How to Cook with Dried Chickpeas
While other beans have dominated the kitchen spotlight over the years, chickpeas—aka. garbanzo beans—have recently gotten their chance to shine thanks to Mediterranean cuisine’s rising popularity. However, these versatile and healthy beans are still primarily used from a can—rather than in their dry form—which robs them of the chance to reach their full culinary potential.
While canned chickpeas are undoubtedly the more convenient of the two options, the superior taste and texture of the dried beans is worth the extra effort. Not only are dried chickpeas more affordable than their canned counterparts, but they are also more flavorful, as they haven’t been soaked in a preservative-packed liquid to keep them shelf stable, and better maintain their form and texture during the cooking process.
Though time-consuming, the dried chickpea rehydration and cooking process is a simple kitchen task that any level of home cook can master, and will be well worth your efforts in the end.
Soaking and Rehydrating
The first step to successfully cooking with dried chickpeas is to soak and rehydrate the beans properly. Start by sifting through your dried beans and removing any stones or excess debris before covering your dried chickpeas in water and soaking for 8 hours. Keep in mind that your dried chickpeas will expand significantly during this process, so be sure to use a large enough bowl.
At this point, you can also opt to add 1 tablespoon of baking soda per pound of chickpeas to your soaking water. While it’s completely possible to rehydrate and cook chickpeas without baking soda, this common household ingredient can make a world of difference. By soaking the chickpeas in baking soda, you create a reaction that breaks down the pectin—a natural thickening agent—in the chickpeas, which allows the skin to soften. When cooked, this softened skin will disintegrate easily and leave only the center of the chickpea, resulting in a more tender texture. While the addition of baking soda is optional, it will hugely benefit your end result, particularly when making creamier dishes, like hummus.
After your chickpeas have soaked for a minimum of 8 hours—or ideally overnight—drain the liquid and rinse the chickpeas thoroughly before moving on to the cooking step.
If you forget to prep your chickpeas but need them for a recipe ASAP, you can speed up the rehydration process with the help of a little heat. Start by rinsing your chickpeas thoroughly under cold water before adding the beans to a saucepan and covering with a couple of inches of water. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 1 minute before removing the pan from heat, covering, and letting the chickpeas soak for 1 hour in the pan before rinsing and preparing as usual.
While it might appear that your chickpeas are ready to be consumed once rehydrated, they need to be cooked before they’re worked into any dish or recipe. There are a few options for cooking your chickpeas, some of which require the beans to be pre-soaked, and others that do the hydration heavy lifting for you.
This simple method for cooking your chickpeas is as traditional as it gets. Start by adding your rinsed chickpeas to a large pot, covered by a couple inches of water. You can also choose to add salt, garlic, bay leaves, and other seasonings at this point to infuse some flavor in your legumes. Bring the pot to a boil before covering, lowering the heat, and simmering for between 1-2 hours, depending on the quantity and desired texture. Determining when your chickpeas are done is completely subjective. After about an hour, occasionally taste for tenderness; if the chickpeas are still too firm for your liking, continue to simmer. Once they’ve reached your ideal consistency, drain the beans and cool for 15 minutes before using them in a recipe or storing.
Rehydrated chickpeas can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for a few months.
One major benefit of using a slow cooker to cook your legumes is that you have the option to skip the pre-soak. This method is also the most hands-off option for cooking your beans, and can be started in the morning and completed just in time to make dinner.
Simply add your dried chickpeas and water to your slow cooker—about 8 cups of water per pound of chickpeas—and cook on low for 6-8 hours. To speed up the process, you can also choose to cook on high for 3-4 hours. However, a low and slow cooking process will result in a more tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
You can also cook pre-soaked beans in the slow cooker by scaling down the water by half and cooking for 2 hours on high or 4 hours on low.
For pressure cooker lovers and Instant Pot devotees, cooking your chickpeas with this method is a no-brainer. This is the quickest method for cooking the beans, and can be done with either pre-soaked or dry beans.
If cooking pre-soaked beans, add the rinsed chickpeas to your Instant Pot or pressure cooker with 3 cups of water and cook on high pressure for between 12-18 minutes, depending on the texture you’re aiming for. The longer the cook time, the softer the texture will be.
If cooking dry beans, rinse your dried beans thoroughly before adding to the Instant Pot or cooker with a few cups of water. Cook for 35-40 minutes before allowing the pressure to release naturally. With either of these methods, you can opt to add garlic, bay leaves, and salt in with the chickpeas for some added flavor.
Recipes to Try
Once your dried chickpeas have been rehydrated and cooked, they’re ready to be incorporated into any recipe your legume-loving heart desires. While there are some obvious chickpea dishes we all know and love—like Creamy Tahini Hummus and Falafel Pitas—these beans have tons of potential beyond the traditional mezze spread.
Incorporate your garbanzo beans into a satisfying side dish, like a Chickpea and Orzo Dinner Salad or Pancetta and Chickpea Soup, or create an Italian-inspired feast with Orecchiette with Greens, Mozzarella, and Chickpeas and Sausage and Clams with Chickpeas.
Chickpeas also make a great partner to a wide variety of meats, like Moroccan Style Lamb and Chickpeas, Grilled Scallops with Lemon-Chickpea Salad, and Tuna and Chickpea Salad with Pesto—or can give bulk to vegetarian recipes like Quinoa and Chickpea Burgers.
Whichever way you cook them, going the extra mile by using dried chickpeas is guaranteed to take any of your dishes to the next—completely can-free—level.