All you wanted to know about Chickpea

 Cicer arietinum L.

Common Names: Garbanzo Bean (Spanish), Ceci bean (Italian), Sanagalu (Telegu), Chana (Hindi, Urdu), Hummus (Arabic), Egyptian Peas, or Bengal gram.

Botanically chickpea is known as Cicer arietinum L. It’s in the family Leguminosae (Fabaceae). Chickpea is the third most important pulse in the world after beans and peas (Plants of the world Online). A pulse is a plant in the legume family grown for its mature dried edible seeds.

India is the world’s main producer and consumer of chickpea. Other major producers include Turkey, Pakistan and Iran. It is also a significant export crop in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.(Plants of the world Online)

There are two main types of chickpeas, the Kabuli type and the Desi type. 

Kabuli type is also known as Garbanzo bean or Ceci Bean and Desi type is also known as the black chickpea or Bengal gram or Kala chana.

Kabuli Chickpea (Garbanzo Bean)

The is the one commonly referred to as Garbanzo Bean or Ceci Bean. It’s relatively round and cream coloured with a smooth seed coat.

The name Kabuli, literally means “from Kabul”, because it was thought to come from Kabul, Afghanistan, when it was first introduced to India and later to Africa.

Kabuli chickpea is mainly grown in the Mediterranean region, South America, and in Southeast Asia. (FAO.ORG)

Dried chickpea

Most of the chickpea we buy in North America and Europe, especially the canned ones, are the Kabuli type. It usually has a nutty, mild flavour and remains crunchy even after being fully cooked. It cooks  faster and has less dietary fibre than those of the Desi type.

Desi Chickpea

This is the one referred to as: Bengal GramKala Chana (meaning black chickpea) or Chola Boot. “Desi” chickpea is smaller, light to dark brown, with a thick, rough, seed coat. It is mainly grown in India, East Africa, Mexico, and Iran.  (FAO.ORG). The word ‘Desi‘ means ‘country‘ or ‘local‘ in Hindustani.

The dark seed coat is usually removed, then the seed is split in half to produce ‘Chana Dahl’, Chana Dal, or Bengal gram, also known as split desi-chickpea or yellow gram. 

About 80% of the Desi Chickpeas produced make Chana Dal, and 80% of this split form are ground into a chickpea flour also called Besan. Chickpea flour is also called farina di ceci’ or Ceci flour. The French call it ‘farine de pois chiches’.

The dark seed coat is removed and split to produce Yellow Split Gram or Chana Dahl

There are several processing plants in Saskatchewan, Canada, which dehull and split desi chick peas. (North American Grain).

Desi chickpeas have a markedly higher fibre content than other varieties and a lower glycemic Index. It is probably the earliest variety because it closely resembles seeds found at archaeological sites. (FAO.ORG)

Nutrition of Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a rich source of protein and carbohydrates and are also rich in iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, manganese and fibre. They’re also known to improve blood sugar levels due to their low glycemic index.

Use of ‘Kabuli type’ or Garbanzo Beans

Mature chickpeas or Garbanzo beans can be cooked and eaten cold in salads, or added to soups and stews, or ground and shaped into balls and fried as falafel or cooked with rice or other foods. Chickpea is also an ingredient of weaning foods for babies.

Dried Kabuli Chickpea

Canned chickpeas are popular in the United States and in Europe

Hummus is the Arabic word for chickpeas, which are often cooked, ground into a paste and mixed with tahini (sesame seed paste).

Immature seeds are consumed fresh, or roasted and salted as snacks.

Use of ‘Desi Type’ Chana Dal or Yellow Gram

It’s mainly used to make Dahl or used in soups and stews.

Desi chickpea is also ground into chickpea flour also Besan flour or Yellow Gram flour. Chickpea flour is also known as farina di ceci or ‘farine de pois chiches’ in France.

There are also some intermediate cultivars namely Bambai chickpea that is dark but slightly larger than Desi and is popular in the Indian subcontinent and an uncommon black chickpea, ceci neri, larger and darker than the Desi variety, and grown only in Apulia, in southeastern Italy. (FAO.ORG). These intermediate cultivars are not covered here.

Last Updated: 26 April, 2018

Author: Liz

I love everything food: eating, cooking, baking and travelling. I also love photography and nature.

29 thoughts

    1. Thank you for sharing this information. It’s very informative I should mention Australia somewhere in my article.

  1. Hi
    What’s the difference between Desi and regular yellow split peas? And if there isn’t a difference, what about green split peas?

    1. Hi Dave
      Desi is a type of chickpea, known in India as Chana Dal, Split Yellow Gram or Split Desi-chickpea. It is produced from the Desi-type of chickpea (Bengal Gram or Kala Chana). Botanically it’s known as Cicer arietinum.
      Regular yellow split peas and green split peas belong to the species Pisum sativum. They are just different in colour. Here is a link to an article on my blog.

      I hope this helps.
      Best regards,

  2. Hey! Thank you for making clear what’s the difference between the different types of chickpeas. It sometimes feels like rocket science if you try to find out what they are actually talking about in indian recipes.

    1. Hello Dennis,

      I am so glad you found this article useful. You have motivated me to keep on writing. Have a wonderful day and best wishes!

  3. When I had a nice supply of Chana Dal, it always tickled me to say it out loud. It sounds like China Doll as spoken in Mississippi !!!

    Virtual hugs,


    1. Ha ha that sounds really funny. What happened to the supply? I have a huge bag on my table right now, begging to be cooked!!!

Leave a Reply to Liz Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.