Ahh hummus—the creamy, rich, filling and incredibly flavorful dip from the Mediterranean that has the entire world addicted. Perhaps the best part is that hummus is actually healthy—it’s an excellent source of protein and complex carbs. The main ingredient in traditional hummus is chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, which are part of the legume family. “Chickpeas and other pulses, such as beans, lentils, etc., are some of the world’s most nutrient-dense foods,” Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, New York Times best-selling author and nationally recognized health expert, tells The Warm Up. “With 8 grams of protein per half-cup cooked serving, chickpeas have double the protein of quinoa and are an excellent source of fiber, with more than four times the fiber per serving of brown rice! Chickpeas are also a great source of folate, a nutrient pregnant women, and those trying to conceive, should be getting more than their fare share of.”
While hummus is an undoubtedly delicious way to enjoy all that is the glory of the chickpea, we asked Largeman-Roth and other top R.D.s to share some more creative, culinary-inspired ideas.
We bet you never thought to toss good old legumes in your brownies, right? Well, thanks to its creamy texture when finely mashed, chickpeas work wonders in everything from breads to cakes. “Adding puréed chickpeas to the base of baked goods is a creative way to add protein and fiber while satisfying a sweet tooth,” Largeman-Roth says. “The chickpeas add moisture to quick breads and cakes, and can even take the place of flour in many baked goods to create naturally gluten-free goodies.”
You might think to toss in some chickpeas at your local salad bar, but it’s probably not the first salad ingredient you shop for at the grocery store. The ultimate power salad duo? Chickpeas and black beans. “The combination offers both complex carbs and protein for a creative, tasty and nutritious meal,” Eliza Whetzel, RD, registered dietitian at Middleberg Nutrition, says. “Toss in beans, veggies and avocado dressed with olive oil and lime juice instead of typical mayo-heavy or high-sodium vinaigrette salads.”
“Lots of folks turn to energy bites for pre- or post-workout treats, or for something convenient to grab and go when in a hurry, but unfortunately many no-bake energy bites use high-sugar ingredients (like dates) for the base,” Largeman-Roth explains. “While there’s no problem with adding things like dates or honey for a touch of sweetness, using chickpeas as the base for no-bake treats adds protein, fiber and not very much sugar, so that they really do provide sustained energy without a crash.”
Processed protein powders may seem like the easiest way to bulk up your pre- or post-workout smoothie, but chickpeas are another easy solution. “Chickpeas can add low-sugar bulk, fiber, natural protein and dairy-free creaminess—in case someone is avoiding dairy or is lactose-intolerant or vegan—to nearly any smoothie recipe, as the flavor of chickpeas is fairly neutral,” Largeman-Roth says. “Especially if you’re a morning smoothie person, including chickpeas makes it more filling and ensures you won’t crash way before lunchtime.”
Stuffed sweet potatoes
While the traditional “stuffed potato” usually consists of a standard, carb-heavy white potato smothered with meat, cheese and sour cream, a lighter version includes a sweet potato and stuffing it with chickpeas instead. “If you’re into #meatlessmonday, it makes a satisfying vegan meal,” says Whetzel.
This actually uses the leftover liquid from canned chickpeas, rather than the chickpeas themselves, so if someone was to make any of the above recipes, they can be waste-free by using the liquid instead of pouring it down the drain, adds Largeman-Roth. “The whipped chickpea liquid makes an easy vegan meringue, which can be used to make a vegan chocolate mousse, or even an egg-free float for drinks like a Pisco Sour!” She recommends using salt-free canned chickpeas for a healthier option that won’t cause bloat.