I’ve long wondered if chickpeas could stand in for ground meat in my favorite taco recipe. This month’s Food and Wine, which featured a recipe with a chickpea-for-pasta swap encouraged me to finally give it a try.
It worked beautifully, the method needing only a slight adjustment—double the amount of crushed tomatoes and water—because chickpeas soak up liquid like sponges. This chickpea filling is heartier than ground meat versions, and I prefer eating it bowl-style with all the fixin’s—I even find tortillas unnecessary (shocking!).
**While Food52 recipes are unavailable for those abroad, I’ve added this one here since I’ve some requests.**
Notes: Here, chickpeas stand in for ground meat in my favorite taco recipe. These bowls are so satisfying with all the fixin’s: finely shredded lettuce, grated cheese, a spoonful of sour cream, and a sprinkling of quick-pickled onions, which offers the same bite/sharp counterpoint as a salsa.
This is how I like to make the simple pickle/onion salsa: Finely dice a small red onion and a jalapeño if you like heat. Place them in a small bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Sprinkle with a tablespoon or more of vinegar. Let sit for 15 minutes, then toss.
Chickpeas: If you cook the pound of dried chickpeas as suggested below, you will have leftovers. Feel free to cook 1/2 or 3/4 of a pound if you don’t wish to have leftover chickpeas on hand. Canned chickpeas can be used in place of cooked-from-scratch ones. You need about two cans, drained and rinsed.
For the crushed tomatoes, I like Pomi brand or I like to empty a can of San Marzano plum tomatoes into a food processor and purée it until smooth.
Chile powders vary in degree of spiciness, so start with a tablespoon (or less) and add more to taste. (less)
For cooking the chickpeas:
- 1 pound dried chickpeas, see notes above
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the chickpea taco bowls:
- 2 tablespoons oil, grapeseed or olive
- 2 cups diced onions
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chili powder, see notes above
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes, see notes above
- 1 tablespoon cider (or other) vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 lime, for juicing, plus more for serving
- For serving: grated cheese, sour cream, finely shredded romaine lettuce, quick-pickled onions (see notes above)
- If using dried chickpeas: Dissolve the 3 tablespoons of salt into a large bowl of water (your largest mixing bowl, or about 4 quarts water). Add the chickpeas and soak for 8 to 24 hours. Drain, and place in a pot with the remaining teaspoon of salt. Cover with water by three inches. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook at the gentlest simmer for about an hour or until the chickpeas are cooked through. Let chickpeas cool in their cooking liquid. Store chickpeas in their cooking liquid.
- Set a large, wide skillet over high heat. Add the oil. When it shimmers, add the onions, stir to distribute evenly, season with a pinch of salt, cover the pan, and turn heat to low. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Uncover, letting the water from the lid drip down into the pan. Add the garlic, 1 tablespoon (or less, see notes above) chili powder, and cumin, and cook for 1 minute, stirring until the onions are coated in the spices. Taste. If you want a little more heat, add an additional tablespoon of chile powder, and cook for another minute.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, 1 cup water, vinegar, sugar, and 4 cups of the cooked chickpeas (not the liquid). Adjust heat so the mixture simmers. Season with a pinch of salt. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes (the longer the better) stirring occasionally to ensure chickpeas are not sticking to bottom of pan. Taste. Squeeze half a lime over top if desired along with more salt to taste—chickpeas can handle/need salt, so don’t be afraid here.
- To serve: Spoon chickpeas into bowls. Top with grated cheese, sour cream, quick-pickled onions, lettuce, and lime wedges.