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I've never used dried chickpeas before, but I'm not wanting for chickpea recipes. The bag of dried chickpeas I got contains no instructions for cooking. I know that I need to soak them in water for a period X and then cook them for a period Y. I could not find conclusive answers for what X (varies from 4 to 24 hours) and Y (varies from 40m to 2h) should be.

So what I need to know is:

  • how long should I soak them before cooking?
  • how long should I cook them?
  • are there other things to take into account (like adding salt when soaking, but not when cooking, or the other way around)?
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6 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The answer depends on where you live, and what type you have brought

In many countries that import chickpeas they heat treat them to kill seed-borne diseases and insects. The heat treatment process makes them more difficult to cook, and soaking times double or triple

Beans from exporters with phytosanitary certificates can be imported without heat treatment; these are the ones you want to get

I don't think you can tell which is which by looking at them. At the moment we have some particularly dark, dry, and dead looking beans that soak up beautifully in 8 hours!

Soak non heat treated beans for 8 to 12 hours, heat treated beans for 24 to 36 hours. Some overly heat treated beans will never fully revive, and you are best to return these to the shop as "faulty"

Soak and cook without salt, unless you are going to mash them. They fall apart more readily if salted

If you are not mashing them, the secret to great chickpea taste is after soaking and cooking in water, is to lightly fry them with a little olive oil until dark spot appear, keep them or the pan moving so none burn. Then add the sauce, or add them to what every dish you are preparing

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This is exactly how we have always prepared garbanzos. I will have to try chickpeas sometime. –  James Slagel Dec 15 '10 at 2:02
    
Garbanzos = Chickpeas. They are two words for exactly the same thing. –  Jolenealaska Jan 12 at 17:16
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Chick peas (garbanzo beans) are amongst the slowest of pulses to soak and cook I find.

It depends what is happening to them afterwards and how old they are as to the required process. If you need them in a canned state, then I would suggest a long soak, 24 hours is not unreasonable and I think at least an hour and a half cooking time. Longer soaks do bring down the cooking time till soft, if you only soak them for a few hours they would need a lot longer cooking.

An issue is that they tend to split if overcooked heavily, so it may be worth trying a few towards the end of cooking time, at least in your fingers for texture.

Certain dishes like falafel I have seen asking for slightly undercooked chick peas, but generally you want them holding their shape and providing slight resistance, not mushy.

Some people advocate adding bicarbonate of soda to the soaking water, as this speeds up the process. It does, you can get away with 12 hours, but imparts a bitterness to them which I think is worth avoiding with a longer soak.

As for salt, there are many schools of thought on this, most people advocate adding salt right at the end to avoid undue hardness. That's all very well, but then they do not benefit that much from it. I would suggest a happy medium, half way through cooking perhaps. As I say, it depends what you are doing with them, sometimes a more firm bean is desirable with chick pea dishes.

Having said all that, chick peas are one of the beans that I almost always buy tinned, though it is worth trying different brands to find a good one.

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I have no guide other than my own experience, but since I am middle-eastern(ish) it'll have to do. Generally, every Arab or Israeli cook or cookbook I've checked with says that they need to soak for about 8 hours or so, and that more is fine. What they usually say is "soak them before you go to bed, and they'll be ready to cook before you get to them in the morning."

As for cooking, it depends on what you're doing with them. Generally, if you cook them in water to cover and then 4 inches more, in an open pot, they're done in about 45-60 minutes. In a closed pot, they take longer. I haven't yet understood why this is, but it's good for most uses of chickpeas.

If you're making Hummus, or anything else where the chickpeas need to be very soft, mashed or some such, then you can add 1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. This makes the water a bit alkaline, and helps the chickpeas soften. This is also the reason you shouldn't add salt to the cooking water, as it makes the water acidic and causes the chickpeas to harden.

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While acid will harden the skins of peas/beans, salt does not make the water acidic, or harden the skins. Salting actually makes the beans more tender: seriouseats.com/2010/10/the-food-labs-top-6-food-myths.html –  Bob Dec 12 '10 at 19:50
    
@Bob: My experience with salting chickpeas is that it definitely makes them harder. –  Marcin Jan 4 '12 at 21:14
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Soak them for twelve plus hours in cold water. They don't need Bicarbonate of Soda or any of that stuff.

They need boiled for an hour or more, but they cook quickly in a pressure cooker (30mins or less). I also like to sprout the for a day or two for a fuller flavour and (allegedly) considerably more nutritional value.

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For me, I think they are much better cooked at home than canned. I like to do them in a pressure cooker, for about 55 minutes at high pressure with a natural pressure release afterwards. Done this way, you don't need any soaking and they come out perfectly tender. Don't forget to add a few tablespoons of oil to the pot, to avoid foam clogging the valve.

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One solution to getting garbanzos as easy to work with as the canned, it to can them yourself.

I soak garbanzos overnight, then put them in quart jars and cover with lightly salted water. I pressure can for 55 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

By canning them myself, I know how much salt is in them, I have the convenience of opening a can of beans when I need them and the cost savings and improved texture of working from dried beans.

As a bit of a disclaimer, follow the instructions that came with your pressure canner. I double check the time and pressure every time I can anything.

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Are you talking real cans here, or glass jars with pressure lids? –  TFD Dec 12 '10 at 22:50
    
@TFD he said quart jars, so I'm pretty sure he means glass jars. –  Mark Snidovich Dec 13 '10 at 1:00
    
I was talking canning jars. My pressure canner mentions buying cans and using those, but I can't imagine. –  Doug Johnson-Cookloose Dec 18 '10 at 13:31
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