Absolute Best Tests

We Tested So Many Ways to Cook Dried Chickpeas, Thank Us Later

July 31, 2020
Photo by Ella Quittner

Dried legumes have long eluded me. Don’t ask about the time I tried to boil bulk bin–black beans for nearly eight hours, until I gave up on using them for anything other than gravel.

But chickpeas are the exception. Creamy and tender, this versatile ingredient never disappoints, whether blended into hummus, simmered in chana masala, or crisped under the broiler and consumed at cocktail hour.

For me, the appeal of dried ones cannot be overstated. At a time when virtually nothing is in my control, and the amount of stuff I’d like to have in my control is virtually everything, the ability to fine-tune the internal texture and flavor of a small bean far outpaces the convenience of a can.

That said, I have yet to nail down a meticulous chickpea protocol. In the past, I’ve oscillated between a thoughtful overnight soak, and panic-soaking for only a couple hours; I’ve turned to a saucepan and water, and I’ve also broken out my pressure cooker. In an effort to further limit the scope of chaos, I set out to find a favorite formula once and for all, by pitting various soaking and cooking methods against one another.


Controls & Fine Print

Each trial consisted of 1/2 cup of dried chickpeas, plus 1/2 of teaspoon kosher salt in the cooking stage. All “overnight” soaking was 12 hours. I inspected each group of cooked chickpeas for flavor, texture, and ease of skin removal for all those silky hummus fans out there. You’re out there, right? All batches were photographed on my nightstand, which still smells like chickpeas, thanks for your concern.


Soaking Methods

I compared each soaking method by using the same cooking method: Drain the soaked chickpeas, rinse, cover with 2 cups of water, and cook for 14 minutes at high pressure in an Instant Pot.

Quick Boil

Method

The appealingly titled “quick boil,” a method gleaned from Bon Appétit and proudly named in my kitchen, consists of covering your chickpeas with a few inches of water in a saucepan, bringing to a boil, then cutting the flame, covering the pan, and letting sit for at least 30 minutes (I did about 45 minutes).

Results

The resulting garbanzos weren’t quite as soft or salty as any of the overnight-soaked batches after 14 minutes at high pressure, though they were more thoroughly cooked and slightly saltier than the “instant soak” guys. I’d attempt this again, but with a longer cook time and extra seasoning.


Photo by Ella Quittner

Instant Soak

Method

I was immediately intrigued when I came across a method for soaking chickpeas in haste within this recipe for chana masala. The mechanics are similar to the “quick boil” with a few tweaks: You essentially pour boiling water onto the dried chickpeas in a ratio of six (water) to one (chickpeas), then let everything sit, covered, for one hour before draining and proceeding.

Results

At first glance, these chickpeas didn’t look much different than they did pre-soak—but they softened quite a bit after their Instant Pot jaunt. If I dabbled with this soak method again, I’d experiment with adding at least another 10 minutes to the cook time, maybe more. Most still had some dry crunchiness in the center. Also of note: The skins didn’t come off quite as easily as with some other batches.


Overnight, Without Salt

Method

Cover 1/2 cup of chickpeas with several cups of water in a large bowl, and let sit for 12 hours.

Results

The overnight-soaked chickpeas turned out firm to the touch, but soft to the teeth. They were neither particularly silky nor smushy, just standard garbanzo-at-a-salad-bar texture. Their color remained more beige than than the fawny yellow of some other batches. No skins self-shed while in the pressure cooker, but they were perfectly easy to remove by hand.


Overnight, With Salt

Method

Cover 1/2 cup of chickpeas with several cups of water in a large bowl, add a heaping teaspoon of salt, and let sit for 12 hours. The argument behind adding salt to your soaking liquid, according to The Wimpy Vegetarian, is that it “promotes a consistent cooked bean texture surpassing either pre-soaking without salt or skipping the pre-soak step.”

Results

The texture of these chickpeas was subtly, barely different than that of the unsalted overnight-soaked batch. The salted overnight-soaked garbanzos were a bit grainier, as if more eroded, at their surface, but had a deliciously salty flavor the whole way through, which no one complained about. (I was alone, and I did not complain about it.)


Overnight, With Baking Soda

Method

Cover 1/2 cup of chickpeas with several cups of water in a large bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and let sit for 12 hours. Many guides will tell you that adding a teaspoon or so of baking soda to soaking water will aid with the softening of dried chickpeas.

Results

When I opened the pressure cooker lid, it looked like a spoiled teen who has a walk-in closet full of stuff they hate threw a tantrum in there. After poking through several inches of murky foam above the cooking liquid—and I will state for the record, I’m sure I rinsed the chickpeas after soaking—I got to a layer of completely obliterated legumes, all mush and detached skin. After some follow-up research, I learned from The Bean Institute (!!! applying for a job ASAP) that adding baking soda to the cooking water cuts the cook time in about half, so I suspect some similar effect occurred when soaking, resulting in the chickpeas softening extremely quickly.


