11 Ways To Add Flavor To Canned Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a nutritional powerhouse, whether you follow a plant-based or omnivorous diet. They're packed with protein and fiber to keep you satiated as well as vitamins and minerals, notably folate, manganese, and copper. You can buy them dry, then soak and boil or pressure cook them, but the canned version is undoubtedly the simplest. Nevertheless, it's hard to get excited about eating the legume straight out of the can. Sure, the little orbs offer a creamy bite and nutty taste, but that's not enough to make them stand out on their own.

Thankfully, chickpeas are an excellent foundation for various seasonings and ingredients. Their mild taste makes them hugely versatile; they can complement many different cuisines and tastes, ranging from savory to sweet. Yes, that's right — you can just as readily use chickpeas in a dessert as you can in an appetizer or main course. Depending on the recipe, you'll want to rinse and drain the legumes first to reduce the sodium content and eliminate the starchy liquid. However, if you are expressly seeking a thicker consistency or more salt in a dish, it's totally safe to consume.

If you're stuck in a loop making the same few recipes over and over, you've come to the right place. We've selected our top ways to add flavor to canned chickpeas. From simple dishes with just one additional ingredient to more complex stews or baked goods, these are the most novel ways to serve the popular legume.

1. Squeeze or zest citrus onto chickpeas

Citrus — especially lemon — is a must-have ingredient in any well-stocked kitchen. The bright fruit provides an instant zing of acidity, balancing fat or sweetness. It can also amplify the sour tang of a dish, making each bite pop on the palate. Squeezing the juice over a bowl of canned chickpeas is a great option, but the zest is an excellent additive too. Lime works similarly to lemon, whereas orange is milder and offers a subtle sweetness. You can expand on this basic pairing with fresh herbs, alliums, and spices as you see fit, but the extra boost citrus adds is already a leap upward from the taste of ordinary canned chickpeas.

Keep your dish fresh by adding lemon juice to the legumes straight from the can to make an easy salad. A drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper round it out into a simple dish — just the sort of thing to make when your supplies are low or you want a quick fix of deliciousness. Alternatively, in cooler temperatures, heat the canned beans with some stock and extra virgin olive oil and season with fresh lemon juice and zest. Orange juice also works well if you're incorporating salty ingredients such as soy sauce into the mix.

2. Combine chickpeas with a creamy dressing

Chickpeas are naturally creamy, but you can enhance this quality with a dressing. Transform a simple chickpea salad by incorporating a rich sauce that coats every element and brings out the chickpeas' naturally lusciousness. Personal preference and available ingredients will dictate the flavor profile you choose, but there's no shortage of options.

If you've made hummus from scratch, then you'll know tahini plays an important role in the beloved condiment. This sesame paste is an excellent foundation for dressings, thanks to its thick consistency and ultra-nutty flavor. Whisk it with olive oil, lemon juice, and a bit of sweetener for a delicious dressing to add to plain chickpeas or a more elaborate legume salad. If you have a ripe avocado, give your dish a decadent touch by blending it with olive oil, lemon juice, and seasonings. On a similar note, you can make a dressing by combining yogurt and mayonnaise with fresh herbs, alliums, and a tangy vinegar.

While a rich dressing is sure to elevate your canned chickpeas, you'll want to be sure to balance out the fat with contrasting flavors, such as salt and acid. A kick of spice does the trick too, as do ingredients like fresh herbs or salty capers.

3. Sprinkle chickpeas with fresh herbs

Fresh herbs can transform any dish from bland to brightly flavored, and their wide variety means there's something for most tastes and cuisines. Try parsley for Mediterranean vibes, or include thyme or tarragon for a French-inspired salad. Cilantro pairs well with Mexican and Middle Eastern cuisine, while basil is the perfect complement for an Italian dish. For a notable taste that stands out solo, try adding dill or mint to your chickpeas. Similarly, if you want to infuse a salad with the aroma of onions without their pungency, finely chopped chives will do the trick.

