What if macaroni and cheese weren’t made with macaroni, but a can of chickpeas instead? This Big Little Recipe just happens to be gluten-free and comes together in the blink of an eye.
The method is inspired by Melissa Clark’s Genius Stovetop Mac & Cheese, in which you heat heavy cream, stir in grated cheddar, and call it a day. Perhaps it goes without saying, but this two-ingredient cheese sauce is a dream anywhere and everywhere—try it spooned over roasted onions or steamed broccoli next.
To add crunch to an otherwise soft, saucy situation, I like chopping up a handful of chickpeas, throwing these into sizzling oil, and letting them crisp. Within a few minutes, they turn into a crackly topping as delightful as panko or potato chips.
If you want to be a rebel, you can swap in another canned bean you love. I bet pintos would be awesome. Let me know about any off-road adventures in the comments below. —Emma Laperruque
(15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and dried
Neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
cheddar, grated (preferably a younger, not super-aged variety)
Separate out 1/4 cup of chickpeas and roughly chop. Heat a glug of oil in a skillet over medium heat and, when hot, add the chopped chickpeas, plus a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir so all the beans are coated, then leave them alone and let them crisp for about 5 minutes, until frizzled and browned.
Add the cream to a pot over medium heat and cook until it begins to simmer. Drop the heat to low and add the cheese, stirring until a smooth sauce forms. Mix in the larger portion of chickpeas and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide into 2 bowls and evenly top with the chickpea crispies.
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.
See what other Food52ers are saying.