Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas have a nutty flavor when added to salads, soups and casseroles. Although canned chickpeas make a convenient pantry item, dried beans take up less space and can be ground into flour for use in baking or to make Middle Eastern dishes such as falafel and hummus. If your grocer carries only canned chickpeas, make your own dried beans using a food dehydrator or your oven.
Preparing the Chickpeas
To keep them fresh and firm, canned chickpeas are packed in salted water. If sodium is a concern, opt for a brand that offers a low-sodium variety of chickpeas. To prepare your chickpeas for drying, place a colander in your kitchen sink. Open the can and pour the beans into the colander; then rinse the beans with tap water to wash away the packing liquid. To speed the drying time, spread the rinsed chickpeas onto a baking sheet or clean dish towel and allow to air dry for 15 to 30 minutes.
Using a Food Dehydrator
A basic food dehydrator uses a small fan to circulate warm air over stacked trays. To dry your rinsed chickpeas, spread them in a single layer over the trays that came with your dehydrator. Avoid crowding your beans onto the tray. Once you have spread the beans, turn your dehydrator on to the setting for fruits and vegetables, or 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The actual drying time for chickpeas will vary depending on the model of food dehydrator you're using, but it should take between 18 and 22 hours. Your chickpeas are fully dry when they are hard enough that you can no longer squeeze them between your fingers.
In the Oven
If you don't have a food dehydrator, a standard kitchen oven provides another way to dry canned chickpeas. As your oven is preheating to 150 F, spread the rinsed beans onto a cookie sheet. The chickpeas should be in a single layer and not crowded onto the sheet. Place the sheet on the middle rack of your oven, and allow the beans to dry for 18 to 22 hours. As the beans dry, stir them every 3 to 4 hours so they dry evenly. The beans are dry when there is no give when you squeeze them between your fingers.
Using Your Chickpeas
Once you've dried your chickpeas, allow them to cool before placing them into an airtight container, which can be made of glass or plastic, as long as it can be sealed tightly to keep out moisture. Fully dried beans will store in the pantry for up to a year. If you want to use your dried beans for flour, grind them in small batches in a clean coffee grinder or in a flour mill. If you need to rehydrate your dried chickpeas, soak them in water overnight; drain the water and then boil them in fresh water for 30 to 60 minutes, or until they have softened.