Cheers for the Chickpea

By Jacqueline Dunnington

The chickpea is also known by its Spanish name, "garbanzo." It is the usually plump, edible seed of the aromatic herb Cicer arietinum. This herb is a member of the pea clan that originates in Asia. It is now cultivated in warm climates around the globe.

Plato (ca. 428-348 BCE) in The Republic mentions a bean, probably the chickpea, and figs as suitable foods for consumption in an ideal society. As far back as 1759, this special pea, or bean, was cited in a list compiled by Venega in California. The chickpea, with its mild flavor and high nutritional value, has inspired the palates of cultures worldwide. Its versatility can be seen in the recipes below.


(Yields about 2 cups)

Plato and Aristotle certainly savored this ancient recipe in their native Greece. Add 1 Tablespoon of vegan pesto to the mixture for an adventure in flavor.

  • 2-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 3 Tablespoons washed and chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon crushed fresh garlic
    or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • Juice of one small lemon
  • Salt or salt substitute and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and reduce to a creamy paste in a food processor. Serve with whole wheat pita bread. For a wonderful sandwich, stuff a pita pocket with hummus and shredded lettuce.

Total calories per serving: 51 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 9 grams Protein: 2 grams
*Sodium: 43 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

*Note that all nutrient calculations are based on canned chickpeas. If you want to lower the sodium, use dried, boiled chickpeas.

Curried Chickpeas

(Serves 6)

Called Chole or Chana in north India, this spicy dish is a vegetarian's dream.

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 yellow onions, cut small enough to blend
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut in strips
  • 2 cups peeled, seeded, and crushed fresh or canned tomatoes
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil of choice
  • 2 Tablespoons mild curry powder
  • 2 Tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups very coarsely chopped cooked chickpeas
  • Cooked brown Basmati rice, and mango chutney (optional)

Pureé garlic, onions, red bell pepper, and tomatoes in blender. In a heavy pot, heat oil, add the blended vegetables, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in curry powder, cilantro, and ginger along with chickpeas. Serve with cooked brown Basmati rice and mango chutney.

Total calories per serving: 196 Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 27 grams Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 245 milligrams Fiber: 6 grams

Chickpea Patties with Tomato-Cilantro Sauce

(Serves 4)

Enjoy these quick-fix meatless patties with a tasty sauce.

  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon pulp
  • 1/2 cup finely snipped green scallion tops
  • Salt or salt substitute and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil


  • 1-1/2 cups tomatoes, crushed
  • 2 Tablespoons prepared tahini
  • 3 Tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Pureé chickpeas in a food processor. Mix lemon pulp, scallions, salt, and pepper into the chickpea purée. Divide into four large or eight small patties. Coat patties with flour and sauté in oil until golden on both sides.

Meanwhile, simmer tomatoes with tahini and cilantro. To serve, set patties on dinner plates and smother with sauce. Cooked greens make a nice companion.

Total calories per serving: 304 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 52 grams Protein: 12 grams
*Sodium: 545 milligrams Fiber: 11 grams

Good source of iron and zinc

Peruvian Chickpea Stew

(Serves 4)

This dish from the Andes is a gourmet gift to vegans.

  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 4 tomatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges
  • 1 small yellow squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon each: coriander, ground cumin, and allspice
  • Salt or salt substitute and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • Cooked brown rice

In a deep pot, sauté onions and garlic in oil until onions turn pale brown. Add the chickpeas, tomato wedges, diced squash, and all the seasonings. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes. Stir often. Add a few teaspoons of water or vegetable broth if needed. Serve hot over cooked brown rice.

Total calories per serving: 251 Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 38 grams Protein: 8 grams
*Sodium: 372 milligrams Fiber: 8 grams

Chickpea and Asparagus Salad with Citrus Dressing

(Serves 4)

A fresh, tasty, and healthy salad to accompany any main meal.

  • 2 cups canned or cooked chickpeas, chilled
  • 2 cups cooked asparagus tips
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 2 cups shredded salad greens


  • 1 Tablespoon orange pulp
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon pulp
  • 1 Tablespoon lime pulp
  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Place chilled chickpeas, asparagus tips, onions, and carrots in a salad bowl. In a glass cup, combine the citrus pulps with the oil, vinegar, and parsley. Stir well, pour over cold vegetables, and toss lightly. Serve on four plates of shredded greens.

Total calories per serving: 240 Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 36 grams Protein: 9 grams
*Sodium: 384 milligrams Fiber: 8 grams

Garbanzo, Corn, and "Eight Spice" Stew

(Yield: about 8 cups)

A gift from New Mexico to all.The flavor is intense, so no added salt needed.

  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and slivered
  • 2 cups diced or crushed cooked tomatoes (low-sodium, if canned)
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (drained, if canned)
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

The eight herbs and spices:

  • 1 sprig fresh sage
  • 1 sprig fresh marjoram
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs cilantro
  • 4 sprigs parsley in lime juice
  • 1/2 cup cooked green chilies, canned or fresh (must remove seeds)
  • Pinch red chili powder
  • Pinch dried basil

Sauté onions in oil until translucent. Add green pepper and sauté until soft. Add tomatoes and wait until the mixture starts to bubble. Add corn, then chickpeas. Slowly add all eight herbs and spices. Simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add pepper. Remove bay leaf and herb sprigs before serving with crusty dark bread. Extra stew remains tasty up to four days in refrigerator.

Total calories per serving: 390 Fat: 14 grams
Carbohydrates: 61 grams Protein: 11 grams
*Sodium: 717 milligrams Fiber: 11 grams

Jacqueline Dunnington is a freelance writer from Santa Fe, NM, and a frequent Vegetarian Journal contributor.