There are two main varieties of chickpeas, kabuli and desi. Small, dark desi chickpeas have a yellow interior. Kabuli are large, and beige-colored throughout, with a thin skin. However, in the market, both are simply designated chickpeas.
The kabuli chickpeas are the type most commonly found in American supermarkets. Here are some other chickpea products you may find in stores:
- Black chickpeas (Bengal gram): These chickpeas come from India where they are sun-dried until they turn a deep rust color. Like regular chickpeas, they have a deep, earthy aroma and a nutty flavor. Black chickpeas can be found in Indian markets and specialty food shops.
- Chana dal: These small split desi chickpeas are sold in Indian stores and look very much like yellow split peas. Chana dal have a sweet, nutty taste. In India, chana dal are used to make chickpea flour, while in the United States, the larger kabuli chick-peas are used for flour. Chana dal can be found in Indian stores and some specialty food shops.
- Chickpea shoots: These feathery shoots of the chickpea plant are excellent in salads. Like fresh green chickpeas, they can occasionally be found in local farmers’ markets.
- Chickpea flour: Chickpea flour has a rich culinary tradition in Indian cuisine, where it is known as besan or chana and is used in pancakes, stews, and curries. It is popular as well in Italian cuisine where farina di ceci(chickpea flour) is used to make pasta and a polenta-like dish. Chickpeas are also used in some blended flours, such as garfava flour, a combination of chickpeas and fava beans, and dhokra flour, a combination of rice, lentils, and chickpeas.
- Green chickpeas: Fresh and sweet, like green peas, these are young, tender, fresh chickpeas. They are predominantly found in local farmers’ markets.
How to choose the best chickpeas
Supermarket chickpeas are packed in 1-pound bags. Look for bags with whole, unbroken chickpeas. Unfortunately, bags are not dated, so just buy what you think you’ll need and restock when necessary. The older the chickpeas, the longer it takes to cook them.
Chickpeas are also available canned, a form which retains the shape and flavor of chickpeas well. Rinse and drain the chickpeas to get rid of most of the sodium before you use them. If using the no-salt-added canned variety, you should still rinse them to get rid of any canned taste.