Cooking Methods

Based on the soaking test results, each cooking method—with the exception of the unsoaked pressure cooker batch, of course—started with chickpeas that had soaked for 12 hours with no salt or baking soda added to the soaking liquid, as a control.

Stovetop, Covered & Stovetop, Uncovered

Method for Stovetop, Covered

  1. Soak 1/2 cup of dried chickpeas for 12 hours.
  2. Drain, rinse, and add to a pot. Cover by a few inches with water, and add 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook at a simmer until tender, about 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Method for Stovetop, Uncovered

  1. Soak 1/2 cup dried chickpeas for 12 hours.
  2. Drain, rinse, and add the soaked chickpeas to a pot. Cover by a few inches with water, and add 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook at a simmer until tender, about 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Results

I conducted both the stovetop, covered and stovetop, uncovered trials simultaneously, and was flummoxed by the subtle differences in the final products, insofar as one can be flummoxed hours into a chickpea cooking marathon. The covered batch somehow ended up less salty than the uncovered batch, but with skins that were much easier to remove. Texturally, the covered chickpeas were a hair silkier, whereas the uncovered ones were starchier, like tiny mashed potatoes.


Pressure Cooker, Soaked

Method

  1. Soak 1/2 cup of dried chickpeas for 12 hours.
  2. Drain, rinse, and add to a pressure cooker. Cover with 2 cups of water and add 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  3. Cook on high pressure for 14 minutes.

Results

This is the same exact trial as the additive-free overnight-soaked chickpeas, with the same results: slightly firmer, but still soft enough, chickpeas that were more oatmeal in tone than some of the other specimens, and a little less salty.


Pressure Cooker, Unsoaked

Method

  1. In a pressure cooker, combine 1/2 cup of dried chickpeas with 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  2. Cook on high pressure for 45 minutes.

Results

This batch produced inconsistently cooked chickpeas, some soft with their skins already slipping off like a too-loose party dress, and others still tough in the center, nothing at all like a bean at a party. The salt seemed to permeate these chickpeas less than in other batches, as if it took all of their energy to simply hydrate.


Slow Cooker

The Method

  1. Soak 1/2 cup of dried chickpeas for 12 hours.
  2. Drain, rinse, and add the chickpeas to a slow cooker. Cover with 2 cups of water and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  3. Cook on high for 4 hours.

The Results

While I wouldn’t describe this method as efficient, the resulting garbanzos were pleasantly smashable, somewhere between the two stovetop batches in texture. Like the overnight-soaked chickpeas cooked in the Instant Pot, they were paler and less yellow in tone, with skins that couldn’t wait to pop right off.


So, What's the Best Way?

There are several excellent ways to cook chickpeas, from stovetop to Instant Pot—just don’t skimp on the soaking. (Or, if you do, be prepared to make up for it with extra cooking time, and a more taxing skin-removal process, if skinless chickpeas are your thing.)

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“For most people that work, I find the easiest method is putting 1 c of rinsed and picked over dried chick peas, 1 tsp of salt and 2 cups of water in an instant pot in the am. Set cooking time 26 min on manual. Set timer for 7-12 hours (work day + commute time). Go work and come back for chick peas for dinner. Soft and tender. (I don’t understand what the fuss about the skins are) Failsafe. Requires very little thought other than the 2 minutes in the morning (I do this while waiting for water to boil for coffee). Also that’s the smallest amount I’d make- double for more chickpeas/ more family / kids / mason jars in freezer. 😄”
— Macheese
Comment

If you’re all about seasoning permeation, consider salting your soaking liquid. Or, if you forget to brine, try the stovetop, uncovered method.

For the most efficient cook method, toss your soaked chickpeas into a pressure cooker. (If you like them especially soft, scale up from 14 minutes, to 15 to 16 minutes at high pressure.)

If you have lots of time at your disposal and you’re looking for a starchier texture, use the stovetop, uncovered method; for a silkier legume, go with the stovetop, covered method.

If you prefer a low nuisance, all-afternoon simmer, break out your slow cooker.

What should Ella test next? Let us know in the comments, or send her a message here.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Holly Pedrini
    Holly Pedrini
  • Macheese
    Macheese
  • Eileen
    Eileen
  • Laura415
    Laura415
  • Lois Barber
    Lois Barber
Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.

20 Comments

Holly P. August 5, 2020
I’ve been cooking dried beans for over 40 years and often use a pressure cooker. For many beans I soak them overnight, dump that water and cook with fresh water. I never add salt until later on as this will keep them hard. Salt and other seasonings are added later.
 
