of the chickpeas. If you prefer a velvety texture, puree the soup with a stick blender. For a quick dinner option, make chickpeas a salad topping. Add a handful of cooled chickpeas to your family's favorite salad and top with a creamy dressing.
Casseroles and Main Dishes
Use your imagination when incorporating chickpeas into casseroles and main dishes. If your kids are picky eaters, try hiding the chickpeas in spaghetti sauce for a low-fat alternative to ground beef. You can also use chickpeas as a pizza topping. Include chickpeas in a baked bean dish with kidney beans, pinto beans and lentils, or add them to a baked dish with sliced zucchini, tomatoes, onions and cheese.
Cook chickpeas in a large saucepan, as they double or triple during the cooking process. To reduce foaming, add 1 tsp. of canola or olive oil to the cooking water. Save time by cooking a large batch of chickpeas, then freeze the extra to use later. When frozen in an airtight container or plastic bag, chickpeas retain their quality for up to six months. Don't discard the water that you cooked the chickpeas in -- it makes an excellent soup stock. Freeze the stock in an airtight container and use it the next time you want to make a homemade soup.