Heidi Swanson's Chickpea Stew with Saffron, Yogurt, and Garlic

April 24, 2013

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A spring vegetarian chickpea soup that's lush in all the right places (but won't lull you to sleep).

chickpea stew

Shop the Story

When I say chickpea stew, you might think of some burly concoction, full of assorted falling-apart vegetables, ladled into crocks at the co-op. I did, at least. And then I thought: not now. November. 

But this soup has more in common with avgolemono than goulash, and it's exactly what you need right now. 


It comes from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day and, like so many of Swanson's recipes, feels revitalizing and pure without careening into asceticism.  

Yes, this is chickpeas, humbly, in broth. But that broth is enriched with yogurt and saffron and even a few egg yolks. 

"Close your eyes and you will think that it is cream based. It's not," Food52er cookinginvictoria wrote to me. "But what really pulls the dish together is just a whisper of saffron."

She's right -- if you've ever made a complex tagine or paella and been uncertain what the saffron tastes like and why you paid good money for it, lay it on a canvas of chickpeas and creamy broth. There it is!

The only trick is the part where you temper in your yogurt and egg yolks, and bring it back nearly to a simmer. (All that means: whisk a little hot stock into the yogurt, egg, and saffron mix. Then whisk it back into the pot. Watch it turn all creamy and gold.)



It sounds stressful and dinner-risking, but it's actually very forgiving. Full disclosure: With full-fat yogurt, I even boiled a leftover batch for several distracted minutes to reheat it, with no unpleasant side effects (lower fat yogurt fans, I don't know if I can vouch for you -- just don't get crazy).

However, I've made this with both thick Greek yogurt and thinner styles; canned chickpeas and cooked-from-scratch -- it's always good.

This is your go-to base, but cookinginvictoria has more brilliant ideas: "This could be doctored up, of course, with a handful of Swiss chard or sorrel leaves or some roasted fingerling potatoes. But I think that it's pretty much perfect as is."


So whether you've been huddling in front of your computer all day or out playing frisbee in the park, you'll take comfort here, and fish for chickpeas, spoon by spoon, until you feel renewed.

Heidi Swanson's Chickpea Stew with Saffron, Yogurt, and Garlic

From Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2011)

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
Fine-grain sea salt
3 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 1/2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (2 modest pinches)
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 cup plain yogurt
Sweet paprika
Small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom

Read More:
One Tub of Yogurt, 6 Dinners
Veggie Burgers for Now and Later
How to Make Any Puréed Vegetable Soup in 5 Steps


Listen & Subscribe

From our new podcast network, The Genius Recipe Tapes is lifelong Genius hunter Kristen Miglore’s 10-year-strong column in audio form, featuring all the uncut gems from the weekly column and video series. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss out.

