I Tried 10 Different Cans of Chickpeas and There Was One Clear Winner

updated Mar 11, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Canned garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas, are a pantry staple in my house — and maybe in your house, too? These days it seems everyone has discovered the versatility of this round little bean. We can’t stop pureeing them into hummus, bathing them in a simmer sauce or stew, tossing them with pasta, and roasting them into a crispy snack. 

There’s seemingly no end to the delicious ways we can put chickpeas to use, and there’s nearly as many brands to choose from at the supermarket. Is there really a difference between the bargain-bin cans and the pricey imported cans?

Credit: Danielle Centoni

How I Chose My Chickpea Contenders

In order to find out, I gathered all the canned garbanzo beans I could find at several supermarkets in my area, including Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Albertson’s, Kroger, and a local chain. I found a mix of domestic brands and imports with a range of sodium levels. All in all, I tested 10 different brands.

Credit: Danielle Centoni

How I Tested the Chickpeas: Drained, Uncooked

I gathered a group of tasters and set up a blind tasting. We first tasted the beans drained (but not rinsed) and straight out of the can. We took note of the color (was it yellow or beige?), size (small or plump?), and condition (lots of broken beans and papery skins? Or were most beans intact?). Then, we tasted them side by side, to determine any differences.

Overall, the contenders tasted fine and none of them had any weird off-flavors. They would all do well in a soup or stew (keep that in mind next time garbanzos go on sale). However, some were relatively bland, and some beans really did taste better than the rest. Also, some beans were quite a bit firmer than others, which would be fine in many applications (stew) but possibly too coarse for others (hummus).

At the end of this round of testing, Westbrae Natural was in the lead; it was deeply bean-y in flavor with the perfect not too hard, not too soft texture. We had a few other favorites as well: Jovial (firm and expensive), Trader Joe’s (creamy-soft and super-cheap), and S&W (in the textural sweet spot).

How I Tested the Chickpeas: Hummus

We knew we’d have to see how the beans performed in various cooked dishes before we could crown a winner. So we put our top four beans through a couple tests, starting with a simple hummus. We made sure all ingredients were precisely measured and pureed them in a food processor for a specific amount of time.

As we suspected, the firm Jovial beans produced a coarse-textured hummus while the soft beans from Trader Joe’s produced a creamier, almost too runny version. The two medium-firm beans performed the best, but the S&W beans were so generously salted in the can, it made the hummus pretty salty. The winner was Westbrae Natural again. 

Credit: Danielle Centoni

How I Tested the Chickpeas: Roasted & Crispy

For our next test, we roasted the beans with olive oil, salt and pepper for 30 minutes to see how well they crisped up. The pricey firm beans, which were already on the small side, turned out like tiny pebbles. The soft beans were still pretty wet inside. The two medium-firm beans worked out the best, but once again Westbrae Natural came out on top. Those beans somehow formed a shatteringly crispy crust when roasted that was really addictive. And their rich bean flavor really came through.

Credit: Danielle Centoni

The Winner: Westbrae Natural Organic No-Salt-Added Garbanzo Beans

The clear winner for all three tests was Westbrae Natural Organic No-Salt-Added Garbanzo Beans ($2.99 for 15 ounces). With just 10 mg of sodium per serving, these beans have far less salt than many of the other brands we tried, and yet the beans had the deepest flavor. While I might buy a cheaper brand for a richly flavored stew (because the nuances would be lost anyway), I won’t choose any other next time I’m roasting beans for salads and snacks.