Also known as garbanzos or ceci, chick peas are round, tan-colored legumes with a firm texture and mild, nut-like flavor. As a member of the pea family, they are cultivated from short pods that grow on the Cicer Arietinum plant.
Chick peas probably originated in southeast Turkey, but today they are a prized ingredient throughout the world. They can be found in Indian curries, Italian minestrone, Moroccan couscous and traditional Middle Eastern recipes like hummus and falafel.
Like most beans, chick peas are available dried or canned. In some areas, they can also be purchased fresh.
When buying dried chick peas (in bags or bulk), look for beans that are uniformly sized and evenly colored. Also check for cracks or pinhole-sized marks which signal insect damage.
Dried chick peas should be stored in an airtight container at a cool room temperature. Plan to use them within six months. Canned chick peas should be used by the date stamped on the can.
Cooked leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days. Cooked chick peas may also be frozen.
Dried chick peas have tough skins and should be soaked in water before cooking. Follow recipe instructions carefully, or place the chick peas in a large pot (they will expand) with enough water to cover by two inches. Let stand six hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. Discard any peas that float to the top and pour off the soaking liquid before cooking as desired.
Though canned chick peas are ready to use, rinse and drain them to eliminate some of the sodium found in the canning liquid. When using canned chick peas in cooked recipes, cook for a short time, until just heated through.
If they're going into a cold dish, no heating is necessary. Go right ahead and mash them into dips or toss them into fresh greens, couscous or pasta salads.
When chick peas are not available, substitute great northern or lima beans.
Try one of our favorite chick pea recipes:
Hummus Party Dip
Chick Pea Salad
artichokes, carrots, chicken, corn, couscous, cumin, garlic, lamb, lemon, olive oil, onions, paprika, parsley, pasta, pita, rice, spinach, tahini, tomatoes, tuna, yogurt