3 Fail-Proof Tips for Cooking Chickpeas Like a Trained Chef

Photo: Chris Bernabeo
Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) have often been regarded as one of the main cornerstones of health foods for thousands of years, with roots dating as far back as 3500 BCE in Turkey and 6790 BCE in France. But it’s no secret why they’ve managed to stick around our pantry shelves for this long: They’re an excellent source of many vital nutrients and minerals that promote overall well-being.

Sure, they may be small, but underestimating their mightiness would be a great disservice to the humble legume (and ourselves). In fact, according to the USDA, there are more than a whopping 14 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber, five milligrams of iron—and the list goes on—per cup of these golden-hued gems. With a slightly nutty, mostly mild flavorful profile and creamy texture, there’s no stopping what chickpeas can do. They pair well with just about any ingredient and are versatile enough to handle most (if not all) cooking techniques.

Experts In This Article

So, isn’t it about time we gave good ol’ chickpeas the chef treatment? Award-winning chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson, the dynamic duo behind Kismet and Kismet Rotisserie, would agree. ”We’re big chickpea fans,” say Kramer and Hymanson. So much so, you can expect to find tons of chickpea-forward recipes speckled throughout their newly released cookbook, Kismet: Bright, Fresh, Vegetable-Loving Recipes. Lucky for us, Kramer and Hymanson shared the best tips and tricks for how to cook chickpeas like a pro, plus one of their favorite chickpea recipes of all time.

What is the best way to cook chickpeas?

One of the (many) reasons Kramer and Hymanson enjoy chickpeas so much is their versatility. In their new cookbook, you’ll find that they make use of the ingredient in tons of different ways, from sautéeing the legumes in toasted butter to complement a Moroccan-spiced carrot dish to using the clear liquid from drained chickpeas (aka aquafaba) as the foundation of a miso poppy dressing.

You may be wondering: What’s the best way to cook chickpeas? Well, there are tons! “It’s an incredible byproduct ingredient that’s extremely useful from anything from salad dressing to meringue,” Kramer and Hymanson agree. However, the duo was generous enough to share their delicious Moroccan-spiced carrots with chickpeas recipe from their new cookbook for us to try one of their all-time favorite ways to cook chickpeas.

Do chickpeas need to be soaked before cooking?

According to Kramer and Hymanson, deciphering whether chickpeas need to be soaked before cooking all depends on the recipe.

When using dried chickpeas: If you’re starting with dried chickpeas, then the answer is generally yes. “Be sure to thoroughly soak them before cooking them, ideally overnight in much more water than you think would be necessary,” Kramer and Hymanson explain. Soaking dried chickpeas in at least four times their volume of cold water overnight (or roughly 12 hours) helps soften and cook the legumes more quickly. “Adding a touch of baking soda to the cooking liquid is also helpful for truly tender chickpeas,” they add.

The key when cooking with dried chickpeas is to plan accordingly and have a bit of extra patience when soaking them. “If you want to go through the process of cooking chickpeas from dried beans, you give yourself the opportunity to imbue them with flavor from the start throughout the cooking process,” Kramer and Hymanson say. Dried chickpeas also tend to have a more natural flavor (and less salt) than canned ones.

When using canned chickpeas: On the flip side, canned chickpeas won’t require a soak (a quick drain and rinse is usually more than enough). “You can certainly use canned chickpeas for ease, and we’d never knock their time-saving utility. Both options have their place,” Kramer and Hymanson say. That said, it’s important to be mindful of the high sodium content in canned beans. For context, one can of chickpeas can contain up to 622 milligrams of sodium. However, rinsing them will help remove some of the excess salt.

3 tips for how to cook chickpeas (like a pro)

1. Focus on the cooking technique

According to Kramer and Hymanson, applying the proper cooking techniques can go a long way, especially when complementing the flavors of otherwise potentially bland chickpeas. “Building flavor starts with good ingredients and some simple techniques, like making sure you’re getting enough color on toasted garlic, caramelized onions, or roasted vegetables,” they say. “A good—and fresh!—spice blend goes a long way, as does toasting spice in oil as a part of the process, not just adding it in at the end,” Kramer and Hymanson note.

2. Prepare them ahead of time

Kramer and Hymanson agree that preparation is key when handling chickpeas. That’s why they suggest making spiced chickpea dishes up to three days in advance to give them ample time to marinate in their flavorful cooking juices. Cooked chickpeas are porous, which means the longer they soak in their cooking liquid, the better they’ll taste.

3. Layer the flavors

On their own, chickpeas are pretty mild tasting, which is why Kramer and Hymanson say you shouldn’t be afraid to layer on the flavor. Some of their go-to ingredients to pair with chickpeas include: fresh bay leaves (for stews and roasted recipes), umami-rich miso or anchovies (for added depth), and fresh herbs and citrus (as a garnish to brighten and lift over flavors in a dish). Not to mention, tons of anti-inflammatory spices, like clove and cinnamon, as featured in their Moroccan-spiced carrots with chickpea recipe ahead.

Moroccan-Spiced Carrots With Chickpea Recipe

Yields 4 Servings


For the chickpeas:
1/2 cup dried chickpeas
1 Tbsp plus 1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/2 onion, root intact
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp kosher salt

For the carrots:
2 pounds carrots, scrubbed, halved lengthwise and then crosswise
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tsp kosher salt

To finish:
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup minced shallots (about 2 shallots)
2 Tbsp Carrot Spice
2 Tbsp lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1 cup (about 1/2 bunch) cilantro leaves

For the carrot spice:
3 Tbsp Marash or Aleppo pepper
3 Tbsp ground coriander
1 1/2 Tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 Tsp ground paprika
1 1/2 Tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 Tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tsp ground cinnamon

1. Cook the chickpeas: Soak the chickpeas in at least four times their volume of cold water overnight. Drain.

2. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and brown for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cinnamon, bay leaf, drained chickpeas, 3 cups water, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the chickpeas are creamy all the way through, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

3. Discard the onion, cinnamon, and bay leaf. Stir in the salt and allow to sit uncovered, off the heat, for at least 30 minutes. When ready to use, drain the chickpeas of their liquid.

4. Roast the carrots: Preheat the oven to 450°F.

5. Arrange the carrots on a baking sheet and toss in the olive oil and salt to coat. Roast the carrots until tender and browned at the edges, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.

6. To finish: About 10 minutes before the carrots have finished roasting, melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chickpeas and sauté until the butter browns lightly, about 10 minutes. Add the shallots and cook, stirring for 3 minutes longer. Add the Carrot Spice and stir thoroughly.

7. Pour the spiced chickpeas over the carrots on the baking sheet, add the lemon juice, and toss well.

8. Transfer to a serving dish and top with the cilantro.

For the carrot spice:

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the Marash pepper, coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric, black pepper, and cinnamon. Store in an airtight container.

Chef’s note:
The inspiration for this dish was pretty loose, but we wanted a hearty, satisfying, hot vegetarian main dish on the menu, so chickpeas brought a lot of welcome substance to a carrot dish. It’s hard to go wrong with this dish, but if the flavors end up a little too light at first, add a little more of the spice blend and pop the tray back in the oven to get more color on your carrots and chickpeas so that you’re getting the sought-after depth here. And don’t be shy with the cilantro!

In a pinch, you can sub in a can of chickpeas here, but cooking your own chickpeas will always be better. Plus, don't forget to save the chickpea cooking liquid—whether in the fridge or frozen for the future—it’s a flavorful base for braises or a quick soup.

“Kismet” Copyright © 2024 by Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson. Photographs copyright © 2024 by Chris Bernabeo. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group. 

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