Chopped herbs are an easy addition to a salad, whether you're choosing to use a rich and creamy dressing or a zingy vinaigrette. They also make an excellent garnish for a chickpea stew or soup. To prevent the tender leaves from losing too much fragrance, be sure to only add them to a hot dish in the last 10 or so minutes of cooking. Alternatively, just sprinkle them on once you're doling out the portions so that each bite is elevated by their vibrant flavor.

4. Toss chickpeas with spices or dried herbs

We love fresh herbs for all of the obvious reasons, but it can be hard to keep them stocked at all times. Unless you have an herb garden or are regularly buying new bunches, you'll sometimes find yourself with wilted herbs — or no herbs at all. That's where dried herbs and spices save the day, offering a never-ending source of flavor for your can of chickpeas. If you're leaving the legume cold and serving it in a salad, make sure to properly whisk the spices with olive oil or a dressing so the flavor can blend in seamlessly. If you're heating the chickpeas, there's plenty of time for the aromas of the herbs and spices to infuse the dish.

For a simple enhancer, highlight one spice, such as paprika or cumin. Pair it with garlic and some lemon juice for a cohesive taste. Of course, you don't have to stop at one spice or herb; sauté chickpeas with a blend, including oregano, thyme, paprika, and chili powder. Use these additions to boost the flavor of a hearty chickpea stew, narrowing in on a type of cuisine to better select the specific components. Consider harira, a traditional Moroccan soup, which features chickpeas alongside seasonings like cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, and ginger. This approach never fails.

5. Combine chickpeas with veggies

Chickpeas offer numerous nutritious benefits. You can double down on the goodness if you pair them with vegetables. Aside from the health factor, the legumes provide a versatile protein for diverse cuisine, whether they're straight from the can or roasted in a hot oven.

For a Moroccan profile, toss chickpeas in a tangy dressing with spices, dried apricots, olives, parsley, pistachios, and baby spinach leaves. Alternatively, pair them with cooked grains and your choice of seasonings in an Israeli couscous salad recipe. You can bulk up a slow-cooked stew with a plant-based protein; chickpeas are a suitable candidate since their mild taste doesn't overpower other ingredients. Canned tomatoes pair especially well with the legume in Moroccan chickpea stew, alongside alliums, cinnamon, cumin, and ginger. Canned tomatoes and chickpeas also work well in Instant Pot chana masala, which brims with pungent spices and a fresh cilantro topping.

6. Roast or saute chickpeas with seasonings

If you want to turn someone neutral about chickpeas into an enthusiastic fan, transform the legume into a crispy snack and watch them change their opinion. There are a few ways to make their starchy texture crunchy; the best are roasting, air-frying, and sautéing. These different methods dry out some of the moisture, making each chickpea denser and harder. A skillet gives you a bit more control, but popping a baking sheet into the oven is a good hands-free option. Just don't forget to set a timer; the tiny orbs can suddenly turn into black pellets if you're not careful.

To maximize flavor, toss the chickpeas with your favorite seasonings and olive oil before you expose them to heat. For a sweet and savory combo, try maple and za'atar roasted chickpeas, adding a pinch of cayenne if you like some heat. If you don't feel like preheating the oven, sauté the chickpeas in oil, then add rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Turmeric and cumin make great flavor profiles too, as do ready-made blends like Cajun spice. Enjoy the crunchy chickpeas as a snack or sprinkle them over a salad instead of using ordinary croutons. More flavor and more protein — it's a win-win.

7. Make chickpeas sweet

You may be used to seasoning your chickpeas with salt and savory spices, but the nutty legume can just as well be sweetened. We're not quite talking about adding a spoonful of sugar to rinsed chickpeas and digging in, though. Instead, think of them as a variation on candied peanuts (which, incidentally, are legumes like chickpeas, not nuts). This option works especially well if you are roasting or sautéing the chickpeas so that the sugars can lightly caramelize.

Experiment with different sweeteners for a variety of flavor profiles. For example, you can use brown or white sugar paired with cinnamon to recreate classic cinnamon-sugar dishes in chickpea form. To add a glazed effect, try liquid sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. Depending on the option you choose, you can mix up the spices or just stick with the sweet element. As always, a pinch of sea salt will contrast with the sugar to make the flavor pop.

