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Tasting Panel: Canned Chickpeas

A blind tasting samples six widely available brands

by Laura Giannatempo

fromFine Cooking
Issue 76

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Top Pick: Goya.

The pleasantly nutty flavor and creamy texture of chickpeas—also called garbanzo beans—makes them a delightful addition to salads, soups, and stews. And, of course, they're the starring ingredient in hummus. But since soaking and cooking dried chickpeas isn't always practical, we often reach for canned chickpeas as a handy alternative. Together with most beans, chickpeas are among the few foods whose flavor doesn't seem to be dramatically altered by the canning process. We like them to be firm but also smooth and buttery (never gritty or mealy), to have a clean, bean-like flavor, and to hold together well.

When we conducted a blind tasting of six widely available canned chickpea brands, we found that there was considerable variety in flavor, texture, and appearance. The clear winner was Goya, but panelists also enjoyed Pastene and Bush's.

Top pick

Goya
89¢ (15-1/2 oz.)
A smooth, creamy texture, a nicely balanced salt level, and a sweet, nutty bean flavor made these chickpeas our hands-down favorite. "By far the most attractive peas in the whole bunch," said one taster. Large and firm, with no split skins, their handsome appearance would easily hold up in soups, stews, and salads.

Chickpeas numbered in order of preference; prices will vary.

2. Pastene
$1.19 (15 oz.)
These warm, sunny-colored chickpeas had a satisfyingly earthy, beany flavor and a well-balanced saltiness. Despite some unevenness in individual beans, their overall texture was smooth with a pleasant, soft, and giving chew.

3. Bush's
79¢ (15 oz.)
These peas were soft and creamy with an enjoyable chickpea flavor and a pleasant saltiness. But virtually everyone on the panel commented on their less-than-perfect appearance: grayish and small with a few split skins. If you're looking for the perfect chickpeas to purée in hummus, this may be your best bet.

4. Progresso
99¢ (19 oz.)
These chickpeas had the panel divided: Some tasters found them nicely chewy with a firm bite and an appealing nutty taste, while others said they were too soft and a bit gritty with a curiously smoky, canned flavor. Almost everyone agreed that they were overly salty.

5. Eden Organic
$1.69 (15 oz.)
These chickpeas seemed to be a bit off: Tasters picked up bitter, metallic, and "minerally" flavors that weren't very enjoyable. The texture was firm, if a bit gritty, and some of the skins were slipping off.

6. Walnut Acres
$1.69 (15 oz.)
Distinctly different looking, these chickpeas were quite small and dark with lots of color variations (a few were a very deep brown). But it was their bland, grassy flavor that only vaguely resembled chickpeas and their slightly gritty texture that caused their score to plummet.

Photos: Scott Phillips

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