Life on the inside: 10 ways to make the most of chickpeas

Looking at a cupboard filled mainly with cans of chickpeas, wishing they were in fact the holy grail of lockdown ingredients, tinned tomatoes? It’s totally understandable. But the humble legume has hidden depths, and dinner potential like you would not believe.

High in protein, packed with fibre, and a brilliant source of vitamin B and iron, they are good for you, cheap and a nifty ingredient (which can even be used to make coffee) in times when being versatile in the kitchen is absolutely paramount.

Here are 10 ideas that will make the most of the Middle Eastern kitchen favourite.

1. Apply them to every salad

Chickpeas will happily bolster any salad, so if you are down to the dregs of your veg drawer, there is still hope.

All you need is a bowl, a couple of squishy tomatoes, the end of a “past its best” cucumber, half a fairly bendy carrot or courgette, grated, an avocado or whatever else you have knocking about, and a tin of drained chickpeas. Add some fresh herbs and olive oil, and lunch is done.

2. Make your own hummus

When trying to minimise trips to the supermarket, the DIY approach could solve your hummus cravings. That tub of beige mush you usually buy is in an amalgamation of chickpeas, olive oil, tahini (a little smooth peanut butter, loosed with water, makes a decent substitute), lemon juice, and garlic, all blitzed up until smooth.

3. Roast them up as a snack

Run out of chocolate and crisps? As long as you have a baking tray, a can of chickpeas and a few jars of spices in the cupboard, all is not lost.

Drain and pat your chickpeas dry, toss with salt and oil, and roast until crispy, then douse in spices and seasoning (paprika works well), and eat by the handful. It’s better than popcorn.

4. Throw together some fritters

For a quick solo meal, fritters are a handy win. Mix together a little flour, an egg (or use aquafaba – the liquid from the chickpea can), chickpeas and a few herbs, like parsley and coriander, before shallow frying your batter mixture until crisp.

Then come the condiments: mayo or sour cream, a squeeze of lime, and a lot of hot chilli sauce.

5. Whip up meringue

Before you drain your next can of chickpeas, consider the viscous liquid you are swilling away. Aquafaba, as it’s known, is a surprisingly effective and fully vegan alternative to eggs.

Meaning you can whip it into crisp meringue peaks and use it to make marshmallow – two things you might now actually have the time to make from scratch.

6. Try homemade falafel

Missing your local falafel joint? Recreate your own falafel wrap with a freshly fried homemade version – most recipes require dried chickpeas rather than those in a can though, which are arguably in even more plentiful supply as people head straight to the pre-cooked tinned aisle.

Then all you need is some hummus, chilli sauce, onion salad and pickles for tang.

7. Make chana masala

For a swift, crowd-pleasing curry, chana masala ought to be a go-to. Flavoured with garlic, ginger, chilli and given depth thanks to heavily browned onions and a few tomatoes, it makes chickpeas the star, and is pretty filling to boot, especially if you serve it with naan and chutney.

8. Add them to a traybake

If you were planning on a bountiful traybake that would leave you with leftovers for lunch, and then realise your tray is looking a bit lacklustre, there is not much chickpeas do not improve. Chuck in a can and it’s instantly bulked out.

9. Pair them with sweet potato

There’s just something about sweet potato and chickpeas, whether they are baked together in a casserole with chicken thighs and stock, or served simply, just a baked sweet potato topped with butter, chickpeas, coriander and lime.

10. Whizz up a soup

Soup is arguably the hero of lockdown cooking: the perfect vehicle for using up sad looking odds and ends in the fridge and freezer.

Chickpeas can bring all those assorted green veggies, roast chicken leftovers, parmesan rinds and wilting herbs together in one comfort-laden bowl of stock.