Macheese August 3, 2020
For most people that work, I find the easiest method is putting 1 c of rinsed and picked over dried chick peas, 1 tsp of salt and 2 cups of water in an instant pot in the am. Set cooking time 26 min on manual. Set timer for 7-12 hours (work day + commute time). Go work and come back for chick peas for dinner. Soft and tender. (I don’t understand what the fuss about the skins are) Failsafe. Requires very little thought other than the 2 minutes in the morning (I do this while waiting for water to boil for coffee). Also that’s the smallest amount I’d make- double for more chickpeas/ more family / kids / mason jars in freezer. 😄
 
Eileen August 2, 2020
I live in Pullman, WA which just so happens to be the chickpea capital of the WORLD. And I just so happen to LOVE chickpeas. So, here is the best way… 1. Buy chickpeas from a bulk source that has lots of turn-over. 2. Rinse in cold water. 3. Throw them in your slow-cooker, take your best guess at how much water. (you can always add more later). 4. Feel free to add salt, garlic, gram masala, chicken base, chili powder, taco seasoning, or whatever else strikes your fancy for seasoning. But not lemon or other citrus. 5. Set cooker to HIGH and wait for about four hours. 6. Enjoy your efforts!

I usually pour in boiling water to begin with, that takes about one hour off the cook time. No need to soak. Look for varieties at your bulk food store in addition to the “kabuli” type most often available. All are delicious. And BTW…chickpeas are neither peas nor beans!
 
Ivy B. August 2, 2020
I came here for the comments. Thank you so much for yours :)
 
Aldyen1962 August 3, 2020
I was born in Pullman! Thank you for your comment and recommendation on cooking chick-peas. I'm setting mine to cook now.
 
mdelgatty August 3, 2020
What are chickpeas, then, and how do you define 'peas' and 'beans'?
 
Eileen August 3, 2020
They are all legumes and pulse crops. (things that grow in pods and are harvested dry) Peas are their own subgroup, as are many beans. Blackeyed “peas” are not peas but are vigna. Fava “beans” are vicia, and so on through the whole family of delicious and nutritious pantry staples. There may be as many as 160k types world wide, although not all are edible. Support your local pulse crop farmer by seeking out unusual varieties near you. The growing of pulse crops adds nitrogen to the soil NATURALY, thus cutting down on chemical inputs and inflating the cost of the final harvest. Good for you, good for the planet.
 
mdelgatty August 3, 2020
All interesting and some of it even new to me if overly pedantic for my needs, but you still didn't say what chickpeas are...
 
Eileen August 3, 2020
Oops! Chickpeas are their own distinction within the pulse family.
Cicer arietinum. The local growers around here call them "garbs" for garbanzo.
 
Laura415 August 2, 2020
Typically I soak and sprout my chickpeas. That means water soak overnight then drain and leave in the strainer covered for 12-24 more hours rinsing morning and evening. After the chickpeas sprout you can eat them raw. They are nutty and crisp. Otherwise I pressure can those sprouted chickpeas in broth or water in mason jars. So wonderful to have those now much more nutritious and digestible beans whenever I want them.
 
Lois B. August 2, 2020
Like others, I read this article to learn something, but alas did not.
It would have been a better, more informed article and worth my time if you let us know what the best method of cooking chic peas is.
I won't read another article that only "tests", and not compare, various cooking methods.
 
Lois B. August 2, 2020
Like just about everyone, I skimmed this article to learn what the best method is, and didn't find it.
Instead of just "testing" perhaps teaching/telling us the best method would be more informative and a better article.
I will probably not bother reading anything again that only tests different cooking methods.
 
mdelgatty August 3, 2020
The only thing I took out of this article is that what cooking method you should use depends on how you like your beans and what you plan to use them for...!
 
Maureen M. August 2, 2020
I love Yotam Ottolenghi's method for making the silkiest hummus ever! He adds baking soda, which breaks down the chickpeas and makes them easier to digest as well. Also, the baking soda makes the neutralizes the acid forming quality of the beans.
 
abbyarnold August 2, 2020
I add baking soda to the cooking water if I’m making hummus with the beans. I was confused by these conclusions. Not clear which is the best method. I do love your comparison photo!
 
Ivy B. August 2, 2020
Wait. So what's the absolute best way to cook chickpeas?? That's what the newsletter said the article was going to say. And interesting about the salt. I've always heard not to add salt to beans until you were done cooking; otherwise they'd be too tough. You could add kombu to aid in digestion which, as a seaweed, is likely salty ....
 
Eric K. August 2, 2020
Omg.
 
Jodiiiii July 31, 2020
omg i love the pictures! thank you for doing the work!
 
Lois B. August 2, 2020
And what did you learn? I didn't really learn anything
 
pamire July 31, 2020
I follow the America's Test Kitchen method from their book 'Pressure Cooker Perfection'. I soak my chickpeas overnight in salted water, then drain and rinse them. Place them in the Instant Pot with more salt and a tablespoon of oil to prevent foaming. Then I cook them on high pressure for 3 minutes. Yes, that's right. Just 3 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes, then quick-release the rest.