What are Garbanzo Beans?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Garbanzo beans, which may also be called chickpeas, are a member of the legume family. Instead of having the flat oval shape of most beans, garbanzo bean are often a pale cream and mostly round in shape. These legumes were domesticated very early, possibly even 5,000-10,000 years ago, and evidence of their use is found in archaeological digs in places like Turkey, France, and Israel.

Garbanzo beans are a key ingredient in the dish ropa vieja.
Garbanzo beans are a key ingredient in the dish ropa vieja.

Many people associate garbanzo beans with a variety of Mediterranean cuisines. They are the essential ingredient for hummus, are powdered to make falafels, and are used in a variety of soups and stews. Most minestrone soups contain them, and diners also find them in a variety of Southern Asian cuisines; they’re commonly used in India in certain types of curry.

Adding garbanzo beans to soups make it extra hearty with high protein value.
Adding garbanzo beans to soups make it extra hearty with high protein value.

They’ve also made their way to Spanish cuisines, and on to many dishes in Central and Latin America. These beans are a typical accompaniment to the classic Canary Islands dish ropa vieja. In the US, most people are used to seeing them in dishes like three-bean salad, a mix of kidney, garbanzo, and green beans in a savory vinaigrette.

Garbanzo beans are the main ingredient in hummus.
Garbanzo beans are the main ingredient in hummus.

The popularity of garbanzo beans may be due to their inherent nutritional value. A cooked cup (164 grams) is an excellent source of dietary fiber, and provides substantial levels of important nutrients like iron and folate. They also are a high protein food, with just under 15 grams of protein per serving. These nutrients are paired with relatively low calories, only 269 per cup.

Garbanzo beans.
Garbanzo beans.

Garbanzo beans have a light, buttery flavor. They’re not strong in taste, and will readily absorb most other flavors, spices, or seasonings. These beans are easily added to nearly any soups or stews a cook makes and will provide extra heartiness and excellent additional nutrition.

Dried garbanzo beans.
Dried garbanzo beans.

Shoppers can buy chickpeas dried, though they are more commonly sold in canned form in many places. Though cream-colored beans are most common, other colors — like those with flecks of red or black or that are fully green or fully red — are available and can make for fantastic visual appeal. Color is only part of the difference, since there are two general varieties of these beans. Those lighter in color and also somewhat larger are called kabuli, and smaller ones that are not as smooth and are darker in color are called desi.

Three bean salad often includes green and yellow beans along with garbanzos.
Three bean salad often includes green and yellow beans along with garbanzos.
Some Indian curries are made with garbanzo beans for added protein.
Some Indian curries are made with garbanzo beans for added protein.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


It it so easy to make your own hummus with garbanzo beans. This way you can add whatever seasonings you like. I always love to add a lot of garlic to mine. This makes a great dip with raw vegetables, chips or to spread on crackers. It is also a lot healthier and has less fat than the dips made with a sour cream base.


I have a friend who loves to cook and try different recipes. Years ago she came up with a vegetarian chili recipe and entered it in our state fair competition.

She ended up winning a blue ribbon for this recipe and I still make it today. It contains garbanzo beans which is something I would have never thought about putting in chili.

She made this quite a few years before being a vegetarian was so popular. I don't consider myself a vegetarian, but love garbanzo beans because they taste good and leave you feeling full.


I have never made three-bean salad, but that is one thing I always eat if I see it at a pot-luck. My mom makes a great three-bean salad and is the best I have ever tasted. I don't know what she does different, but it is so good.

Eating bean salad is also healthy for you as you are getting a lot of vegetables without a lot of calories. Every year when we go camping in the mountains I ask my mom to make up a batch of this salad for us. It stays good for several days and I can eat it as a snack or with a meal.


@feasting -- Roasted garbanzo beans sound like a great snack. This is something I would have never thought of. Many times I get a craving for something crispy and salty but am trying to avoid eating chips. I have a can of garbanzo beans in the cupboard and am going to give that a try. I think a little bit of sea salt would also be good added to the spices.

There is a little Mediterranean place that just opened up by me that makes an amazing falafel.

I am not sure what they do different but it is unlike any falafel I have ever had. Usually it is so dry and heavy, but this one manages to have the consistency of a hamburger. Plus, they serve it with this yogurt sauce that is to die for.


I always keep a few cans of garbanzo beans in the cupboard because they are so versatile.

One of my favorite fast, after work dinners to make is to cook up some chicken, whatever veggies I have in the fridge, and some garbanzo beans. I usually season with garlic, cumin and curry powder.

It is not an authentic dish by an means, but it is fast and really tasty. 20 minutes and you have a healthy, filling meal.


Three bean salad just sounds like too many beans for me. I like a salad that has a variety of ingredients.

I've eaten a garbanzo bean salad that also had zucchini, romaine lettuce, corn, and tomatoes in it, and I really liked it. There was a variety of textures and flavors, which I think is important in a salad.

I made a dressing for it out of olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, and salt. The dressing really brought all the flavors together in harmony.


I must be one of the few people who've never tried hummus. I had no idea what was in it, but it just looked funky, and the name didn't sound appetizing.

Now that I know it is made of garbanzo beans, I am not afraid to try it. I've eaten garbanzo bean soup before, and it wasn't bad at all.


Roasted garbanzo beans make a great snack, if you add a few key spices. I found a recipe for chickpea popcorn, and it really can curb my craving for salty snacks.

All it takes is a little olive oil, some cumin, oregano, and garlic powder. You roll the beans in olive oil, and then you put them in a container before you sprinkle the spices on. You shake them up until they are all covered in spices, and then you roast them on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.

I turned the oven to 350 for about 50 minutes. The timing is approximate, because you just have to watch and see when they get crispy. It's important not to burn them, because that would ruin the flavor.


@googie98 – I followed a garbanzo bean recipe for burgers, but I just couldn't get the texture right. I put the beans into a food chopper, but I guess they were just too tough for it to puree.

Also, it can be hard to puree something without liquid. Maybe if I had put the egg into the chopper with the beans, things would have turned out differently.

I tried making the patties and cooking the burgers with the half-blended beans, but they turned out dry. The texture was just disgusting.


@waterhopper- People are becoming much more aware of their personal health now. A healthy diet is very important to our well-being.

Garbanzo beans make an excellent veggie burger. Because of their firm texture, they are an excellent choice for many different recipes. When making a veggie burger, the key is to make sure that the texture is thick and comparable to dough.

There are several different recipes for Garbanzo bean veggie burgers. One of the most popular recipes includes garlic, red onion, tomatoes, and rice. You could scan through all of the recipes and find the ingredients that you like.


I have heard before that you can make a veggie burger out of Garbanzo beans. Has anyone ever heard of that? If so, how would you go about making that?

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