From appetizers to entrées, food lovers can taste the world in one little bean. For more than 7,000 years, chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) have been a staple food across a dozen different lands such as the United States, Italy, India, and the Middle East. The chickpea’s wonderful versatility makes it a useful ingredient in a delicious variety of food categories, including soups, salads, desserts, dips, entrées, and breads.

Photography by Justin Brown

United States: Chickpea Picnic Salad

This recipe utilizes the chickpea as a variant of the classic American three-bean salad. The hearty texture and savory flavor make this salad the perfect addition to any springtime picnic or Memorial Day barbeque. This salad can even be made the night before to allow the flavors to meld.



1 (15-ounce) can of green beans or 2 cups freshly steamed green beans, chopped

1 (15-ounce) can of kidney beans

1 (15-ounce) can of chickpea (or garbanzo) beans

1/4 red onion, sliced in rings or minced

1/4 cup of Italian vinaigrette salad dressing

1 teaspoon sugar



1.    Drain and rinse all the canned beans and set aside.

2.    In a large bowl, whisk the vinaigrette dressing and the sugar.

3.    Slice the red onion into thin rings (or you can mince them) and place them in the salad dressing/sugar
       mixture to allow them to marinate.

4.    Toss the beans in the vinaigrette. Refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.


Yield: About 6 servings




Photography by Justin Brown

Italy: Farinata


This Italian flat bread is made from chickpea flour. A traditional snack from the region of Liguria, on the coast of northwestern Italy, farinata is a delicious street food that can be eaten plain or stuffed with vegetables, cheeses, sauces, meats, and herbs.



1 cup chickpea flour

1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary

1 teaspoon salt

11/4 cup water

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan and drizzling

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper



1.    In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and rosemary slowly into the water until combined.

2.    Let the mixture rest for at least four hours or overnight.

3.    Preheat the oven to 400°F.

4.    Heat a cast-iron skillet in the oven for about 10 minutes.

5.    Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the batter and stir until it is all absorbed.

6.    Carefully remove the cast-iron skillet from the oven and grease liberally with olive oil (2–3 tablespoons)
       until the skillet is totally coated.

7.    Pour a half an inch of batter into the greased skillet and drizzle the top with olive oil.

8.    Place the cast-iron skillet back into the hot oven, and cook until the edge appears dark and has turned a
       golden color (about 20–30 minutes).

9.    Slide onto a cutting board and cut into wedges.

10.   Sprinkle liberally with pepper and eat while hot.


Yield: 4 servings



Photography by Justin Brown

India: Mirchi Bada


For this Indian treat, green chilies are stuffed with potatoes and fried in chickpea batter. Famous to the region of Jodhpur, Rajasthan, this spicy dish makes a hearty snack. Mirchi bada can also be served as an entrée with couscous or rice. Tomato sauce and green chutney make great sauces.



For the filling:

4 long green chilies (Anaheim or poblano)

4 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder

1/2 teaspoon coriander leaves

1 teaspoon salt


For the batter:

11/3 cup chickpea flour

 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 cup water

Salt to taste

Oil for frying



1.    Slit each chili along its length; remove the seeds.

2.    Boil and mash the potatoes.

3.    Mix the chili powder, garam masala, salt, and
       coriander leaves into the potatoes.

4.    Stuff and cover the chilies with the potato masala.

5.    In a separate bowl, mix the salt, turmeric, and the chickpea flour with enough water (about 1 cup) to
       make a thick, smooth batter.

6.    Let the batter sit for about 10 minutes.

7.    Heat oil in a deep pan.

8.    Coat the chilies completely in the chickpea batter.

9.    Deep fry the chilies until golden brown. Serve hot.


Yield: 4 servings



Photography by Justin Brown

Middle East: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus


Hummus is a traditional dip and spread from the Middle East made from ground chickpeas. Several countries, including Palestine, Israel, and Lebanon, claim it as a national dish. Although hummus is ubiquitous to the whole region—you can find it anywhere from street vendors to upscale restaurants—each dish will taste a little different and will be garnished in a variety of ways. You can add to this recipe with toasted
almond slices, fresh parsley, pine nuts,
a drizzle of olive oil, paprika, or thinly
sliced fresh red peppers.



6 tablespoons tahini  (ground sesame seed paste)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 fresh red peppers, roasted (see below)

1 small garlic clove, roasted and minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons lemon juice



To roast the red peppers:

1.    Rinse and wash 2 bell peppers. Cut in half length-wise, core, and seed.

2.    Cover a baking pan with a sheet of tinfoil, and lightly coat it with olive oil.

3.    Wrap the garlic (with the skin on) in a packet of tinfoil.

4.    Place the red peppers (cut-side down) and the garlic packet on the baking sheet. Broil until the red
       peppers are slightly charred and the skin is wrinkled.

5.    Cool the red peppers in a covered bowl.

6.    Peel away the wrinkled skin and slice thinly.


For the hummus:

1.     Whisk tahini and olive oil together in a small bowl.

2.     In a food processor or blender, combine chickpeas, roasted red peppers, garlic, and salt until the
        chickpeas are almost fully ground.

3.     Add the lemon juice in a steady stream while the machine is running.

4.     Scrape the sides of the food processor and process for one minute.

5.     Add the oil-tahini mixture in a steady stream; continue to process until the hummus is smooth and

6.     Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl and cover with plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes for the
        flavors to meld. Refrigerate up to 5 days.


Yield: About 2 cups


 *Chickpea flour (also called gram flour, besan, or garbanzo bean flour) can be found in Indian markets, health-food stores, and select grocery stores.

*Garam masala, an Indian spice blend, can be bought online, in Indian markets, or in the spice section of most grocery stores.

*Tahini can be found in Middle Eastern markets, in health-food stores, and in the international aisle of some grocery stores.

—Marissa Empey