Types of Chickpeas & Flours
Whether you are on gluten free diet or just attempting to add healthy nutrients in your diet, besan or bengal gram or garbanzo bean flour is a healthy alternative to some of the most common flours. Just adding a small amount of garbanzo flour or besan to wheat flour or any GF flour can improve the nutrition of cooked food. According to Gluten Free cooking school website, 1/4 cup of garbanzo bean flour gives 5 g of dietary fiber and 6 g of protein.
Sometimes there is confusion understanding the difference between chickpeas and flours made out of them.
Chickpeas are of two main kinds :
Beige and dark brown.
It is also known by the name garbanzo / cici bean/ kabuli chana. It is beige colored, larger seed with a smooth coat. Chickpea is a popular ingredient in Indian and Mediterranean diet for making curries, hummus, falafal, soups and salads. It is an excellent source of protein but also have a higher fat content.
Chickpea (garbanzo) flour is made from beige or white chickpeas and is popular in Italian cuisine for making pancakes. It is available in specialty stores and in Italian shops and goes by the name garbanzo bean flour or farina di ceci. Besan found in Indian stores is not made by this bean. You’ll read about it under Chana daal.
Recipes made from white Chickpea
Dark Brown or Indian Black Chickpea:
Indian Black chickpea is also called Bengal gram or Kala chana or Desi chickpea. It is small, from light to dark brown color with a rough coat. It is a powerhouse of nutrients, rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and has low glycemic index which makes it suitable for people with high blood sugar. Whole chana is great when used in a curry, sprouted for salads and roasted for snack.
Whole chana flour is made from this black chana and is different from besan. It is just like other whole grain flour that contain cereal germ, endosperm and bran. It can be used for making chapatti combined with other flours. It can not be substituted for whole wheat flour. Chapattis made with this flour looks dark brownish black but very tasty and nutritious.
Recipes made from this black chickpea and its flour
Missi Roti – herbed Indian flat bread made with a blend of whole chana and white chapati flour.
Chana daal (lentil):
Chana daal or split bengal gram or yellow daal is made by peeling and splitting Bengal gram. Flour made from this daal has a pale yellow color, slightly strong taste to some but with a nutty flavor. It is popularly known by the name besan or gram flour. In Indian kitchen it is used as a binding agent for Koftas (vegetable balls), batter for fritters, savory snacks, vegetarian pancakes (Cheelas) and sweet dishes.
Other recipes include – Punjabi Kadhi, Cabbage Kofta Curry, Boiled egg curry, Besan Ki sabzi, Mirchi Pakora, Chicken Kofta curry, Persian chickpea flour cookies, Pithaud with chaunke matar, Besan Dhokla.
Chana daal is often confused with TOOR (tuvar or arhar) daal and YELLOW SPLIT PEAS, but they are different lentils in appearance and taste.
Green Garbanzo Bean/ Hara Chana/Choliya:
Green Chana is the greener counterpart of Kala Chana (dark brown chickpea/ bengal gram) and is available only in season when fresh crops of chickpeas are harvested. In Canada frozen choliya is available in Indian stores, farmer’s market, specialty stores as well as some of the Canadian Super markets like Costco. The frozen bags of green garbanzo beans from the Costco are the best so far, just as tender and crisp as fresh beans. You don’t need to cook them much compared to the one that you find in Indian grocery stores. You also get dry green garbanzo bean in Indian stores, however fresh or frozen tastes the best. Green garbanzo beans are an excellent source of folic acid and a good source of iron and they boast sweeter flavor than traditional garbanzos with the same satisfying, nutty texture that makes them so versatile. Use them for curries, dips, smoothies, salads, stuffing and many more…
Recipes made from Green Garbanzo
Flour made from garnbanzo beans and split bengal gram
It is hard to find the difference between beige chickpea / garbanzo bean flour and chana daal flour/ besan. I ground the chickpeas myself to check the difference and made parshad. Garbanzo flour halwa was slightly moist, less sticky as compared to besan halwa (made with same amount of ingredients). I am not sure if they can be swapped in all recipes but will cook some other dishes and update the post.
If you come across chana daal flour and chickpea flour on the same isle of the store, do not get confused. It is ground from bengal gram daal, and suppliers use different names to sell their products (this is what I was told when I asked a popular specialty store in Richmond/Vnacouver). However, if you read garbanzo bean flour on the label, it is definitely made by grinding beige chickpeas/ garbanzo beans.
Photos updated on Feb. 7th, 2014
February 24th, 2014
Few days ago I tested boondi and cheela recipes with besan and garbanzo bean flour. To be honest, I could not tell any difference in cooking, appearance or taste, but my daughter who is my trusty taste tester and critic for all my creations, found besan to be too beany compared to garbanzo flour. So, if you have any issues with strong nutty taste of besan, you can easily replace garbanzo bean flour in any recipe (provided its finely ground like besan).
March 27, 2014
I made Socca, the Italian flat bread ( sometimes called pancake) with besan. It came out perfect. Usually it is prepared with farina di ceci /garbanzo bean flour. Check out the pictures here and here (that’s how I ate). After working successfully with both these flours I think you can easily alternate them in any of the recipes.
If you have also experimented with these flours and want to share some tips or would like to add anything about chickpea flours, please leave a comment or send me an email. I would be more than happy to update my post.