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Do chickpeas count as a vegetable?

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a great source of plant-based protein and can be a nutritious addition to many dishes. But there is some debate around whether chickpeas should technically be classified as a vegetable or a legume. Here is a closer look at the nutritional profile, culinary uses, and categorization of chickpeas to help determine if they count as a vegetable.

Nutritional profile of chickpeas

Chickpeas are packed with important vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that make them a healthy plant-based food choice. Some of the key nutrients found in chickpeas include:

  • Protein – Chickpeas contain around 15 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked serving, making them an excellent vegetarian or vegan protein source.
  • Fiber – They are high in fiber, with about 12.5 grams per cooked cup, helping support digestive and heart health.
  • Folate – Chickpeas are an excellent source of folate, providing about 70% of the recommended daily intake in just 1 cup.
  • Iron – A good plant-based source of iron, with over 25% of the RDI.
  • Phosphorus – Supplies about half the RDI for phosphorus in a 1 cup serving.
  • Copper and manganese – Provides substantial amounts of the essential minerals copper and manganese.

Additionally, chickpeas contain small amounts of other vitamins and minerals like magnesium, zinc, potassium, and B vitamins.

They are also low in fat and relatively low on the glycemic index with a GI of about 28, meaning they are digested and absorbed slowly to minimize spikes in blood sugar.

Macronutrient profile

Here is the macronutrient breakdown for 1 cup (164 grams) of cooked chickpeas:

Macronutrient Amount
Calories 269
Protein 14.5g
Carbohydrates 45g
Fiber 12.5g
Sugars 10g
Fat 4g

As you can see from the table, chickpeas are a high-protein, high-fiber, low-fat food.

Culinary uses

Chickpeas have been a dietary staple in many parts of the world for thousands of years. They are extremely versatile and can be used in a wide variety of dishes both sweet and savory. Some of the most common ways to eat chickpeas include:

  • Hummus – A blend of chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic that can be eaten as a dip, spread, or sandwich filling.
  • Chana masala – An Indian dish made with spiced chickpeas and tomatoes.
  • Falafel – Fried chickpea patties or fritters, often served in pita sandwiches with veggies and tahini sauce.
  • Roasted chickpeas – Whole chickpeas tossed in oil and spices and roasted until crispy.
  • Chickpea salad – Combined with veggies, nuts, and dressing for a protein-packed salad.
  • Chickpea soup – Pureed or whole chickpeas used as the base for soups.
  • Chickpea stew or curry – Simmered along with aromatics like garlic, ginger, and onions plus spices.
  • Baked goods – Used to add texture, protein, and moisture in veggie burgers, breads, and desserts.

Chickpeas work equally well in both sweet and savory preparations from stews to spreads to baked goods. Their ability to take on the flavors of accompanying ingredients make them extremely adaptable.

Are chickpeas a vegetable or legume?

While chickpeas are nutritious and used like a vegetable in many dishes, they are technically a legume. Legumes are plants that produce pods with seeds inside that are eaten for food. Other examples of legumes are peas, beans, lentils, soybeans, and peanuts.

There are a few key reasons chickpeas are categorized as a legume rather than a vegetable:

  • They grow on bushes or vines rather than below ground or above ground like vegetables.
  • The edible part is the seed inside the pod rather than the root, stem, leaves, or flower of the plant.
  • Legumes are excellent sources of plant-based protein, while most vegetables have minimal protein.
  • Chickpeas and other legumes are able to fix nitrogen in the soil, unlike vegetables.

However, while not technically a vegetable, chickpeas can certainly be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet and provide similar nutritional benefits to vegetables:

  • High in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
  • Excellent source of fiber
  • Low in fat
  • Provide plant-based protein
  • Versatile to use in both savory and sweet dishes

Health benefits of chickpeas

Including chickpeas regularly in your diet can provide many excellent health benefits. Here are some of the top ways chickpeas may boost your health.

Improve digestion

The 12.5 grams of fiber in one cup of chickpeas goes a long way towards meeting the daily recommended intake of around 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Fiber supports overall digestive health by preventing constipation, normalizing bowel movements, and feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut microbiome. It also helps reduce cholesterol levels and control blood sugar spikes after eating.

Promote heart health

Soluble fiber like that found in chickpeas has been shown to help lower unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels which can build up in the arteries. The potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants in chickpeas also contribute to reducing risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure.

Support blood sugar control

The fiber and protein in chickpeas help slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream preventing spikes in blood glucose levels. This effect on glycemic response makes them a diabetes-friendly food.

