Behind the Recipes

How to Turn Versatile Chickpeas into Soup, Salad, and Crispy Cakes

Creamy, crunchy, whole, or chopped—any way you like them, these versatile legumes are your ticket to an array of satisfying meals.
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Published Feb. 5, 2024.

It’s not just their chubby profile, nutty flavor, and velvety flesh that set chickpeas apart. The tawny pulses are also higher in fat than most other beans and legumes, which gives them an exceptionally creamy eating quality.

Add to their resume that chickpeas are nutritious, protein-rich, and inexpensive, and you’ll want to keep your pantry stocked with a few cans for easy meals like the trio I offer here.

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A Spiced Chickpea Salad

My recipe for a hearty, chickpea-forward chopped salad begins with zapping the chickpeas in the microwave to dry out their plump interiors and rupture their exteriors. Then, as you pan-fry the slightly dehydrated legumes, their papery skins blister and crackle while their insides puff and crisp.

Toss the crunchy chickpeas with a zippy spice mix and set them aside to cool before scattering them atop a salad of arugula, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sweet-hot Peppadew peppers, and salty-rich feta. A honey-Dijon vinaigrette finishes things off with sweetness and tang.

Science: Culinary Chameleons

A chickpea’s texture varies dramatically depending on the cooking method. When simmered in a stew, its starch and protein absorb liquid, turning the creamy flesh downright silky. Microwaving and frying, as we do for our salad, causes the roly-poly shapes to split slightly at the seams and develop tiny fissures. When oil enters these pathways, the hot oil rapidly vaporizes internal moisture, and the legumes expand like popcorn, turning light and crisp. Our chickpea cakes offer both textures: The interior, made up of coarsely chopped legumes, is soft and creamy, whereas the pan-fried exterior is lightly crisp.

A Senegalese-Inspired Stew

Loosely inspired by maafe (Senegalese peanut stew), my chickpea and sweet potato stew is simple but boasts full-on flavor.

I start by sautéing a chopped sweet potato with onion and red pepper flakes; citrusy coriander and big dollops of fruity tomato paste go into the pot next. A couple cans of chickpeas and their aquafaba (flavorful, viscous cooking liquid), along with coconut milk and peanut butter, follow. As the chickpeas simmer, they swell to a luscious, buttery smoothness that’s central to the appeal of this riff.

Fresh cilantro, chopped dry-roasted peanuts, and grated lime zest light up each bowl with freshness and crunch.

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Crispy Chickpea Cakes

When you’re in the mood for something a little fancier, I suggest my crispy chickpea cakes, a fresh, modern take on falafel.

The patties come together easily by pulsing chickpeas and binders together with loads of fresh cilantro, onion, coriander, cumin, and cayenne in the food processor. The blend is then shaped into disks and pan-fried in olive oil until their exteriors are golden and lightly crisp.

Serve the herbaceous cakes with a minty yogurt-tahini sauce and a side salad of raw zucchini that’s been shaved into graceful ribbons and dressed with lemony yogurt and fruity kalamata olives.

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