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Chickpeas Vs Lentils – What’s The Difference?

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Eating more plant-based foods such as chickpeas and lentils has become increasingly popular over the last few years. These foods are affordable, versatile, delicious, and nutritious, so they make a great addition to your kitchen pantry. 

If you have never cooked with chickpeas or lentils it may seem a little daunting at first, but they are both easy to use and the final results are well worth the effort. 

So, what is the difference between chickpeas and lentils? Chickpeas are larger, heartier, and take longer to cook than lentils. In terms of health benefits, lentils have fewer calories, more protein, and more fiber per serving.

Read on to discover the differences between chickpeas and lentils, the best ways to prepare them, and how to use them in the kitchen.

What’s The Difference Between Chickpeas And Lentils?

For starters, both chickpeas and lentils belong to the legume family, which means they are both the fruit or seed of a plant.

When they are dried those seeds are also called pulses. While both these foods belong to the same family, there are a few differences between them. 

Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are heartier than lentils and take a lot longer to prepare. They are generally round and beige with a little split down the center.

Other varieties come in black, green, or red colors, which can have slightly different textures and flavors. 

Your basic beige chickpea is going to have a very neutral flavor that doesn’t taste like much, which makes them a great vehicle for sauces or to soak up broths in soups.

Their texture is fluffy and soft, and they hold their shape well when properly cooked

Most chickpeas have a little skin on them when they are cooked.

Some people like to remove it before using them, but I have always found it doesn’t change the final product in any way and is just a hassle, so feel free to skip that step if you see it in a recipe. 

Lentils are generally much smaller than chickpeas and come in lots of different varieties and colors from the hearty green lentil to the soft and tender red lentil.

The darker brown, green, and black lentils will have a mild earthy and peppery flavor that hold together well when cooked.

The firmer brown, black, and green lentils have a nice nutty texture. They aren’t as large and soft as a chickpea, but the texture is similar, just on a smaller scale. 

Red and yellow lentil varieties tend to do better into porridges, curries, and soups since they don’t hold together as well when cooked.

If you’re looking to add a great source of plant-based protein and fiber to your diet, then chickpeas and lentils are both wonderful options.

They have a relatively similar nutritional breakdown in terms of their macronutrients and calories. 

While there are many varieties of lentils and their nutritional breakdown may vary slightly amongst them, generally they are slightly lower in calories and higher in fiber than chickpeas.

They also contain slightly more protein, but the differences are so small that you can feel good with either choice.

Nutritional Profile of Lentils 

One cup of lentils contains roughly:

  • 230 calories 
  • 40 grams of carbohydrates 
  • 15.6 grams of fiber (part of the total carbohydrate content)
  • 17.9 grams of protein
  • 0.8 grams of fat

They are also a good source of B vitamins, especially folate, with 90% of the recommended daily intake.

Lentils contain a variety of trace minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium with an impressive amount of manganese—49% of the recommended daily intake. 

As you can see, this powerhouse food is packed with nutrition

Nutritional Profile of Chickpeas

One cup of chickpeas contains about:

  • 267 calories
  • 44.7 grams of carbohydrate 
  • 12.5 grams of fiber (which is included in the total amount of carbohydrates)
  • 14.4 grams of protein
  • 4.2 grams of fat 

Like lentils, chickpeas are a great source of B vitamins, trace minerals such as phosphorus and potassium, and can keep you nice and full thanks to their impressive amount of fiber and protein

How Do You Cook Chickpeas?

Since chickpeas are larger and heartier than lentils, they take a little extra effort to prepare, but the payoff is worth it since cooked chickpeas are a versatile ingredient in the kitchen.

Follow these steps to perfectly prepare your chickpeas every time.

To Prep Your Chickpeas

  1. Soak your dried chickpeas in a bowl of water overnight or for at least six hours. You will want a bowl with a lot of space since chickpeas can triple in size while soaking. This step will help them cook faster and can make them easier to digest. 
    • If you don’t have time for a long soak, you can place them in a pot, cover with a couple of inches of water, bring to a boil, and then let the chickpeas sit for about an hour to rehydrate.
  2. Drain and rinse your chickpeas well.

Cook Your Chickpeas On The Stovetop

  1. Fill a large pot with the soaked and rinsed chickpeas.
  2. Cover the chickpeas with 3 inches of water. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.
  3. Add the lid to the pot and bring to a boil
  4. Once boiled, reduce to a simmer and let the chickpeas cook for 1.5-2 hours, depending on the texture. You may need to add more water as they cook. You will want them softer for hummuses and dips and firmer for use in salads or soups/stews.
  5. Once cooked, strain, rinse with cool water and use in your recipe.

How To Cook Chickpeas In A Slow Cooker

  1. Add your soaked chickpeas to your slow cooker (you can skip the soaking, but they will take longer to cook). 
  2. Add your chickpeas (about 1 pound per 8 cups of water), cover with 3 inches or so of water.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and stir together.
  4. Cover with the lid and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 7-8 hours. You may need to add more water part way through if it evaporates.
  5. When the chickpeas reach your desired consistency, strain, rinse, and enjoy

How To Cook Chickpeas In An Instant Pot

This is my favorite method to cook chickpeas since you don’t need to soak them, and the Instant Pot cooks in a fraction of the time. 

  1. Rinse your chickpeas and add them to your Instant Pot.
  2. Cover the chickpeas with 3 inches of water and add 1 teaspoon of salt. 
  3. Add the lid to your Instant Pot and make sure it’s sealed, not vented. 
  4. Manually set the time to 23 minutes. 
  5. Once cooking is complete, quick-release your Instant Pot, so they don’t overcook.
  6. Strain and rinse. Enjoy in your favorite recipes. 

How Do You Cook Lentils?

Lentils are more delicate than chickpeas and need much less prep and cooking time, which can make them a good choice for those busy nights.

They don’t require soaking and can be ready in about half an hour. Follow the directions below to cook your lentils. 

How To Cook Black, Brown, or Green Lentils

  1. Rinse your lentils and pick out anything that doesn’t look like a lentil (sometimes little stones get into the mix).
  2. Add 1 cup of lentils to a saucepan with 3 cups of water and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.
  3. Cover and bring the lentils to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 25-30 minutes, or until desired consistency has been achieved. 
  5. Remove from the heat, strain, and rinse with cool water. Use as directed in your recipe.

How To Cook Red Lentils

  1. Make sure to rinse your lentils and remove any small stones or debris. 
  2. Add 1 cup of your lentils to a small pot with 1 1/2 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon salt
  3. Cover your pot with a lid and bring your lentils to a boil.
  4. Once boiled, turn down the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Remove your lentils from the stove, strain them, and rinse them with cool water
  6. Enjoy in your favorite recipe. 

How Can You Use Chickpeas and Lentils?

The ways you can use your chickpeas and lentils in the kitchen are virtually limitless. They are great in both savory and sweet preparations. Below are a couple of ideas to get you started. 

Savory Chickpeas:

  • Roasted and flavored to make a crispy snack
  • Added to soups and stews
  • In salads and grain bowls 
  • With rice and herbs as a side dish
  • Pureed into hummuses and dips 

Sweet Chickpeas:

  • Pureed and used in blondies and brownies
  • For sweet hummuses or “cookie” doughs
  • In cookies and muffins

Savory Lentils:

  • Toasted and added to salads or on their own as a crunchy snack
  • Used in curries and soups
  • Cooked and served as a side with your favorite sauce
  • Used in savory muffins

Sweet Lentils:

  • Toasted and added to trail mix or granola 
  • Pureed into sweet muffins or cookies 

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