Aid weight management

Chickpeas can support healthy weight maintenance or loss in a few ways. The protein and fiber keep you feeling full and satisfied. Their low glycemic impact prevents blood sugar crashes that can lead to overeating. And the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants support a healthy metabolism.

Reduce cancer risk

Many studies have found an association between eating legumes like chickpeas regularly and lower risks of certain cancers. This is thought to be due to the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants chickpeas contain that can help protect cells against damage from free radicals.

How to Cook Chickpeas

Chickpeas are extremely versatile in the kitchen. Here are some tips for cooking with chickpeas:

From Dried

Chickpeas can be purchased dried or canned. To cook dried:

  1. Rinse and sort through dried chickpeas to remove any debris.
  2. Soak 8-12 hours or overnight in water to rehydrate.
  3. Drain soaking water and transfer to pot.
  4. Cover with 2 inches of fresh water and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce to a simmer and cook 45 minutes to 1 hour until tender.
  6. Add salt in the last 15 minutes if desired.
  7. Drain and use in recipes.

From Canned

To use canned chickpeas:

  1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas in a colander to remove excess sodium and starch.
  2. Use in recipes calling for cooked or canned chickpeas.
  3. They can also be roasted at 400F for a crunchy snack.
  4. Mash them with tahini, oil, and spices to make quick hummus.
  5. Puree them with herbs and broth for fast chickpea soup.

Cooking Times

Cook times vary depending on freshness. Expect these general cooking times:

Type Cooking Time
Dried chickpeas 1-2 hours
Canned chickpeas No cooking needed
Roasted chickpeas 40-60 minutes
Simmered in stew 20-30 minutes


While chickpeas are not technically a vegetable, they share many nutritional and health benefits with veggies. Chickpeas contain protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that provide a variety of health perks. They are also extremely versatile in the kitchen. Chickpeas make an excellent addition to a healthy plant-based diet and can be enjoyed in place of meat, dairy, and processed foods.

Try incorporating chickpeas into your meals more often in hits like hummus, chana masala, falafel, roasted chickpeas, soups, salads, and more. Their mild flavor and protein and fiber content allow chickpeas to fit seamlessly into both sweet and savory dishes.

So while they don’t count as an official vegetable, chickpeas can certainly be prepared and enjoyed in similar ways and provide great nutrition. Their classification as a legume does not diminish their excellent health benefits and nutritional profile.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are chickpeas good for you?

Yes, chickpeas are highly nutritious and offer many health benefits. They are a great plant-based source of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The fiber improves digestion and heart health, while the protein helps keep you full. The nutrients also support weight management, blood sugar control, and cancer prevention.

Are chickpeas gluten-free?

Yes, chickpeas are naturally gluten-free. They are a nutritious gluten-free ingredient choice for anyone following a gluten-free diet, including those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Do chickpeas have carbs?

Chickpeas do contain a moderate amount of carbohydrates, with about 45 grams of total carbs and 28 grams of net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) per 1 cup serving. The majority of the carb content comes from starch and fiber. The carbs are digested slowly thanks to their high fiber content.

Are canned chickpeas healthy?

Yes, canned chickpeas are still healthy and convenient for use in recipes. Choose low-sodium or no salt added canned varieties and be sure to rinse them before use. The canning process preserves the nutritional content but can add a lot of sodium, so rinsing helps remove excess salt and starch.

What do chickpeas taste like?

Chickpeas have a mild, nutty taste and creamy texture when cooked. They take on the flavors of foods they are cooked with quite well. Their mild taste allows them to blend seamlessly into both sweet and savory dishes.

Can you eat chickpeas raw?

Raw chickpeas, whether fresh or dried, are not safe to eat. Raw chickpeas contain compounds like phytohemagglutinin and other antinutrients that can be toxic and cause digestive issues if consumed raw. Always cook chickpeas thoroughly before eating.

Key Takeaways

  • Chickpeas are packed with nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They provide many health benefits for digestion, heart health, blood sugar control, weight management, and more.
  • Though not technically a vegetable, chickpeas can be incorporated into recipes and enjoyed in similar ways as veggies.
  • Chickpeas grow in pods on plants which classifies them as a legume rather than a vegetable.
  • Chickpeas are extremely versatile and can be used in soups, stews, curries, salads, hummus, falafel, baked goods, and more both sweet and savory preparations.
  • Always cook chickpeas thoroughly, either from dried or canned, before eating as raw chickpeas contain toxic compounds.