Toss the chickpeas with whatever ingredients you choose, then roast them in the oven for a crunchy treat. While the thought of serving candied chickpeas for dessert might not seem as tempting, these are undoubtedly a delicious snack to satisfy your sweet tooth, with the bonus of bringing protein and fiber into your diet to keep you full.

8. Mash chickpeas into hummus

Many people's love of chickpeas started with hummus; the creamy dish does an excellent job of highlighting the legume's delicious qualities. It's easy to pick up a container of hummus at the supermarket, but it comes at a far heftier price than a simple can of chickpeas. Not to mention, store-bought hummus often includes ingredients that you might prefer to avoid. Making it from scratch guarantees it'll contain exactly what you want.

A simple creamy hummus is super easy to make and only requires a handful of ingredients. Add a can of chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, and salt to a food processor and blend until the mixture reaches your ideal consistency. Packaged hummus is usually perfectly smooth, but switch it up if you prefer some chunks. Once you have a base, try adding spices like paprika, cumin, and chili, or load up on the garlic. Go a step further and experiment with hummus variations that include other ingredients, like beets, carrots, peas, and red peppers. Finally, if you're presenting the hummus as part of a spread, roast some chickpeas to garnish the surface and add a crunchy element.

9. Marinate chickpeas in a vinaigrette

Plain chickpeas can get a quick injection of flavor by tossing them with a vinaigrette, and the combination of oil and vinegar is all you need to spruce up a can. Classic vinaigrettes call for a three-to-one ratio of fat (oil) to acid (vinegar), but you can add some pep by upping the vinegar until it's closer to a two-to-one ratio. This extra tangy element helps the flavors in the vinaigrette stand out for an even more delightful taste.

Switch up the type of vinegar you use (apple cider, red wine, and balsamic are some ideas), and incorporate other flavorful ingredients like spices, pastes, garlic, and even maple syrup or sugar to balance out the taste. Season with salt and pepper, then drizzle the vinaigrette over a bowl of chickpeas to dress them up. Thanks to the high acidity, you can refrigerate the soaked chickpeas in an airtight container for up to a week. Not only do you have a nutritious snack available when hunger strikes, but the flavors also continue to develop with time — that is, unless you eat all the chickpeas before then.

10. Turn chickpeas into a vegan tuna or egg salad

Vegans who miss some of their non-plant-based favorites will easily get on board with a chickpea-based alternative to tuna or egg salad. As for the rest of us, well, what's not to love about a smashed chickpea dish loaded with flavor and texture? Although chickpeas don't taste like tuna or egg salad, they can easily be combined with other ingredients to make a mixture that resembles both dishes in consistency and purpose.

Stick to the traditional flavor profile with celery, red onion, dill pickles, vegan mayo, and Dijon, and scoop the vegan chickpea salad to fill a hearty sandwich. Switch it up by serving it with chips or crudités as a dip, or just eat it by the spoonful because it's that good. If you're open to trying a variation, incorporate yogurt, avocado, sprouts, sundried tomatoes, mixed vegetables, or olives. Once you go beyond the basic concept of a chickpea salad, there's no limit to what you can include. Just make sure to chop the ingredients into small pieces to ensure they properly blend into a cohesive mixture that can fit between two slices of bread.

11. Add chickpeas to baked goods

We've already established chickpeas taste great with a drizzle of maple syrup or cinnamon sugar, so why not go all-out and add them to baked goods? Thanks to their simultaneously starchy and creamy consistency, the canned legumes make a pretty solid stand-in for flour and binding agents like eggs and fat. Gluten-free or vegan variations take advantage of this versatile ingredient by using them to put fun spins on classic recipes. 

While these qualities are great on the textural front, let's be clear — they still taste like chickpeas. The best way to add them seamlessly into a dessert is by complementing their prominent flavors. Chickpeas have a nutty quality that is a great match for peanut or almond butter. Pairing them with a sweet and pungent ingredient like banana helps disguise them too, as does a generous helping of chocolate chips. Make chickpea blondies with maple syrup, nut butter, and loads of chocolate chips for one of the creamier takes on this decadent dessert. You can also transform the same ingredients into cookies or bake a quick bread to get your fill. Then, hand out the treats and see who can guess what's in them.