White Chickpeas

The white chickpea is a staple dry legume in the cuisines of regions from the Meditarranean to India. The Romans named it cicero; the Italian word is ceci. It is also known in America as the garbanzo bean. In India it is known in as chole or chana. The Hindustani name is kabuli chana – the chickpea from Afganistan, to differentiate from the black and green chickpeas of South Asia. It is harvested whole. It can be ground into a flour used to make flatbreads and dumplings.

White chickpeas are cooked whole in the skin. They keep their shape and do not shed their skin – this provides texture and assorted nutritional benefits. Undercooked chickpeas are grainy or even crunchy. Some recipes start with dry legumes and cook them in a sauce; some cook the legumes first, and then cook them again with other ingredients. Cooked chickpeas absorb flavours. Some recipes suggest removing skins after the cooked legumes are cool, before mashing or other processing. Well known dishes:

  • South Asian dishes including chana masala, chana aloo (chana with potatoes) and other vegetable curries;
  • Italian dishes including pasta e ceci;
  • Hummus (Cooked, mashed and seasoned).

Chickpeas take a long time to cook, compared to other dry legumes. Soaking reduces cooking times for all cooking methods. The main methods of soaking:

  • naturally for hours in water at room temperature, or
  • a short period in boiling water, or a pressure cooker (quick-soak).

Variations include soaking in salt water and soaking in water with baking soda. These methods require the cook to drain and rinse the soaked beans and discard the soaking water.

Most recipes call for cooked or canned chickpeas, or have a distinct step of cooking the beans. Often the canning fluid in not palatable, and salty. A few recipes will use the fluid of some canned beans. This is not useful if the fluid is not palatable, or salty. Recipes often recommend disposing of the canning fluid and rinsing the beans. Several recipes conserve and use the soaking and cooking fluid of cooked dry chickpeas. This is workable if the fluid has not been salted or treated with baking soda.

The modern kitchen provides several options for cooking dry chickpeas. On a stove, and working with soaked beans, sources favour bringing the water to a rolling boil and backing off to a steady boil or simmer. Cooks judge slow or gentle boil differently. Stove and pots perform differently. Beans may be old. Sources provide a range of cooking times. Time in minutes. Soaked or dry noted as S or D. For pressure cooker – use slow or natural release (which adds 15-20 minutes).

SourcesSimmerSlow Cooker¹Electric Pressure²
Italian Vegetarian Cookbook (1997), Jack Bishop35-60
366 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans and Grains (1998),
Andrea Chesman
2 hrs.
Indian for Everyone (2014), Anupy Singla;
The Indian Slow Cooker (2nd ed. 2018), Anupy Singla
45-60 Soaked 4 hrs High3
The Complete Slow Cooker (2017), America’s Test KitchenDry 8-9 hrs High
Hip Pressure Cooking (2014), Laura PazzagliaSoaked 18 High +
Dry 38-40 High +

¹ Instant Pot, Slow Cooker Program. America’s Test Kitchen and other have raised questions about whether an Instant Pot can perform recipes for slow cookers. The Instant Pot can do dried chickpeas. I use smaller amounts (under 3 cups). I soak these legumes in the Instant Pot, and add more water to cover the beans if the soaked beans have swelled above the surface. I follow with a quick soak – cooking the legumes on Pressure Cooker High for one or two minutes, and let the pressure drop naturally. Then, and while the beans and cooking water are hot, I start the slow cooker program on High (More in some models), cooking with the pressure cooker lid with pressure release valve left open. 6 hours on High cooks thoroughly.

² Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Program. The electric pressure cooker method works in the Instant Pot.

3 6 hours cooks thoroughly.


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