Tips for Preparing Garbanzo Beans

Before washing garbanzos, you should spread them out on a light colored plate or cooking surface to check for, and remove, small stones, debris or damaged beans. After this process, place them in a strainer, and rinse them thoroughly under cool running water.

To shorten their cooking time and make them easier to digest, garbanzo beans should be presoaked There are two basic methods for presoaking. For each you should start by placing the beans in a saucepan and adding two to three cups of water per cup of beans.

The first method is to boil the beans for two minutes, take pan off the heat, cover and allow it to stand for two hours. The alternative method is to simply soak the garbanzos in water for a predetermined period of time.

Based on research studies that we've seen about the soaking of garbanzo beans, we recommend a soaking period of at least 4 hours. Several potentially desirable chemical changes can take place during this 4-hour soaking period. First, there can be a reduction in the beans' raffinose-type oligosaccharides, and this reduction may result in fewer problems with flatulence when the beans are eventually consumed. Second, some of the phytase enzymes in the beans may become activated and help to transform some of the phytic acid found in the beans. When phytic acid gets converted into other substances, it is less likely to bind together with other nutrients and reduce their absorption.

Finally, presoaking of the beans will reduce the time required for cooking. On average, four hours of soaking reduces cooking time by approximately 25%. This reduced cooking time can mean less loss of water-soluble nutrients due to reduced time of exposure to heat and water.

Four hours appears to be a sufficient amount of soaking time to produce the desirable type of changes described above. However, longer periods of soaking do not appear to be harmful, and they may be more convenient. For example, overnight soaking will make sense for many people. In this situation, we recommend placing the garbanzo beans (in their pan with water) in the refrigerator during the overnight period. About 8 hours would be a typical time period for overnight soaking. Before cooking, regardless of method, skim off the any skins that floated to the surface, drain the soaking liquid, and then rinse them with clean water.

We would like to make one further note about the preparation of garbanzo beans, and this note involves fermentation. In culinary practices throughout the world, garbanzo beans are often fermented prior to consumption, and research studies show fermentation to be a safe and desirable step that can add to the nourishment provided by the beans. However, most individuals in the U.S. are not familiar with the practice of fermentation in home cooking, and they are equally unaccustomed to the tastes and textures of fermented foods, including fermented garbanzo beans. Since factors like pH (degree of acidity) can greatly influence the success of fermentation, and because unwanted microorganisms can sometimes be present at the time of fermentation, we do not recommend fermenting your beans without some prior training and experience in this area of cooking. If you are interested in this area, you may want to visit the following website:

On this site, you will find a link to the graduate thesis on food fermentation written by Peter Sahlin at the Division of Applied Nutrition and Food Chemistry, Center for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the Lund Institute of Technology at Lund University in Lund, Sweden.

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