Chickpea and its Exploration in the Food Industry


Midhun Jayakumar 1 , Ashutosh Pathare 1 , Akalya Shanmugam 1,2,* 

Chickpea (Cicer arietinum) is an annual legume belonging to the family Fabaceae and subfamily Faboideae. Chickpeas are commonly known as Bengal gram, garbanzo bean, or Egyptian pea. It is one of the oldest legumes which was discovered in the Middle-east about 9500 years ago. The wild progenitor of chickpea, Cicer reticulatum is native to the Southeastern part of Turkey. It’s a key ingredient in Mediterranean and Middle-eastern culinary art where it is commonly used in making hummus (dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas along with certain other ingredients) and falafel (fried spiced balls or patties of ground chickpeas or fava beans). The two main types of chickpeas are larger beige-colored kabuli and small dark-colored desi. In the early stage chickpeas are green in color and depending on the variety, their color changes through beige or tan, black or brown. The plant often has small, feathery leaves on either side of the stem and can reach a height of 20 to 50 cm. One seedpod of chickpea legume contains two or three peas. It is a crop that can adapt to adverse soil and climatic condition. This legume type is resistant to aridness, is cultivated easily, and has a higher digestibility ratio (about 76- 90%).

Chickpeas are an excellent source of carbs and protein; compared to other pulses, their protein is thought to be of higher quality. With the exception of amino acids that contains sulphur, chickpea has large amounts of all the essential amino acids. The seeds are a good source of iron, phosphorus, and folic acid. Despite having little lipid content, chickpeas are high in linoleic and oleic acids, which are essential for good nutrition. India contributes around 70% of the world’s total production of chickpeas, making it the top producer in the world. In the period of 2018-19, chickpea production enhanced to about 9,938 thousand tonnes accounting for 45 percent of India’s overall production of pulses. Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh are the major contributors to India’s chickpea production, accounting for around 86 percent of total production. Its rich nutritional profile, flexible culinary uses, and possible beneficial health effects have garnered a lot of attention in recent years. By investigating a number of factors, including their composition, economic importance, culinary uses, health consequences and future trends our review aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of chickpeas and their significance in various fields, including nutrition, agriculture, and food science.

Production and Economic Importance
Chickpea is grown globally in almost 57 countries under diverse environmental conditions. Major chickpea production occurs in South Asia and South-East Asia with an 80% regional share. Even though developed nations do not make a significant contribution to the production of chickpeas, few Eastern European nations have exceptionally high yields. Chickpea production comes in third with a mean annual output of more than 11.5 million tonnes with the majority of the production concentrated in India. There has been a rise in the land area utilized for chickpea production (more than 14.56 million hectares) in recent times. The chickpea is a highly valued crop that offers wholesome food for a growing global population. Nutritionists working in the food and health sectors in many nations across the world have recently underlined the nutritional worth of chickpeas on the basis of nutrition and physical wellness.

Our world is currently occupied by 8 billion people, and it is predicted that by 2050, it will cross 9 billion. The need to produce more food for a larger population with lesser amount of resources will soon become a serious concern, and in order to meet this growing need, we will need to rely to a greater extent on crops of superior quality. Chickpea is well in the lead in this agricultural competition as it is an excellent source of protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and certain phytochemicals that may have potential health benefits. Additionally, chickpeas have been shown to be sustainable and favorable to the environment. As a “pulse crop,” they have the potential to fix nitrogen in the soil, hence lowering the demand for artificial fertilizers. By reducing chemical inputs, this trait not only helps the environment but also improves crop rotation techniques and soil health. Additionally, compared to some other crops, chickpeas require less water, making them a durable and drought-tolerant option in areas with a shortage of water.  Due to their ability to make up for the lack of proteins in the daily food rations of people in sub-Saharan Africa and India, chickpeas have a prominent role in food safety globally (Merga & Haji, 2019).

Health benefits and its potential as a substitute for Soybean
Even though pulses have been a part of a healthy diet for a long time, people have only been aware of their potential health benefits in the recent 2-3 decades. Chickpeas are considered as ‘functional food’ they are believed to mitigate the risk of developing a number of chronic diseases and enhance health. Chickpeas and soybeans both are rich in fiber and certain bioactive compounds like saponins, phytosterols, etc. This coupled with a low glycemic index as well as the presence of isoflavones helps in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and coronary heart diseases (CHD). The daidzein and genistein content in both chickpea and soybean is almost similar thereby making it a potential substitute for soybean as a supplier of isoflavone aglycones. They also help in maintaining the blood-cholesterol level in our body by binding saponins to dietary cholesterol or bile acids thus increasing its excretion through feces. Both legumes have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.

