If you’re a fan of ethnic cuisine, you’ve probably eaten garbanzo beans a time or two. They’re common ingredients in many Indian and Middle Eastern recipes.
But you may not know what a garbanzo bean really is. Or this might be the first time you’re hearing of them.
Don’t worry, because we’re about to tell you about garbanzo beans and what makes them such a popular (and delicious) food you should try in your kitchen. You might be inspired to grow your own!
What is a Garbanzo Bean and is it the Same as a Chickpea?
To answer the second part of the question first: yes. They’re the same thing.
Both names refer to the Cicer arietinum, which isn’t a bean or a pea – it’s a “tender annual legume.” So how did two names come about?
Chickpea (also, chick pea) evolved from the French name pois chiche. When the plants made their way from France to England, the English switched the name around to chich-peas which eventually became chickpea in this country.
Garbanzo comes from Old Spanish and Basque language names – arvanco and garbantzu.
You’ll also see garbanzo beans called “gram” in India and the Middle East.
History of the Garbanzo Bean
Garbanzos are one of the earliest cultivated beans and it’s unknown which culture first cultivated them. Evidence of them dates back to 3500 BCE in Turkey and 6790 BCE in France.
The garbanzo is part of the Fabaceae legume family. It’s related to limas, black beans, peanuts, lentils, and kidney beans.
Garbanzo beans grow in over 50 countries. Worldwide, they’re the second most widely grown legume – soybeans take the #1 spot.
Garbanzo Plant / Bean Characteristics
The garbanzo bean plant is a bush variety that grows 8-20 inches high, depending on the variety. The leaves are small, feathery, and grow in pairs on either side of the stem.
Each oblong-shaped pod has 2-3 seeds inside. The pods are 1 inch long and roughly the same width.
The plant’s flowers are white with pink, blue, or purple veins depending on which of the dozens of varieties it is.
A garbanzo bean is a pulse, which is the edible seed of a pod.
There are two main kinds of garbanzo beans.
- Kabuli-type: These are lighter colored and round in shape. They’re the ones that are popular in the US.
- Desi-type: These are smaller, dark green-colored, and irregularly shaped. You’ll commonly find these in the Middle East and India.
In southern Italy is where the Ceci neri grows – a rare black chickpea that’s the same size as Kabul garbanzo beans.
A garbanzo’s color is typically light tan, but you can also find yellow, red, dark green, and brown varieties.
Health Benefits of Garbanzo Beans
Garbanzo beans can serve as a meat replacement, making them popular ingredients in vegetarian and vegan diets.
They’re high in carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamin B, folate, iron, phosphorus, linoleic and oleic acids.
1 cup of cooked beans contains:
- 35 g carbs
- 14.5 g protein
- 12.5 g fiber
- 74% DV of manganese
- 71% DV of folate
- 64% DV of copper
- 26% DV of iron
Major Health Benefits
Including garbanzo beans in your diet can:
- Prevent sugar and insulin spikes in type 2 diabetes
- Regulate the gastrointestinal tract
- Lower the risk of colorectal cancer
- Lower cholesterol
- Combat iron deficiency
- Reduce obesity
Things to be Aware of
Some people suffer from legume allergy, so avoid them if you’re allergic to foods like peas or lentils.
Even if you’re not allergic to them, garbanzo beans can cause Initial gas, cramps, and bloating if you’re not accustomed to high-fiber foods!
Start out with small quantities and drink lots of water when introducing garbanzos to your diet to prevent discomfort.
Where to Buy Garbanzo Beans to Eat
Garbanzo beans are everywhere! They’re available canned or dried. Be aware that dried are raw and need to be cooked before using.
Canned garbanzo beans retain their nutritional value when compared to cooked ones made from dried beans. Drain the water they’re packed in to reduce the amount of sodium.
Garbanzos are also inexpensive foods, so the low price means they’re easy to add to your diet.
Common Uses for Garbanzo Beans
Garbanzos are a staple in diets around the world.
The beans are used in hot and cold dishes, appetizers, sides, main dishes, and even sweet recipes to add texture and nutritional value
Some also eat the young plant leave. They have a higher mineral content than spinach and cabbage leaves.
What Does a Garbanzo Bean Taste Like?
