Chickpeas are a long-term store cupboard staple, the kind of thing you take with you when you move house. But they also build up: it’s not unusual to have more tins of chickpeas than you know what to do with, and an excess of one ingredient is nothing if not dispiriting. Here, then, are 17 easy and delicious ways to use them up.
I confess I reached a fairly ripe age before I learned to love chickpeas. When I was growing up in the US, they were called garbanzo beans, and my mother kept a tin of them in case she needed to make three-bean salad, which I never ate because of the name. To a child, “three-bean salad” sounds three times worse than “one-bean salad”, which sounds bad enough.
As an adult, however, I have two tips for you: first, you can discover a whole new world of chickpea recipes by typing “garbanzo” into Google; second, three-bean salad is a simple pleasure. The three beans in question are chickpeas, kidney beans (drained and rinsed) and green beans, tossed with sliced red onion, parsley and a basic vinaigrette, and chilled for a bit before serving. Traditionally, it’s made with tinned green beans, but I think this is an unnecessary privation – use fresh, cooked and cooled. You will find recipes online for four-bean, five-bean, six-bean and even-seven bean salads, invented by people with perverse ambitions and time on their hands. I leave you to judge how far is too far.
Chickpeas also pair well with halloumi, sliced and fried for about a minute on each side. Halloumi, chickpea and lime salad is a good template, but you can also try the chickpea and cheese combination with red onion and avocado, with carrots and watercress or beetroot and spinach. All you need is bread, and you’ve got lunch.
Soups and Stews
We have to start with the Italian Friday night supper pasta e ceci, which is not just simple but pleasingly parsimonious. It’s a dish you might rustle up from ingredients left behind by the previous guests of an Airbnb flat: a tin of chickpeas, an onion, a potato, tomato puree, a parmesan rind and some old, broken pasta. There are many more elaborate variations, but Rachel Roddy’s store-cupboard version is the perfect introduction.
Chickpea and chorizo stew is another basic to which you might apply the usual lockdown rules: chorizo equals “any sausage at all”; parsley and coriander are in most circumstances interchangeable, and it’s OK to replace smoked paprika with whichever hot red stuff you happen to own, including bottled sauces. These relaxations will remain in place until further notice.
Broccoli, fennel and chickpea stew makes use of vegetables you might otherwise struggle to combine, and Meera Sodha concocted it to appeal to children. It does contain orzo, which you may not have to hand, but it shouldn’t be that difficult to procure. If your local shop had it, they will still have – nobody panic-bought orzo.
Anna Jones makes an important point in her recipe for chickpea and turmeric stew: tinned chickpeas vary widely in terms of quality and texture – some are hard, some a bit sludgy. The ones in jars are generally nicer (and more expensive), and dried chickpeas, which need to be soaked overnight and then simmered for about an hour, have a slightly chalkier bite.
You’re not supposed to use tinned chickpeas to make falafel because they are too wet. Felicity Cloake’s perfect falafel uses dried chickpeas and dried split broad beans. But I’m not here to stop you trying it with tinned chickpeas, and anything this recipe lacks in perfection it more than makes up for in simplicity. If you think that falafel without the faff is not falafel, you could try Nigel Slater’s chickpea cakes with spinach and lemongrass, which are in the same spirit and more approachable.
This recipe is so simple it’s for students: you just need onion, cumin, turmeric, garlic, tinned tomatoes, a couple of handfuls of spinach leaves and some coriander. I felt terribly overpraised when I made this for my family last week because I felt I had done so little to earn their appreciation. It was just too easy. But then I had the rest for lunch the next day and thought: sod it – this is excellent.
Jamie Oliver’s chickpea curry is no more difficult, but it does call for a wider range of spices (bear in mind that “dhana jeera powder” is just a mixture of ground cumin and coriander), and this coconut chickpea and spinach curry requires nothing more exotic than two tins of coconut milk.
For Italian-Americans pasta e ceci, or simply “pasta cheech”, tends to refer to a deeply comforting pasta dish rather than a soup, although in most cases you would still probably eat it with a spoon. The basic ingredients are the same, and the variations are equally endless, so no matter what adjustments you make, you’re probably approximating somebody’s mother’s version. It’s a traditional way to use up odds and ends of leftover short pasta.
This Bon Appétit video probably gets closest to the way I was taught to make it, although the Italian-American woman who showed me how didn’t use any tomatoes and insisted the pasta should be orecchiette so that, once it was stirred together, a chickpea sat nestled in each little ear, like a pearl in an oyster. She also used undrained tinned chickpeas – for her, the gloop the chickpeas came in was an essential part of the sauce.
You may well be aware that the gloop the chickpeas come in has a name – aquafaba. The term was coined a few years ago (from the Latin for “bean” and “water”), but, ever since, aquafaba has been hailed as a miracle vegan binding ingredient that can stand in for eggs and even be whipped like meringues (verdict from my test kitchen: no, it can’t). In theory, any pudding requiring eggs can be made using aquafaba instead.
I tried it with Nigella Lawson’s standard brownie recipe, reducing the batch size to minimise my disappointment and substituting three tablespoons of chilled chickpea tin water for every whole egg. Otherwise, everything else was the same.
I’ve made these brownies many times before – with eggs – and the difference was pretty marked. These were oiler, flatter and a great deal chewier. While they weren’t terrible, and didn’t taste nearly as beany as you might imagine, I am easily discouraged by anything other than immediate and unequivocal success. For vegans and the persevering, this aquafaba meringue recipe should keep you busy.
This chocolate and chickpea torte with rum cream is the dessert I wish I had made. I’m going to generously suggest that if you haven’t got any rum to hand, you can use any spirit you haven’t drunk yet. If you’ve got any left at all, bravo.
Tim Dowling is a regular Guardian contributor.