Chickpea particularly helps in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer due to the presence of butyrate which is the principal short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) present in it. This SCFA is said to suppress cell proliferation and induce apoptosis thereby reducing the risk of colorectal cancer. In addition to all of this, chickpeas help in improving gut health and promote laxation or bowel movement. Comparatively, chickpea is a better choice for weight loss and for avoiding type 2 diabetes as it has lower lipid content. Further investigation is required about the properties of isoflavones present in both of the legumes such as its effect on inhibiting digestive enzymes etc ( de Camargo, et al., 2019).

Chickpeas in the food industry
Chickpeas are high in nutritional value, especially in terms of mineral compounds (Ca, P, K, Fe), protein and fat contents. Carbohydrates present in chickpeas are insignificant (up to 5%), but the protein content is high (about 32%) along with 8% fat. They are used in making roasted chickpeas (leblebi) as a meal and consumed fresh as Firik (young cracked) or for obtaining snacks in the boiled form ( Özbek, Güzeler, & Mart, 2016). In the food processing sector, canned chickpeas are very popular as they are very convenient to use, give a distinct color to the product and provide high consumer value. Recently, the water remaining in the cans which is called aquafaba is being utilized instead of discarding it as it is rich in water-soluble nutrients (Parmar, Singh, Kaur, Virdi, & Thakur, 2016). Chickpeas are also used as yeast mainly for the distinct taste and aroma developed in the chickpea yeast-containing bread due to the inherent microflora of chickpeas.

Additionally, using chickpea yeast makes it easier to process dough and slightly improves the texture of the crumb as well. There are certain microorganisms that are isolated from chickpeas such as Lactobacillus fermentum, Leuconostoc mesenteroides and Hansenula silvicola. Furthermore, from chickpea yeast bread such as Enterococcus mundtii, Enterococcus casseliflavus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Lactiplantibacillus plantarum, Pediococcus urinaeequi, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactococcus lactis subsp.

They may be used in pickle fermentation because they satisfy all requirements. The usage of chickpea flour and chickpea yeast in dough making process affects the textural properties in a positive way. Dough appearance and bread yield can be increased by this process. In the bread-making process obtained, yeast can be used directly. In order to obtain chickpea yeast, it has to be first crushed and then mixed with salt and wheat flour. Afterward, hot water is added at 50-60°C to the mixture and it is kept closed in a jar at 45-50°C for 12 hours. Clotting of fresh milk and yogurt-like products can be made with chickpeas or its extract. To make this product, about 10-15 chickpeas are put in a jar and pasteurized milk is added at 38-40°C and left undisturbed. This mixture is incubated for 1 day, cooled and then filtered. The filtrate which is obtained from this mixture is used as yogurt yeast to make yogurt-like products ( Özbek, Güzeler, & Mart, 2016). Besan, often known as chickpea flour, is a powdery product made by grinding of dehusked Bengal gram. According to Indian Standards, no coloring agents or other foreign compounds should be added to besan (PFA 1955). It has high amounts of protein in the range of 24.08% to 28.62%.

It is quite popular among Indian traditional foods such as boondi, pakoras, ladoo etc (Bala, Sethi, Sharma, & Mridul, 2022). Wheat-chickpea bread can be made by adding chickpea flour to wheat flour in the appropriate ratio of 5%, 10%, and 20%. Chickpea flour reduces the quanitity of wet gluten after addition to the wheat flour but does not decrease its quality. The incorporation of chickpea flour contributes to the nutritional aspects of wheat bread by enriching it with essential amino acids. Recommended daily allowances (RDA) of the human body can be satisfied by 48.8% with the consumption of 300g of bread having 80% wheat flour and 20% chickpea flour (Taranova , et al., 2021). Bread and baked goods are rich in source of vitamins and folic acid. Chickpeas may also be used in all meal types such as main courses (stew), soups, pilaf, salads, appetizers (Hummus), and some desserts.

Future Trends
Finding protein sources that could replace the conventional ones has been at the frontline of nutritional aspect developments,in order to provide consumers with several products as well as to solve problems with environmental sustainability and global food security difficulty. The usage of storage proteins derived from pulse seed in the food industry has been growing rapidly among all alternative protein sources due to their affordability and abundance in many types of essential amino acids (such as lysine and leucine) especially chickpeas. In the preparation of chickpea plant protein fractions, they are first ground in an ultra-centrifugal mill. The milled chickpea flours are then defatted with hexane in a Soxhlet extractor for 10 hours, followed by 24 hours of drying in an air-flow hood at ambient temperature ( Chang, et al., 2022).