The taste of a Kabul-type garbanzo is nutty and buttery with a texture that can be grainy in whole form, or creamy when blended.
Garbanzos can be eaten raw as a snack if harvested when the pod is still green.
Canned or cooked beans can be eaten cold in salads and as hummus.
You can eat garbanzo beans by themselves or add them to dishes like soups and stews. Processed garbanzos can be added to veggie burgers or meatless meatballs.
When mashed they can be a flour substitute in baking. Chickpea flour can be used to make tasty batters.
Because garbanzo beans are so popular in different cultures, we thought it would be fun to provide a medley of recipes from around the world. We start off with a basic recipe for cooking them and then offer tasty suggestions for how to use your cooked garbanzos.
Hummus (Arabic word for “chickpeas”)
Falafel (Middle Eastern)
Socca Flatbread (French)
Garbanzo Bean Stew (Spanish)
Chana Masala (India)
Chickpea Fritters (Italy)
Oven Roasted Chickpeas (can be a snack or added to salads or soups)
Can You Grow Garbanzo Beans at Home?
Yes! They’re a sustainable crop and can improve the quality of your garden’s soil.
They don’t do well in pots or container gardens because of the number of plants and space needed for a household crop.
The rule of thumb when planning your garden layout is 4-8 garbanzo plants per person in the household.
Popular varieties to grow
- ‘Kabuli Black’
Growing Garbanzo Beans
Garbanzos have a long growing season and need 100 days to mature.
They grow best in daytime temperatures of 70-80 degrees with lows at 65 and above.
When to Sow/Plant
Do not soak the seeds before planting!
For outdoor planting in warmer zones, sow garbanzo seeds in the garden around the date of the last spring frost in your area.
To get a headstart on the growing seasons, sow indoors several weeks before the last spring frost. Use biodegradable pots because young garbanzo plants don’t like being removed from pots to be planted in the ground.
When plants are 4-5 inches tall, plant the entire pot in the garden.
Plant garbanzo beans in full sun for the highest yields.
- Organic matter
- Potassium and phosphorus amendments
- Loose, well-draining
If the soil is too high in nitrogen, plants will be leafy but yields will be low.
Plant seeds 1-2 inches deep and 3-6 inches apart.
Thin/space plants 6 inches apart with rows 18-24 inches apart.
If plants are a little crowded, it’s okay because they’ll support each other.
After planting seeds, avoid heavy watering – it causes seed cracking.
Keep the planting beds moist until the seedlings have emerged.
Water plants regularly during the blooming season and while pods are forming, but no overhead watering. Otherwise, the flowers or pods will fall off.
Garbanzo Plant Care
Keep the beds free of weeds, but be careful not to disturb the plant’s shallow root system.
Diseases & Care
Major diseases affecting garbanzo beans are:
Best disease-prevention practices:
- To prevent spreading disease, don’t handle plants when wet.
- Remove all infected plants, put them in paper bags, and dispose of them.
- Use crop rotation practices to reduce the risk of soil-borne diseases (allows garbanzo bean plants to leave extra nitrogen behind in the soil for other crops).
Aphids, mites, leafhoppers, flea beetles, and bean beetles attack garbanzo plants. They do their own damage, but some also spread diseases.
Treat pests with insecticidal soap and remove any large infestations you find.
When to Harvest Garbanzo Beans
After 100 days, green garbanzo pods can be harvested for eating seeds fresh.
For garbanzo beans that you’ll cook or dry, wait until the plant is brown and withered. Pick the entire plant and allow it to dry on a flat surface.
As the pods split, the beans can be harvested.
- Unshelled pods keep in the fridge for a week.
- Cooked garbanzo beans can be canned or frozen.
- Uncooked beans can be dried for storage for up to a year.
Where To Buy Garbanzo Bean Plants/Seeds
As mentioned earlier, garbanzo plants really don’t like being removed from pots to be planted in the ground, so you’re not likely to find starter plants. Luckily seeds are very easy to find and we’ve got two great sources to recommend!
The Mighty and Versatile Garbanzo Bean
When it comes to kitchen uses, it seems there’s nothing the garbanzo bean can’t do for you! Pick up a bag or a few cans in your next grocery run to enjoy in your meals.
Want to learn more about beans? Visit our bean plants page to discover more about beans!