Chickpeas don’t get a lot of love beyond their starring role in hummus. The truth is that chickpeas are possibly the perfect food: Healthy, delicious, and environmentally friendly. And Bonus: Chickpeas bring people together (more on this later, with recipes)!

Let’s talk about health. These beige and round, knobby nuggets are widely considered the healthiest of their plant-based food group, legumes. Knock yourself out with black beans, white beans, lentils, dry peas, edamame, and such, but chickpeas deliver the most nutrients, including high doses of zinc, which boosts immunity and fights inflammation. These low-cal beauties also pack protein (11 grams in one cup), great for energy and fiber (35 grams in a cup) helpful for digestion. All good things, especially with a super-virus floating around.

Flavor matters and chickpeas don’t have to be whipped into a paste and spread on a pita in order to be delicious; in fact, chickpeas–celebrated throughout epicurean epicenters of the Middle East, Asia and the Mediterranean–make for a versatile, satisfying salad, side or main dish. They pair beautifully with aromatics, vegetables, grains, salads, and pasta. And talk about easy: Just open the can or jar, rinse and serve, sauté or roast. They can even be blended with potatoes for a dynamite plant-based paté spread.

Chickpeas may be the most environmentally friendly legume

Chickpeas can save the planet! Well, not all by themselves, but chickpeas are recognized as a superfood by the United Nations, as well as governments and food industry agencies around the world. Why? Because chickpeas, according to NPR, “fix their own nitrogen from the atmosphere, leaving extra stores of the nutrient in the soil for future crops to consume.” Chickpeas can also, under proper farming conditions, sequester carbon and mitigate climate change as a result. Wow. That is a superfood. Go chickpeas!

Now, for that bringing people together thing…

Anecdote 1: In my search for chickpea recipes I came across this beauty for Pasta con Ceci by Victoria Granof, renowned food stylist, pastry chef and author of a cookbook about chickpeas. I wrote to Victoria through her website about a savory chickpea scene in my novel Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure. She wrote me back. Turns out we’re practically neighbors, so I swapped her a copy of my book for a batch of her homemade biscotti. We became close friends and even celebrated the first night of New York’s restaurants re-opening with an alfresco dinner together.

Anecdote 2: Cara DiFalco, the Emmy-nominated host of Cara’s Cucina, read my book and was so inspired by the aforementioned chickpea scene that she came up with her own recipe and shared it here on her website. Cara and I were already friendly, but you make a recipe based on my writing and we’re on a whole new level.

So, get some chickpeas in your diet! Do it for your palate and health, the environment and your social life!

To incorporate more chickpeas into your diet, The Beet shares our three favorite recipes that call for the small, nutrition-dense, and tasty plant protein.

  1. Perfect Summer Treat: Plant-Based Peanut Butter Ice Cream Recipe
  2. Chickpea & Tomato Pasta
  3. Healthy Vegan Recipe: BBQ Chickpea Pizza

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