Why I Can’t Stop Reaching For Chickpea Flour

published Nov 17, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Despite the fact that I write about food and develop recipes for a living, my pantry is pretty lean. The Type A in me likes to be able to keep a mental checklist of everything inside, which means I take a minimalistic approach so I can remember it all and use it judiciously. For years, I never felt the need to keep any kind of flour but all-purpose stocked. When I started baking sourdough bread, I added bread flour to my shelves and vowed to keep it at that: Two flours were plenty for my kitchen.

However, one tiny occupational hazard is I am often called upon to develop a recipe that requires an ingredient outside of my strictly kept pantry. That’s how I ended up with a bag of chickpea flour. In true form, I sweated about the addition and vowed to return to my tight ship of a pantry ASAP. Now, three years later, I can never imagine my kitchen without chickpea flour. Here’s why.

Chickpea Flour Is the Nutty, Alternative Flour That’s Worth Keeping Stocked

Chickpea flour, also knows as garbanzo bean or gram flour, is a pretty simple ingredient. It’s made from dried chickpeas that are ground into a flour. It pretty much tastes like you might expect: It’s nutty and a touch buttery, like whole chickpeas themselves. The ingredient is common in Indian cuisine, where it’s often used to make an array of sweets and fried snacks, such as ladoo, chakli, and sev. These are things I grew up eating and, at the time, because my aunt would make and deliver them, I never realized they were all made from chickpea flour — all I cared about was the fact that they were ridiculously tasty.

The alternative flour is also popular in parts of Southern Europe. In the south of France and the northwestern coast of Italy, it’s made into a thin baked pancake that’s a common street food called socca (in French) and farinata (in Italian). In Sicily, it’s made into fritters called panelle and often served inside a bread roll.

Buy my favorite brand: Bob’s Red Mill Garbanzo Bean Flour, $2.50 at Amazon

Since the flour is simply ground chickpeas, it’s naturally gluten-free and full of protein and fiber. My family and I don’t exclusively practice a gluten-free or high-protein diet, but we do like to fill our plates with as much wholesome, plant-based food as possible. Chickpea flour checks off the box easily. More importantly, though, is how incredibly versatile it is in the kitchen, whether you’re making breakfast, lunch, dinner, or, yes, snacks, too.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

My Favorite Ways to Use Chickpea Flour

  • Make the easiest vegetable fritters. What’s magical about chickpea flour is that when you combine it with a bit of water, it becomes sticky enough that you can use it as a binding agent without eggs. That’s how I discovered these 2-ingredient veggie fritters which I am admittedly obsessed with making weekly. They’re loosely based off my favorite Indian snack, pakora, and you can use whatever vegetables are in your kitchen. They’re the perfect lunch or light dinner.
  • Thicken soup. Kadhi is an Indian dish that falls somewhere between a soup, gravy, and curry and is made with turmeric, yogurt, and a wide range of spices. A bit of chickpea flour stirred in lends body and thickness, plus a mellow nutty flavor. Add it to any soup that’s a little too thin for your liking, whether it’s a simple tomato soup or something brothy like this chunky cabbage soup.
  • Make socca or farinata. You’d be remiss not to make these snacks, whether it’s simple socca garnished with olive oil, salt, and pepper, or farinata topped with lots of cheese.
  • Turn that socca into a dinner flatbread. Even better, top your chickpea flatbread with an abundance of vegetables and suddenly it’s a totally feel-good dinner. Use this recipe and this recipe as jumping-off points, then have fun playing around with toppings.
  • Or make breakfast flatbreads. More proof of how important chickpea flour is in Indian cuisine is pudla. While similar to socca and farinata, these flatbreads are made to be thinner, like crepes. They’re typically eaten with chutney for breakfast, although I’ll happily eat them any time of day.

There are countless ingredients clamoring for space in your kitchen. Taste Makers are the ones that actually make a dish amazing. Each month, we’re exploring one ingredient that has earned its place in our small kitchens and will make even simple food taste spectacular.

Your turn: What’s your favorite underrated ingredient in your pantry? What do you reach for when you want to elevate your cooking quickly and easily? Tell us in the comments below! We may give it the star treatment in an upcoming edition of Taste Makers.