Beans are one of the least expensive protein-rich foods. Best of all, they are quite versatile. One type of bean can be substituted for another in a wide variety of recipes -- especially soups, stews and casseroles. Chickpeas and black beans do have different characteristics, so recipes calling for black beans could turn out differently than expected if you substitute chickpeas. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't experiment once you understand the characteristics of each type of bean.
Black beans, also called turtle beans, are common in Mexican and Caribbean cooking. They have a mild, earthy flavor, which is also a bit sweet, and a smooth texture, making them suitable for chili, soups, salsas and dips. They are essential in the aptly named black bean soup, black beans and rice (often topped with tomatoes, peppers and cheese), and black bean chili, which is often enhanced with Mexican-style seasoning. Substituting chickpeas in these dishes results in a different dish altogether -- but that doesn't mean you shouldn't experiment. Because chickpeas have mild flavor, you might adjust seasonings and ingredients. For chickpea chili, add butternut squash, additional tomatoes, or even a little curry, ingredients that pair well with chickpeas.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a small bean used often in Mediterranean and Indian cuisine. They have a complex texture that is both meaty and soft. When blended or mashed they become velvety. With a nutty flavor, chickpeas fit right into salads and soups, but are most often used in spreads. Chickpeas star in hummus, a spread that has crossed over from the Mediterranean to become a staple in the United States.
For many recipes, especially soups, stews, or casseroles calling for black beans, you can successfully substitute chickpeas. Although these beans differ from black beans in color, taste and texture, that doesn't mean that substituting one for the other necessarily ends in an unpalatable dish, especially if you prefer the taste and texture of chickpeas. While black beans are often seasoned with cumin, chili peppers, cilantro, oregano and garlic, chickpeas pair favorably with cardamom, ginger, curry, cumin and garlic, plus a variety of herbs including mint, parsley and rosemary. Before substituting chickpeas, review the seasonings called for in the recipe and adjust them based on these guidelines, keeping in mind that both beans have a strong affinity for garlic and cumin.
The versatility of beans encourages experimentation. Recipes can offer you guidance, but your individual taste and willingness to experiment can lead to wonderful results. Keep in mind that if you are using dried beans, the chickpeas may take a little longer to cook than black beans. The cooking time for both is commonly given as 1 1/2 hours, but chickpeas need to be soaked overnight before cooking. Black beans can be cooked after soaking for several hours. Purchase chickpeas from a store that has rapid turnover and cook them right away; older chickpeas can take much longer to cook.
Laura McGowan has written and edited for universities and educational publishers for more than 13 years. She has also covered gardening and wild plant and animal life of Illinois and brings expertise in vegan and vegetarian cooking, Apple computers and Labrador Retrievers. McGowan holds a Master of Arts in English literature.