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Chickpeas (Recipe: lemon onion hummus) {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Updated February 2012.


Which came first, the famous Roman orator Cicero, or chickpeas?

According to some sources, chickpeas (Latin name cicer arietum) were named after a rather unattractive wart on Cicero's nose. Others say that Cicero, born with a less-than-perfect nose, was named after the oddly curled-up legume. Chickpeas are an ancient food, discovered in mesolithic layers in southern France and carbon-dated to approximately 6790 BC. Cicero's time was around 100 BC. Which came first?

A chickpea by any other name is a garbanzo bean (Spanish), ceci (Italian), grao-di-bico (Portuguese), gram (whole beans, in India), or channa (the Indian name for skinless, split chickpeas). By any name, it's one of the world's healthiest foods, providing hefty doses of dietary fiber that help lower cholesterol and blood sugar, and magnesium and folate that protect against heart disease.


However, health benefits alone do not earn chickpeas a place in The Perfect Pantry. Taste matters, and chickpeas have good taste — though for years I didn't think they tasted very good. I remember being served some kind of baked chickpea dish (something strange, maybe chickpea enchiladas....) at a dinner party years ago; the chickpeas were hard and dry inside. I pushed them around on my plate. Had there been a dog in the house, I surely would have been willing to share!

Keep dried chickpeas in your pantry if you want to make your own chickpea flour, the foundation of socca, those wonderful pancakes from Provence. Because the dried beans take forever to cook (far longer than other pulses), for everything else I recommend canned chickpeas. The difference in nutritional value is negligible, and the increased convenience more than compensates for the loss of a nutrient here and there.

Chickpeas travelled the world with traders from the mideast, and now are staples in the cuisines of Mediterranean countries in Europe and North Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and Latin America. A major source of protein for vegetarians, and a boon to the diabetic diet, chickpeas are inexpensive and provide a lot of bulk for the buck.

Try chickpeas in soup and stews, in salads, as a side dish or main course, or in candy; just stay away from the enchilada idea.


Lemon onion hummus

From the pantry, you'll need: red onion, olive oil, lemon, garlic, tahini, chickpeas, cumin, Greek yogurt, paprika.

Inspired by several recipes in Sally Sampson's Party Dips. Makes 4 cups.


1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
2/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2/3 cup water
4 cups canned chickpeas, drained (reserve 1/4 cup liquid), and rinsed
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp sour cream or Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp light and fruity extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Paprika (optional, for garnish)


In a small sauté pan, heat 2 tsp olive oil, and add the sliced onion. Cook slowly, over low heat, until the onion is lightly caramelized, 10-15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the garlic, lemon juice and tahini until a smooth paste. Add the water and chickpeas, and continue to process until mixture is almost fluffy. Add some of the reserved chickpea liquid, if necessary. Season with the cumin. Transfer to a bowl.

Stir in the onions and sour cream, and mix well. If desired, pour 2 Tbsp light and fruity olive oil over the top and swirl with a knife. Sprinkle with paprika.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Roasted chickpeas with garlic, cumin and paprika
Chickpea, quinoa and spinach salad with preserved lemon vinaigrette
Vegan butternut squash and chickpea stew
Roasted red pepper and garlic hummus crostini
Chickpeas with sausage and peppers

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Eggplant, potato and chickpea curry, from Andrea Meyers
Arugula chickpea salad with feta and balsamic-tahini vinaigrette, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Tangy lemon smashed chickpea salad, from Everybody Likes Sandwiches
Orzo salad with chickpeas, dill, feta and lemon, from Whipped
Crockpot chickpea stew with balsamic caramelized onions, from Cookin' Canuck

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I can always count on you to add something different to a recipe. "Sour cream" in hummus?? I'll just have to try it.

I would have never thought of mixing the onion soup dip mix in as a hummus flavorer -- that's very interesting! Thanks for the recipe, and the chickpea history lesson, which was also fascinating.

:-) Genie


I'll have to start by saying that I loved seeing "chickpeas" written in my native language. Tks a lot for that. :D

I only tried chickpeas - they were served as a salad - and hummus 2 months ago. I know, silly me for wasting so much precious time.

Hummus became a passion and I've been meaning to make it at home ever since.
I think I'll buy the ingredients tomorrow and make some for the weekend.

Joao (my husband) doesn't like it and I'll be the only one eating it - am I lucky or what?? lol

Lydia, it is amazing how a bad preparation can convince us we don't like an ingredient, isn't it? Hard garbanzo enchiladas, blech.

