Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are everywhere these days, from restaurant menus and grocery store aisles to packaged foods. The little legumes are so ubiquitous because of their versatility — they can be roasted and eaten on their own, made into hummus or added to your favorite dishes. Even the liquid they swim in, called aquafaba, can be mixed into granola or cocktails as a silky thickening agent, similar to egg whites.
As chickpeas grow in popularity and begin to experience cauliflower-level status in which they’re turned into “rice,” pasta and pizza crusts, we consulted a dietitian for more information on this trending food.
“Chickpeas are part of the legume family, and they pack a nutrient punch, with 60 grams of carbohydrate, 20 grams of protein and 6 grams of fat” per half-cup serving, says Taylor Sutton, a registered dietitian. “They are considered a rich source of protein, iron, folate, fiber and phosphorus.” She adds that, when chickpeas are consumed in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet, research shows they might help prevent conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity, while improving your microbiome.
Chickpeas are an inexpensive pantry staple that can be purchased dried or canned and utilized in a variety of dishes. When buying canned beans, Sutton suggests opting for the “no-salt added” version whenever it’s available. Otherwise, it’s best to drain and rinse the beans, which can reduce the sodium content by 40%.
We’d never besmirch the good name of pasta, rice and tortilla chips. But in recent years, those looking to add some lower carb, nutritional oomph to their grains and snack foods — and also people with certain allergies — have turned to alternative options like vegetables and beans. This has resulted in the rise of cauliflower rice, along with zucchini noodles, bean-based chips and lentil pastas. And then there are chickpeas, which are now made into everything from rice and pizza crusts to creamy mac and cheese.
“I believe that alternative rice and pastas can serve a purpose in someone’s lifestyle, should they want to go this route,” says Sutton. When choosing between traditional grains and alternatives, she says it’s important to see how the carbs, protein, fat and fiber stack up. But in addition to evaluating nutrition labels, she also considers lifestyle goals, budget and the taste and texture of a dish you are trying to achieve.
Sometimes chickpeas get you where you want to go. Other times, you might opt for the original. Sutton says she loves all forms of carbs, and even many alternative versions, but it’s hard to beat the taste and comfort of white pasta.
“It’s all about creating a balance that works for the individual’s lifestyle and taste preference when looking to make changes,” she says.
Chickpeas are a useful food to keep in the pantry, as they can be consumed on their own or be added to countless dishes, including soups, stir-fries and salads. “I typically have a can on hand at all times as they are so versatile in dishes,” says Sutton, who likes to make chickpeas into a quick hummus for eating as a dip or spreading onto sandwiches.
If you want to give your starter or side dish more texture, she suggests throwing some chickpeas into a Mediterranean salad or sautéing them with some Swiss chard and pancetta. Add them to taco soup, curry or shakshuka. Crisp them in the oven to spruce up avocado toast. The possibilities are endless. But whichever route you go, you’ll be adding a filling, nutrient-dense food to your meals.
Discover hundreds of healthy recipes — from high protein to low carb — via “Recipe Discovery” in the MyFitnessPal app. Save your favorites and log directly to your diary.