Listen & Subscribe

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Neta Shpilman
    Neta Shpilman
  • Savanna
  • Vstarr71
  • I_Fortuna
  • ImpulsePie
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Neta S. April 9, 2015
too "eggy" for me.
Savanna January 27, 2014
I made this yesterday (puréed half of the chickpeas as someone suggested). It was good yesterday but today I am swooning over it.
Vstarr71 January 19, 2014
Lovely! Can't wait to make this!
I_Fortuna January 19, 2014
What a great recipe! I certainly would not add potatoes which, in my humble opinion would ruin it. However, I might try buttermilk sometime in place of yogurt. Buttermilk is very low fat(usually made with 1% or 2% milk), very thick and I would try to avoid boiling in order to retain the consistency and cultured benefits. For those not familiar with buttermilk, here is some info:
"The term buttermilk also refers to a range of fermented milk drinks, common in warm climates (e.g., the Middle East, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Srilanka and the Southern United States) where unrefrigerated fresh milk sours quickly,as well as in colder climates, such as Scandinavia, Finland, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic. This fermented dairy product known as cultured buttermilk is produced from cow's milk and has a characteristically sour taste caused by lactic acid bacteria. This variant is made using one of two species of bacteria—either Lactococcus lactis or Lactobacillus bulgaricus, which creates more tartness. . . Buttermilk prepared in traditional way is considered beneficial to health as it contains probiotic microbes and is sometimes referred to as "Grandma's probiotic". . . The probiotic nature of buttermilk is beneficial to the gut and improves immunity. . . One cup of whole milk contains 157 calories and 8.9 grams of fat whereas one cup of buttermilk contains 99 calories and 2.2 grams of fat. Buttermilk contains vitamins, potassium, calcium, and traces of phosporous."
Considering I make my own probiotic yogurt, I always have one or the other or both on hand. I use buttermilk in baking a lot and will be making it and milk kefir along with yogurt this year. Kefir would work well too in this recipe. Please let me know if anyone else uses these foods in cooking and baking. Thanks for posting!
ImpulsePie June 10, 2013
Love Genius Recipes and Heidi's books, and I'm always curious to see new takes on some of my favorite cookbook recipes. However, I'm struggling to see where this has been "slightly adapted" from the original - it looks exactly like Heidi Swanson's recipe, down to the wording. Have I missed something?
Kristen M. June 10, 2013
Thank you for pointing this out. I often add my own tips, which is why I usually say "adapted slightly" from the published version, but you're right -- in this case, I didn't and neglected to update the template. I've updated the article and recipe page now -- thanks again.
Kinsey May 19, 2013
I made up basically the same thing on my own, so was delighted to see this version - consider mine a variation: juice of a lemon instead of yogurt, turmeric instead of saffron (same color, different flavor, add to the broth to simmer and develop depth), pinch smoked hot paprika instead of or plus the sweet. Also, I poach a chicken breast in the broth, shred it and add it back at the end.
Kinsey May 22, 2013
BTW, turmeric is maligned and miscast as pointless, unfairly, thanks I think to the ubiquitous and boring yellow mustards. Try it!
Foodiewithalife April 30, 2013
This is an absolutely luscious cookbook. The recipes are not just a meal, but a lifestyle!

PRST April 30, 2013
Leftover yum! Had no problems re-heating the leftover stew and found smoked paprika to be the key to adding some delicious zip to this recipe.
tracey S. April 29, 2013
can i make this with fresh garbanzos? if so, any suggestions?
Kinsey May 19, 2013
Yep; soak, simmer etc. first and then add as if canned
PRST April 29, 2013
I made this last night with store bought vegetable broth and was not thrilled. I should have know better. Can't wait to try again with homemade broth- chicken! I have a friend who added some kale to hers- worth thinking about!
Eliza2866 April 28, 2013
I'm not a big fan of saffron; would this be terribly bland without? Any ideas on a substitute?
Kinsey May 19, 2013
Andreas D. April 25, 2013
Also, my two (nearly three) year old boy adored this soup, sans cilantro. Always a bonus.
mcs3000 April 24, 2013
Love how you and James captured Heidi's recipe. I cherish her books.
amyeik April 24, 2013
Would using either chicken stock or water in place of the veggie stock veer this out of genius recipe status? I never seem to have any veggie stock on hand but always have loads of chicken stock.
Andreas D. April 25, 2013
I used chicken stock, worked just fine.
Kristen M. April 25, 2013
I agree with Andreas -- I've also used chicken stock and it was excellent (and even closer in spirit to avgolemono).
Kinsey May 19, 2013
Andreas D. April 24, 2013
I made this for dinner just now. Really delicious, and it all came together in about 15 minutes, using canned chickpeas.

Many years ago, when I was a student in London, we used to go to an Aruyavedic restaurant at the northern shores of Soho. They made a yoghurt and bean curry with similar flavours that I adored at the time.
Andreas D. April 24, 2013
Yet another reason to avoid non-fat yoghurt.
rapearson April 24, 2013
I have Heidi's book but haven't tried this one yet. thanks for bringing it to my attention!
Sim,Blaustein April 24, 2013
this looks delicious! do you think i could make without the egg?
Kristen M. April 24, 2013
Yes, I think it would still be great, just slightly thinner.
cookinginvictoria April 24, 2013
Yay -- I am so happy that you liked this recipe and chose to feature it in the Genius Recipe column! Love all of the wonderful, mouthwatering photos and Kristen's spot-on, beautiful writing.
Kristen M. April 24, 2013
Thank you again for sending it! We loved it.
Christina S. April 24, 2013
I just made this soup for lunch yesterday! Great flavors and I love that it has the creaminess of a cream soup without the heaviness of whole cream. Simple and easy to throw together! Love it.
Kristen M. April 24, 2013