Crisp Up Chickpeas For A Deliciously Gluten-Free Crouton Swap

Crunchy chickpeas in a bowl
Crunchy chickpeas in a bowl - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Croutons are crunchy bite-sized delicacies that bring satisfying bite and flavor to many different recipes. But whether it's dietary restrictions or personal preferences, traditional croutons, due to their wheat and gluten content, aren't a suitable option for every foodie. Tasty food and must-have ingredients should be accessible to everyone. With a little brainpower and creativity -- great news -- you can turn chickpeas into a batch of gluten-free croutons.

When baked or fried until crispy, chickpeas take on a crunchy texture that resembles that of a crusty crouton. But unlike croutons, which are often made from gluten-laden bread, chickpeas are nutrient-dense, gluten-free legumes. Not only do they act as an excellent substitute for croutons, but they also add fiber, protein, and healthy fats to your dishes. And since they're naturally mild in taste, the difference in flavor between croutons and crunchy chickpeas is negligible. (It's all about that crunch after all.) But that doesn't mean chickpea croutons are dull, you can easily brighten them up with spices, herbs, and seasonings to mimic the flavor profile of your favorite bread-based croutons.

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Tips For Making Crispy Chickpeas

Crispy chickpeas on baking sheet
Crispy chickpeas on baking sheet - Clarkandcompany/Getty Images

Similar to other types of beans, cooked chickpeas are naturally soft and tender. While this moist texture is ideal for soups, tuna salad dupes, and hummus spreads, the goal here is to get them nice and crunchy to resemble a proper crouton. So what's the best way to make crispy chickpeas?

An air fryer is a tried-and-true method for perfecting crispy chickpeas. Air fryers are handy kitchen gadgets that can cook, roast, bake, and fry foods twice as fast as conventional ovens using convection (circulating hot air) which makes them ideal for yielding a batch of chickpea croutons in a flash. If you don't have an air fryer, a normal oven, though it will take longer, will also work. (But the convection setting, if you have it, is even better.) If all else fails, you can also get chickpeas charred and crispy by sautéeing them on the stovetop. Whichever cooking method you prefer, drizzling them with oil is a step you shouldn't skip if you want to achieve a decadent crunch. Because it's tedious, removing the chickpea skins is optional, but because they can retain moisture, ditching the skin makes for an even crunchier texture.

Whether you make these crouton alternatives from canned or dried chickpeas is ultimately up to you. If you're using dried chickpeas, just remember to soak them overnight before cooking them, which is said to make them more easily digested.

Uses For Chickpea Croutons

Soup topped with crispy chickpeas
Soup topped with crispy chickpeas - K2 PhotoStudio/Shutterstock

Crispy chickpea croutons aren't a traditional or commonly used ingredient, so once you make your first batch, you may not know exactly what recipes they'll work best in. However, as a general rule, if you'd top it with croutons, you can top it with crunchy chickpeas all the same. For starters, you can eat these crunchy little beans as a snack all by themselves. Because let's be honest, who of us hasn't stared blankly into space hovering over the kitchen sink while enjoying a handful (or three) of straight-up croutons? If that painstaking admission of an option doesn't resonate with you, use crunchy chickpea croutons to add texture to salads made with tender, leafy greens or drop a fistful on top of a creamy bisque to give it shape and dimension.

Chickpea croutons are also great options for adding a crunchy (gluten-free) au gratin layer atop succulent casseroles and other baked dishes. For more adventurous options, pop them into a fluffy egg scramble, thread them throughout a charcuterie board, or incorporate them into a bounty of trail mix. Don't forget to add depth to their flavor by tossing the chickpeas with aromatics and seasonings like garlic, paprika, cayenne, parsley, rosemary, or your favorite flavored salt before baking them.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.