Black chickpeas: pros, cons and how to cook them quickly
There are currently two major varieties of chickpeas in the world: the Kabuli type, consisting of the yellow chickpeas, which are large, have regular contours and are undoubtedly commercially more important; and the Desi type, to which the black chickpeas also belong, which are smaller in size and have irregular contours.
Due to the ‘Green Revolution’ of the late 1970s, the introduction of the various avant-garde methods of breeding and genetic improvement, as well as the adoption of the ‘boosted’ farming practices, allowed the Kabuli type to be the variety of choice.
To understand the reasons why mankind has preferred yellow chickpeas to black ones, one only has to have cooked the latter at least once: it takes an eternity!
And so this ‘small and black’ variety, harvest after harvest has passed into oblivion, leaving room for the more profitable and easily industrialized variety; following the same example as the other ancient seeds.
So, if for you biodiversity – that thing that modern agriculture, the child of the ‘Green Revolution’, seems to have picked on – means more than just a word, buying black chickpeas is a truly revolutionary act.
However, I have written this article to show how there are also other reasons to revalue it; positively selfish reasons, since black chickpeas encapsulate a number of health benefits; along with useful tricks on how to cook it while still maintaining a low environmental impact: in other words, without doubling your gas bill!
Pros of black chickpeas
Black chickpeas, just like white (or yellow) ones, are rich in nutrients and functional molecules.
Comparing them, one would notice an almost similar amount of protein:
20-23g of protein per 100g of dry product for black chickpeas; versus 19-24g for yellow/white chickpeas (the variation depends on the quality of the seed, growing conditions and soil).
The high levels of several essential minerals present, iron above all, make this variety, just like yellow chickpeas, perfect allies against anemia and/or other diseases caused by mineral deficiency.
Other minerals that stand out in black caskets include magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, copper and selenium; but black chickpeas contain more copper and more manganese than their yellow cousins.
When it comes to dietary fiber, black chickpeas excel with their approximately 16g of fiber as opposed to 12g (per 100g of dry product); automatically making them the right and functional choice for those who want to keep their blood sugar under control, thanks also to a much lower glycemic index.
As in the case of other legumes with a distinctly dark color, the strong pigmentation of the seed coat is generally related to the presence of a large number of phenolic compounds: flavonoids, including flavonol glycosides, anthocyanins and tannins; responsible for antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiatherogenic, cholesterol-lowering and antimicrobial actions. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that research results, conducted to determine the levels of bioactive compounds and antioxidant actions among different types of chickpeas, place black chickpeas at a higher level.
The pros of the black chickpea do not end with its exceptional nutritional values; even its cultivation deserves some in-depth study.
The black chickpea is not a spoilt plant, in fact it is a natural born Cinderella!
It does not require excessive irrigation, nor does it need heavy use of fertilizers, given its ability to grow luxuriantly even in semi-arid soils, in the less fortunate parts of the world.
What’s more, who knows if, thanks to that hard, wrinkled rind, it is not one of the favorite species of the infamous Ascochyta rabiei: a pathogenic fungus responsible for the disease Anthracnose (also known as ‘Rabies’), capable of ruining the entire crop in a few days; therefore, the black chickpea, being practically immune to it, requires limited treatment with specific pesticides.
Last but not least, its much stronger, savory and almost nutty taste: I adore it, especially in the preparation of salads or hummus (by replacing the yellow chickpeas used in the recipe with the black ones, you can prepare an incredible hummus).
Cons of black chickpeas
The only real contraindication of the black chickpea stems from its rich fiber content: people with existing gastrointestinal problems should consume it in moderation and only after appropriate cooking.
Speaking of cooking, its length may be another contraindication for the family budget, and more so for the environmental impact: it takes at least 1 hour to cook, even if it is soaked for a good 24 hours!
But as I mentioned at the beginning of the article, I intend to promote the consumption of black chickpeas, so I will share with you my tricks for cooking them in the shortest possible time.
How to cook black chickpeas quickly
If you have read the article on lectins, you will be well aware that soaking is a step that must be adhered to categorically for any legume; you can never skimp on time, not least because it practically reduces the time needed for cooking by 50%.
For my point of view, another must-have for healthy and sustainable cooking is a good pressure cooker. Today’s models are much better and certainly safer than the pots of yesteryear. Plus it is not true that pressure cookers destroy nutrients: I explain this in detail in this other guide.
Here is what you have to do step by step to cook them, reducing cooking time:
– Visual inspection
– Repeated washing to remove impurities and dirt
– Soak for at least 24 hours, changing the water at least 3 times: the longer the soak, the shorter the cooking time; so consider soaking for up to 36 hours, just like I do
– Rinse them one last time before cooking them in a pressure cooker with new water (never re-use the soaking water to cook legumes)
– Cook in the pressure cooker for at least 30 minutes after the whistle, or until cooked.
When pressure cooking pulses, attention must be paid to the foam that forms when boiling; this must be removed in order to prevent it from clogging the safety valves: when the pressure cooker starts to whistle, i.e. comes under pressure, turn off the heat; wait until it has completely vented; open the lid and remove the foam; then close the lid again and turn on the cooker to finish cooking.
It may sound cumbersome, but it’s not: all you have to do is get the hang of it
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But how to tell when black chickpeas are cooked?
The question may seem pointless, but wait for the rest: in fact, because of the wrinkled rind, black chickpeas can be hard even when perfectly cooked.
So when you touch them with a spoon and they make a classic raw noise, you should not immediately ‘pass the guilty verdict‘; after 30 minutes of pressure cooking, taste them anyway: most likely the inside will have become soft, a clear sign that they are cooked.
And if you do not have a pressure cooker?
In that case, halving the cooking time will be difficult; but you could use the technique of passive cooking with a blanket, using a heavy-bottomed pot and an equally heavy blanket to cover the pot.
With this technique, energy consumption can be reduced; provided one agrees to extend the cooking time by a few hours for proper cooking.
Cook the black chickpeas like all legumes in a large pot after washing them, soaking them for at least 24 hours and rinsing them one last time; but with a little trick: add half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to the cooking water.
As I explained in the specific guide, bicarbonate of soda can be a valuable ally in reducing cooking time, especially when dealing with hard-to-cook legumes, like old ones and black
Once it comes to the boil, cook for at least 45 minutes and then turn off the heat; close the lid.
At this point you need a heavy blanket and about 4-6 hours to practice the technique of passive cooking with the blanket.
The first few times, check the cooking status every couple of hours: perhaps the variety you have purchased may cook before the estimated time.
Now you have no excuses, you can consume them whenever you want.
How to use black chickpeas?
Wherever you use normally chickpeas, be sure that black chickpeas will give better results.
I personally like to eat it with just a little extravirgin olive oil and salt, thanks to the unique flavor of black chickpeas. But most of the time, you can consume it in a rich salad, as a hearty stew (just like this one with black beans) or as a surprising hummus: when the ingredient is black chickpeas, there is no wrong choice!
Enjoy them as frequent as you can and good revolution to all
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