Plant extracts are water-soluble elements of pulses, nuts, cereals, or millet which resemble cow’s milk in appearance and are made by size reduction of the plant material. The raw material is treated with water after being pre-soaked for a few hours. The insoluble residues are then taken out of the extract by filtering. Stabilizers, flavors and other additives can all be added as well. At the very end of the production process, homogenization and pasteurization procedures are carried out, producing liquid extracts that can be emulsions or colloidal suspensions. These act as a substitute for dairy-based milk. Pulses are a vital component in many alternatives to dairy because of their rich nutritional profile and superior milk quality when compared to traditional dairy products. Several studies found that pulse protein isolates such as those from chickpeas that had been salt extracted showed superior functions, such as solubility, foaming and emulsifying capabilities. When compared to cow’s milk, the extracted chickpeas have a deeper, yellowish tint.

Additionally, chickpea extract has a “beany” taste which is primarily because of anti-nutritional substances like saponins and isoflavones. Therefore, blending with other substances may be one technique to create beverages that taste good. Coconut milk is a possible option for plant-based milk with a color that resembles milk and appealing sensory qualities. It is a suitable source to use with chickpea extract because coconut has a white tint and contains a higher amount of lipids than chickpeas. Consequently, as sensorial quality is one of the most important factors in deciding whether to buy a product, the combination of chickpea and coconut may be an intriguing and practical choice to produce plant-based milk with a high nutritional profile and desirable smell, color and flavor qualities(Vallath, Shanmugam, & Rawson, 2022) (Rincona, Botelho, & de Alencar, 2020).

A new food product called Aquafaba (aqua= water; faba= Fabaceae family) which is primarily composed of pulse proteins such as chickpea proteins has come into the food industry as well. It is mainly used as a vegetable emulsifier replacing the conventional egg white in many bakery products and hence can play a major role in the vegan diet. Basically, aquafaba is the water left after canning or boiling/cooking soaked pulses, which are usually sold in the market. Since pulses contain many water-soluble nutritional components such as proteins (albumins), saponins, phenolics and carbohydrates (fibers, sugar), the aquafaba has a high nutritional profile. Moreover, it has emulsifying, foaming and gelling properties making it a potential substitute for egg and milk in many vegan products. Using the appropriate processing conditions, the leftover water which is high in nutrients is dried to produce commercially available aquafaba. It is primarily produced from green lentils and chickpeas. Aquafaba from chickpeas has high amounts of protein and is said to have the maximum dry matter content. Further research is needed to know more about the benefits of aquafaba ( Erem, et al., 2021).

In conclusion, chickpeas are gaining popularity in the food industry because of their adaptability, sustainability and high nutrient content. Even in the olden days, chickpeas, one of the earliest cultivated legumes, have been a vital component of the diets of many different cultures all over the world. In recent years, there has been a sudden rise in the consumption of chickpeas and their by-products. This is because of many factors, their high nutritional profile being the number one. Their high protein content and lower fat content rises their potential in becoming a major food product among vegans and vegetarians. Secondly, chickpeas are being used in many new cooking recipes ranging from simple ones such as spreads (eg: hummus) and falafel to more sophisticated ones like chickpea spaghetti and vegan burgers.

As their flavor is mild and their texture is quite versatile, they are highly reliable for a variety of cooking techniques. Furthermore, the development of the chickpea business has been fueled by the rising demand for sources of plant-based protein. Chickpea production has increased as a result of farmers and agricultural businesses responding to this demand, which has enhanced the availability and affordability of products made from chickpeas. This expansion has also sparked new processing technology research and development, resulting in the creation of novel chickpea-based culinary items and components. To conclude, the nutritional content, adaptability, sustainability, and alignment with shifting consumer tastes of chickpeas have led to their increasing significance in the food industry. Chickpeas are anticipated to continue to be a necessary and highly valued ingredient as awareness of environmental and health issues increases worldwide, helping to fulfill the increasing need for wholesome and sustainable food options.
Author’s Bio
1 Food Processing Business Incubation Centre, National Institute of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management- Thanjavur, India.
2 Centre of Excellence in Non-Thermal Processing, National Institute of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management- Thanjavur, India.
*Corresponding Author: Email Address: (A Shanmugam)
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