As an ingredient rich in fiber and folic acid, chickpeas can offer crackers, extruded snacks, cakes and bread a variety of benefits. Janice Rueda, Ph.D., vice-president, nutrition science business development, ADM, described them as the gateway to pulses due to their popularity among consumers.

Chickpeas are categorized as desi or kabuli, according to the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council. Commonly found in South Asian food products, desi varieties range in color from light tan and speckled to solid black and have thick seed coats that must be removed before consumption. The larger Kabuli chickpeas are popular in North America and can vary in color from white to pale cream to tan.

Chickpea ingredients are available in grits and meals, but a flour format is most commonly used in bakery and snack applications. When used with wheat flour, chickpea flour can add wholesome benefits, including added protein and fiber.

“Chickpea flour can replace up to 25% of wheat flour in crackers while maintaining a sheetable dough and crisp baked texture,” said Don Trouba, senior director, go-to market, The Annex by Ardent Mills. “It can also replace up to 50% of wheat flour in cookies while maintaining dough handling properties and cookie spread.”

In addition to cookies and crackers, bakers can incorporate chickpea flour into a range of other products. Rip Van uses a combination of wheat flour, chickpea flour and oat flour in its Wafels range, while Siete Foods uses chickpea flour in unison with tapioca flour and cassava flour to create its Chickpea Flour Grain Free Tortillas.

Chickpea flour’s higher fat content and particulate size must be accounted for when developing extruded snacks. Both factors can prevent dough from fully expanding during processing. To avoid this dilemma, the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council recommends pairing it with corn, rice or other starch sources. For example, Off the Eaten Path includes chickpea flour and rice flour in its Chickpea Veggie Crisps.

Through chickpea meal and grits, bakers can add visual appeal to a range of products, Dr. Rueda said. In tortillas and crackers, the grit form can enhance texture and color. And in bread, chickpea meal and grits may be used in combination with nut and seed inclusions to enhance texture while reducing a blend’s overall cost.

Innovative applications are expected to grow in 2020 as product developers gain a better understanding of chickpeas. Speaking to Monica Watrous, managing editor, Food Business News, food trends forecaster Elizabeth Moskow said the ingredient is gaining steam in the bakery segment, popping up in flatbreads, cookies and waffle cones.

“I think the next cauli crust may be chickpea crust,” Ms. Moskow told Ms. Watrous.

This article is an excerpt from the December 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on pulses, click here.