Why You May Want To Avoid Cooking Older Chickpeas

From creamy, dreamy hummus to gluten-free chickpea pasta and from heartwarming Chana Masala to bright, fresh chickpea salads — chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a protein-dense legume with endless possibilities (via Healthline). In addition to being packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, chickpeas are a simple plant-based meat replacement that can make any of your go-to meals vegan or vegetarian. As plants, they're also excellent rotation crops. Per a 2018 review in "Frontiers in Plant Science," chickpeas and other legumes are natural nitrogen fixaters, meaning they have the ability to absorb pollutive nitrogen from the environment and convert it into soil-enhancing ammonia.

From nature to your table, chickpeas prove to have a lot of benefits. But, to get from one to the other, the legumes must also pass through your kitchen — at which point you start weighing those benefits with the amount of time and effort you put into preparing them. According to Inspired Taste, fresh chickpeas can take several hours to cook (and that's after letting them soak overnight). So, before you commit, you may want to ensure your chickpeas are fresh — or else you could end up wasting a lot of time.

Old chickpeas vs. fresh

According to Still Tasty, raw chickpeas can maintain their quality for anywhere from two to three years. However, that's only if they've been stored correctly. Sometimes, when foods like dry chickpeas have such a long shelf life, it can be easy to neglect them. To get the most shelf life out of your stock of dried chickpeas in your cupboard, they should be transferred to a resealable freezer bag or air-tight container after you open their packaging. From then on, the container should be kept tightly sealed.

So if you've had a package of dry chickpeas hiding away in the back of your pantry for a while, double-check that they're sealed in their container. If the package is damaged, left open, or if you can't remember how many years it's been since you bought them, chances are they aren't fresh. This is important because, per MasterClass, if your chickpeas are old or stale, they won't tenderize — and, if you're dedicating an entire day to preparing a chickpea recipe from scratch, you're going to want to know that they'll actually cook. But if it's too late and you've already spent hours trying to cook chickpeas that won't soften, The Pesky Vegan says adding a quarter teaspoon of baking soda to the water will get the job done, although it could have an impact on their flavor.