Chickpea flour, also known as gram flour or besan, is growing in popularity as a gluten-free alternative to traditional wheat flours. This nutritious flour made from ground chickpeas can be used in a variety of baked goods and provides several benefits over regular flour.
What is chickpea flour?
Chickpea flour is made from chickpeas that have been dried and ground into a fine powder. Sometimes called garbanzo bean flour, chickpea flour is used as a staple ingredient in many Middle Eastern, Indian and Pakistani cuisines. It has a rich, nutty taste and adds both protein and fiber to baked goods. Chickpea flour contains no gluten, making it a good choice for anyone following a gluten-free diet due to celiac disease or gluten intolerance. It’s also popular among people looking to cut back on carbs or increase the nutritional value of their recipes.
One of the main benefits of using chickpea flour is its impressive nutritional profile. Here is how 1/4 cup (30 grams) of chickpea flour compares to the same amount of all-purpose flour:
|Nutrient||Chickpea Flour||All-Purpose Flour|
As you can see, chickpea flour contains more fiber and protein than regular all-purpose flour, while providing fewer net carbs. The higher fiber and protein make it more filling and nutritious in baked goods.
Benefits of using chickpea flour
Here are some of the top benefits of using chickpea flour in your baking:
Chickpea flour contains no gluten, making it a safe option for anyone who needs or prefers to avoid gluten. This includes people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Chickpea flour is an easy 1:1 substitute for regular flour in many recipes.
High in protein
With about 5 grams of protein per 1/4 cup serving, chickpea flour packs over twice as much protein as traditional all-purpose flour. The extra protein makes baked goods more filling and satisfying.
High in fiber
Chickpea flour is an excellent source of fiber, providing 4 grams per serving. Fiber promotes digestive health and helps reduce cholesterol levels. It also slows digestion to help you stay fuller for longer after eating.
Rich in vitamins and minerals
Chickpeas are nutritious legumes packed with vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, folate and copper. Using chickpea flour retains many of these essential nutrients in your baked goods.
For those following a vegan or vegetarian diet, chickpea flour is a versatile plant-based ingredient that can be used as a substitute for eggs and dairy products in baking. This makes it useful for lactose-intolerant bakers as well.
Nutty, rich flavor
Chickpea flour has a delicious nutty taste and aroma that gives baked goods more complex flavor. The richness of the flour means you can use less butter, oil or other fats in recipes.
In addition to gluten-free baking, chickpea flour can be used to make pancakes, flatbreads, crackers and more. You can even coat meats or vegetables with chickpea flour prior to baking or frying.
Chickpea flour is relatively affordable compared to other gluten-free flours and all-purpose flour. One pound of chickpea flour costs $3 to $5 on average.
How to bake with chickpea flour
While swapping chickpea flour 1:1 for regular flour works in some recipes, more adjustments are usually needed to get optimal results in baking. Here are some tips:
Chickpea flour is heavier and denser than wheat flour, which can result in baked goods that are too dense. To lighten texture, use extra leavening agents like baking powder, baking soda or yeast. As a rule of thumb, increase the leavening by 50%.
Reduce fat and liquid
The extra fiber in chickpea flour absorbs more moisture than regular flour. Reduce the amount of liquid called for in a recipe by 25 to 50ml per 1 cup chickpea flour. Cut back on fats like oil and butter slightly too.
Chickpea flour doesn’t contain gluten, the protein that helps dough stretch and bind. For chewier results, add an egg white or xanthan gum to help hold baked goods together.
The natural flavor of chickpea flour can overpower more delicate ingredients. Balance it by adding extracts like vanilla, almond or lemon. A bit of honey or coconut sugar also enhances overall flavor.
Blend with other flours
For best texture and taste, try combining chickpea flour with other gluten-free flours like tapioca, rice, millet or almond flour. As a general guideline, limit chickpea flour to 1/4 to 1/2 of the total flour in a recipe.
Let batter rest
After mixing up chickpea flour batter, let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before baking. This improves moisture distribution and prevents tunneling in the middle of muffins or quick breads.
Adjust baking times
Chickpea flour baked goods often cook faster than wheat-based versions. Keep an eye on items and reduce oven temperatures by 25°F if needed to prevent burning.
Recipes using chickpea flour
Chickpea flour works well in all kinds of baked goods. Here are some recipe ideas:
Pancakes and waffles
For fluffy gluten-free pancakes, use a blend of chickpea flour, tapioca flour and rice flour. Top with fruit and maple syrup.
Chewy chocolate chip cookies can be made with a mix of chickpea flour and oat flour. For added nutrition, throw in dried fruit or cacao nibs.
Muffins and bread
Make banana bread or blueberry muffins by replacing 1/4 to 1/2 of the wheat flour with chickpea flour.
Chickpea flour creates a delicious thin-crust pizza crust. Add Italian herbs for more flavor.
For crunchy, savory crackers, use chickpea flour combined with oat flour and seasonings like garlic powder, rosemary and paprika.
Swap up to half the flour in pie crusts for chickpea flour for a hearty, gluten-free crust.
Lighten up traditional donuts by using a blend of chickpea flour and tapioca flour for the dough.
While chickpea flour offers some benefits, there are a few potential downsides to keep in mind as well:
In some recipes, the strong bean flavor of chickpea flour can be overpowering. Combining with other flours and ingredients helps mask the taste.
It can be tricky getting light and airy textures with chickpea flour alone. Proper recipe adjustments are needed to achieve bakery-style results.
The high fiber content of chickpea flour may cause bloating or gas in sensitive individuals. Slowly introduce it to allow your body to adjust.
Shorter shelf life
Due to chickpea flour’s higher oil content, baked goods made with it tend to go stale faster. Eat homemade chickpea flour treats within 3 to 5 days for best freshness.
Limited gluten development
Without gluten, chickpea flour dough does not stretch and expand as well as wheat dough. This makes techniques like kneading and rolling harder.
Finding chickpea flour
Chickpea flour is easy to find in stores and online:
Check the flour section, gluten-free aisle or with other specialty flours in major supermarkets. Health food stores like Whole Foods have it too.
Buy chickpea flour from Amazon, grocery delivery services or online health food retailers like Thrive Market.
Visit Indian, Middle Eastern or halal markets to find chickpea flour in the spice aisle. It may be labeled as besan or gram flour.
Look for chickpea flour in the bulk section at natural food stores. This allows you to buy just what you need.
Storing chickpea flour
To maximize freshness, store chickpea flour:
- In an airtight container in a cool, dry place
- Away from heat and light
- In the freezer for over 6 months
Properly stored, chickpea flour will keep for 6-8 months at room temperature. Signs it has gone bad include a rancid smell, change in color, or taste that is very bitter or sour.
Chickpea flour is a nutritious, gluten-free flour that can add protein, fiber and healthy fats to all kinds of baked goods. With proper recipe adjustments to balance its dense texture and strong flavor, it can be used to make delicious pancakes, cakes, cookies, breads and more. While not suitable for all recipes, chickpea flour is a handy ingredient for anyone seeking to lighten up desserts, boost nutrition or avoid gluten. Experiment with substituting it for some or all of the regular flour called for in your favorite baking recipes.