You mentioned using hummus as a sandwich filling. I like to use it more as a condiment, spreading a healthy dollop on a crusty bread [instead of mayonnaise, for insance], then piling on leftover roast chicken or pork tenderloin or some other meat you've cooked and maybe some tomatoes and/or lettuce. Incredible. I wouldn't use ham or deli meats, though. The hummus tends to be plenty salty already and those meats might make it all too salty tasting.

Pauline, you will try this -- in cooking group!

Genie, thanks. I always learn from your blog, too.

Patricia, you are lucky indeed. Hummus can become completely addictive. Maybe it's the garlic, but once you get the taste in your mouth, it's hard to stop eating. This particular version is unusual; I hope you like it.

Scott, there are a few foods that fall into the "bad experiences once, and never again" category. For me, the worst is cauliflower -- my mother used to boil it for an hour, and the smell and taste were so awful that I've never been able to eat it. And I had a real block about chickpeas, though I'm getting over it now!

Terry, I love layering hummus with cold roast chicken, or leftover roast vegetables like portobello mushrooms, red peppers or zucchini that were cooked on the grill.

I like the sour cream addition, Lydia. I tried making my own once, years ago, and it was a dry disaster. This one shows a lot more promise. Love chick peas — why is that, I wonder? Did not discover them until college.

While I often use sour cream when making hummus, I've never added onions. I'll have to give that a try. One other substitution, I sprinkle sumac as a garnish.

Lydia, have you not gotten over the cauliflower block? If you want to try, I have a great recipe for spaghetti in a cauliflower sauce with hot pepper and anchovies (trust me, it's fantastic)that you could try to rediscover this very tasty veggie.

We can't get enough of them in our house!

Lydia, I just found your blog while googling and searching for balsamic vinegars at Zingerman's. I love it! I occasionally teach cooking classes, and always encourage my students to have a well-stocked pantry. I'll check in often...thanks!

Mimi, I'm late to the party on chickpeas, too. And yet I've always loved hummus. Mmaybe it's a texture thing...maybe it's those darned enchiladas...

Ian, the sumac is a great idea; it adds a lemony quality that would be lovely with the hummus.

Scott, want to share your recipe??? I'll try it, I promise.

Jeff, what do you make with the chickpeas? I really want to collect some new ideas.

Karen, welcome to The Perfect Pantry! I'll head over to your blog, too.

Never heard of this variation of hummus, sounds good though.

OMG I did not need to know that about Cicero! Especially since I watch "Rome" on HBO (in which Cicero is a main character) and happen to love chickpeas. It's going to be a while before I can look at one without thinking of the other, lol.

Pauline and I will be hogging the hummus!
I keep both canned and dry chickpeas. While the nutritional value may be the same, the flavor is much better when you cook them from the dry.
Here is a recipe we like alot with the canned ones. It's from one of the Moosewood Cookbooks:

Morroccan roasted vegetables

1 medium onion, cut in 1/4 " slices
1 medium zuccini, cut in 1/4"slices
1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2" semi-circles
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4"thick semi-circles
1 large red bell peper, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, drained
3 garlic cloves,minced
2 Tbs veg. oil
1 TBS frsh lemon juice
1 TBs ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 teaspoons salt

Preheat oven to 400
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix everything.
Spread onto an unoiled baking tray and bake for 20 minutes. Stir well, bake another 20 minutes, until tender. Serve warm.
Good over couscous, topped with toasted almonds, raisins, feta...

Stefanie, I hope you'll try it -- it's just a bit different, and you can adjust the proportions to make it more chickpea, or more onion. Have fun!

Ari, I haven't been watching Rome (my husband loves it, tho), but I'll bet the actor playing Cicero is darned good looking, with no chickpea on his nose! I might just have to tune in on Sunday night to check this out....

Marcia, many many thanks for sharing this recipe. I've been roasting sweet potatoes more this winter than I have in the past, and I can imagine how good that tastes with the warm spices in this dish.

Chickpeas are definitely an item I want to make more of. The hummus recipes sounds awesome!

I love this picture of Pastene brand chickpeas! It reminds me of home (RI). So hard to find them here in LA.:(
Thanks for the recipe; it sounds delicious!

Catherine, I agree -- let's use chickpeas more often!

Susan, I live just a few miles from Buono's....Rhode Island may be small, but there are some things (like Italian bread) we do really well.

I have been doing my research on homemade hummus. I have seen many people say that you can use the chickpea flour to make hummus, but never directions how to do so. Is this something that is even possible when trying to get a very smooth hummus? Would I need the roasted flour or boil water to mix it with? Please let me know if this is possible, or if it is not a good idea.

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