The International Chickpea: A Loveable, Versatile Legume

As a vegan mother, one of my best friends in the whole world is the humble chickpea. These cute little legumes offer so much from both a nutritional as well as a versatility perspective. While it is true that pretty much all legumes hold impressive nutritional profiles, chickpeas, above all legumes, are incredibly worldly. I am yet to come across another legume that can be transformed into so many different delicious dishes!  

A Nutritional Superstar

You will always be able to find a chickpea dish that you enjoy: in the photo Hummus, made from chickpeas

Looking at the nutritive properties of the chickpea, they hold substantial amounts of dietary fibre, protein and iron– all essential for keeping mine and my husband’s body functioning during our crazily busy lifestyle and our two daughter’s growing little bodies.   

The best thing about chickpeas is that there is something for everyone. You will always be able to find a chickpea dish that you enjoy, even if there are some you have found you don’t care for in the past. This is because they star in so many cuisines across the world and are presented in so many different types of ways. You will find them across the world featured in soups, curries, stews, dips, burgers, patties, pancakes, and breads, and chickpea flour is often the main ingredient in a vegan omelet! So, in hindsight there is no excuse not to experiment and find something you like!

Chickpeas Around the World

Falafel is vegan and made from chickpeas!

I will now take you on a chickpea journey around the world to discover how incredibly functional these magical legumes really are:  

First stop is Morocco. Think couscous with chickpea and vegetable tagine spiced with cinnamon, cumin, ginger and preserved lemons. Or how about Moroccan chickpea soup (Harira) – a spiced tomato based soup?  

Second stop is Italy. I have to admit that Italian cuisine does not scream “chickpeas” to me but I cannot bypass Faranita – a pancake that is naturally vegan and made from chickpea flour, olive oil and water.

Next stop is Israel. Have you ever tried fresh falafel (chickpea balls) encased in fresh pita bread with salad and tahina? What about fresh creamy hummus (chickpea dip) garnished with olive oil and wedges of soft fresh pita to scoop it up?  

Moving through Asia, we land ourselves in India where Besan/Gram (chickpea) flour is a common ingredient as well as whole chickpeas. The flour is used to make Chilla (a pancake) as well as pakoras and onion bajiis (both are like vegetable patties) among many things, while the whole chickpeas are used in many different ways such as salads and curries, including Chole (traditional Indian Chickpea Curry) and a lovely spiced Indian chickpea salad that features potatoes and tomatoes.

Chickpeas come dried, requiring soaking and a lengthy cooking process (I normally use my slow cooker for minimal fuss) or canned – ready to use in a heat and eat kind of manner

The truth is, I could probably go through a lot of North African, Middle-Eastern, Asian, and South American countries and countless amounts of traditional uses for chickpeas. But the other very important thing to remember is that chickpeas can be used in any style of cooking you wish – as a replacement for meat or even as a tasty addition! You are only limited by your imagination. I have used chickpeas in tacos with Mexican spices and my sister-in-law has added them in an Asian stir-fry. I have used mashed chickpeas as a base for veggie burgers and I have made “chickpea cutlets” ! I have replaced minced meat with chickpeas and rice in Russian Cabbage Rolls and I have snacked on “chicnuts”. In Australia I have even seen Chickpea Sausages!  I have also made a French chickpea cassoulet and thrown chickpeas in ordinary salads to add substance and texture! But my two all time favourite chickpea recipes are still:  mashed potato and chickpea gravy and of course my incredible traditional Israeli Falafel.

Thinking Ahead

My last bid to get you to love chickpeas as much as I do involves the choice to be more or less organised! Chickpeas come dried, requiring soaking and a lengthy cooking process (I normally use my slow cooker for minimal fuss) or canned – ready to use in a heat and eat kind of manner (you can eat them cold too!). Just remember to buy BPA free cans. Whether you choose canned or dried, they are extremely inexpensive (dried is cheaper but if you are very strapped for time then the added expense may be worth it).  

Remember, chickpeas can be adapted into anything you want, they are tasty and the world loves them for a reason! 

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Vegan Super Mum Columnist

My name is Natalie Cunningham and I am from Melbourne, Australia. I am a mum of two beautiful girls, Leilani and Malia and my husband is Robert. We are a vegan family – I have been vegan for over 10 years now, Robert for 3 years and our children have been vegan since birth. I am the vice president and one of the founders of Vegan Parents Australia – an organisation dedicated to bringing vegan families together for moral support and friendships and to mainstream veganism by dispelling the myths that it is dangerous for children to be vegan, and that it is in fact easy and healthy!

More about Natalie

Check out Natalie’s co-founded organization – Vegan Parents Australia

Check out Natalie's Vegan Family blog - The Veggiebacons