I used sodium bicarbonate to soften chickpea curry.

Now I cannot eat it, because it smells horrible.

How can I remove this smell?


  1. Soak 400 grams of chickpea in water for 24 hours
  2. Add one sliced big onion and one cubed big potato to hot oil
  3. Add tumeric powder, coriander powder, and cumin powder—1 teaspoon each
  4. Add 2 teaspoons of garam masala powder
  5. Add 2 teaspoons of salt
  6. Add chickpeas
  7. Stir everything for 20 minutes
  8. Add 2 liters of hot water
  9. Add 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda and cover with a lid
  10. Cook for 1 hour
  • 2
    Can you describe your cooking procedure and/or recipe here? If there's baking soda in the curry, it sounds like you have some steps out of order.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Mar 7 at 1:57
  • @FuzzyChef, Check the edit.
    – user366312
    Commented Mar 7 at 2:35
  • That also seems like too much baking soda. When soaking ahead of time I found a little goes a long way
    – hodale
    Commented Mar 7 at 15:07
  • 9
    For the record, sodium bicarbonate has no odor at all. Any atypical smell in the final dish will be the result of some reaction between it and another ingredient during the cooking process. Commented Mar 7 at 15:33
  • 5
    ... but bicarbonate of soda (more often called "baking soda" by cooks in my part of the world) does have a strong, bitter flavor. Commented Mar 7 at 16:39

3 Answers 3


Generally when one is cooking chickpeas with soda to soften them, one par-cooks the chickpeas with just water and soda, drains them, rinses them, and then finishes cooking them with the other ingredients. You can also soak them overnight in cold water with soda instead of boiling them with it, but in all cases you throw away the water with soda in it.

Putting the soda in the curry like you did is very unusual, and I would expect it to taste bad.

  • 1
    if it's only a pinch (1/8 tsp or less, I guess? for about 200g dry chickpeas) you don't taste it in the final product. I've seen recipes that use similar amounts directly in the food, and I've done so myself with no ill effects. The amount here, though, will not hide nicely.
    – Esther
    Commented Mar 11 at 17:23
  • Esther: yeah, but if you want to actually soften them, you need more soda than that ... like 1/2 tsp.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Mar 11 at 18:09

I don't think you can remove the smell, it might be best to throw those ones out and start again.

You have added a lot of bicarbonate for the amount of chickpeas. Recipes that include bicarbonate generally seem to go with a half teaspoon per pound (roughly 2.5 g per 450 grams), not 2 teaspoons per 400 g.

There is generally no need to soften them with bicarbonate at all. A gentle boil or simmer for an hour or two is usually sufficient to cook them completely after an overnight soak.

If you wished to cook them in the curry, leave the salt out until the chickpeas are cooked or close to cooked. Adding salt (or at least calcium and magnesium salts, which are part of sea-salt) tend to harden the chickpeas so that they don't soften as easily. With added salt, they should still cook but it will generally take longer to do so. Though apparently soaking in salt water can soften beans more readily according to this Cooking SE page.

According to the FAQ on the site HeyNutritionLady.com, the causes of hard beans are not usually related to cooking, but rather to age of the beans. Apparently soaking only reduces stove-top cooking time by about 10 minutes, but can remove things from the chickpeas that cause gas and bloating in some people. They also say that hard water (high calcium content) can also cause the chickpeas to harden when cooking - bicarbonate can lower this, but you shouldn't need much.


It's pretty unusual to add the bicarbonate during cooking.

The way they taught me, the bicarbonate goes in the soaking water. You let sit overnight then throw away the water with the bicarbonate, rince and cook.

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