Known also as chickpeas, garbanzo beans are a type of legume that has been cultivated for thousands of years. Their use as food goes back at least 7500 years ago, with Neolithic pottery from the Middle East and Turkey showing traces of its storage. Literature from about 800 CE explains how these legumes were grown in feudal Europe during the reign of Charlemagne. Garbanzo beans were even used as a substitute for coffee as far back as the 18th century and were used for this purpose in Germany during the First World War. 

As the second most widely grown legume after soybeans, garbanzo beans feature prominently in African, Indian, and Middle Eastern cuisine. Though the vast majority of garbanzo bean cultivation occurs in India, they’re grown worldwide, including in Australia, Canada, Pakistan, Turkey, and the United States. As research on their nutritional value shows many health benefits, garbanzo flours, beans, and the food containing them have achieved increasing popularity in other countries as well.

Chickpeas or Garbanzo Beans? 

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, come from the same plant family as most other beans, legumes, or peas. They are scientifically classified as a member of the Fabaceae or Leguminosae family, with two distinctive types. The first features large, smooth-coated seeds with round, uniform shapes and is grown mainly in Afghanistan, Chile, Europe, North America, and Pakistan. Known as Kabuli, its name references the Afghan capital city and means “from Kabul.” The second has small, dark seeds with a rough coat and yellowish inside. Desi, which translates into “local” from Latin, is primarily cultivated in Ethiopia, India, Iran, and Mexico. 

Known initially by its Latin name “cicer arietinum,” the French later adapted this to “pois chiche.” The English transformed this into “chich-pease,” which brought the term “chickpeas” into widespread use. Meanwhile, the modern Spanish term for chickpeas is “garbanzos,” so in English parlance they have become known as either “garbanzo beans” or “chickpeas.” Garbanzo beans – or chickpeas – have been used as food historically in countries throughout the Mediterranean basin, and in Spain, garbanzos are commonly used in stews and soups. Whatever one chooses to call these legumes, they are increasingly used to make chickpea or garbanzo flour. 

Expanding Markets for Garbanzo Flour

The market for garbanzo flour has increased steadily as people become aware of its benefits. Garbanzo bean cultivation worldwide reached 13.37 million tons in 2020, with market forecasts expecting cultivation to reach 14.26 million tons by 2026. The main driving force behind this is intensifying recognition of garbanzo flour and beans' health benefits, including its ability to maintain sugar levels within the body. Garbanzo bean cultivation also has significant environmental benefits that make it an ideal sustainable food crop. This includes garbanzo beans’ ability to interrupt disease and weed cycles, transform naturally-occurring nitrogen in the atmosphere into fertilizer, tolerate drought, and sequester carbon that would otherwise enter the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

Health Benefits of Garbanzo Flour & Beans

These legumes offer numerous health benefits, whether they’re made into garbanzo flour or eaten whole. High in vitamins, garbanzo beans are also rich in nutrients and protein.  

Health advantages of garbanzo flour and beans include: 

Controlling Blood Sugar Levels

Garbanzo flour and beans contain a significant amount of starch, a slow-burning carbohydrate the body breaks down over a prolonged period. As such, they don’t cause glucose levels to spike quickly, making it a safe source for those with or at risk for diabetes.

Aiding Weight Loss

Being high in both fiber and protein while low in calories, these legumes satiate appetite, curbing cravings for food and helping to reduce overeating. This can also contribute to controlling blood sugar levels, especially when paired with other nutritious foods. 

Improving Digestion

With about six of every seven grams per serving made up of fiber, garbanzo flour and beans offer an excellent source of dietary fiber. They reduce constipation and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, facilitating the movement of food through the body’s digestive tract. Fiber draws fluid from the body, binding toxins, and other waste to promote their exit from the bowels. 

Fiber In garbanzo flour and beans also assists with preventing conditions such as: 

  • cancer
  • diverticulosis
  • heart disease
  • kidney stones
  • obesity
  • PMS

Additionally, these beans help balance good bacteria and pH levels in the gut while decreasing bad bacteria, reducing digestive issues. 

Protecting Against Heart Disease

These legumes support healthy cardiovascular function, lowering bad cholesterol levels and reducing hypertension. This may be due to fiber that keeps people from overeating and gaining excessive weight, which also helps with managing hypertension. Additionally, garbanzos assist in preventing arterial plaque buildup, decreasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke. 

Protecting Against Cancer 

In animal studies, garbanzo flour and beans may lessen the risk of cancer, particularly colon cancer. The beans prevented cancerous cells from forming, reducing inflammation, and keeping the digestive system free from harmful toxins and bacteria. 

Supplying Vital Vitamins and Minerals

Nutritionally, these legumes are an important source of B vitamins, folate, iron, phosphorus, and zinc, especially for vegans who don’t eat animal products or vegetarians who don’t eat meat. Folate helps the body absorb B vitamins and amino acids (protein). Folate deficiencies can cause anemia, limit the body’s immune system, and poor digestion, as well as spina bifida in expectant mothers. Zinc too plays a role in the body’s reaction to hundreds of different enzymes. Garbanzo beans also serve as a good source of magnesium, manganese, and vitamin B6, which help reduce premenstrual symptoms B6.

Alkalizing Effect

Western diets are highly acidic, so the alkalizing effects of these legumes help balance the body’s pH levels. When garbanzo flour or crushed beans are combined with healthy fats like olive oil, both important ingredients in hummus, it further increases nutrient absorption.

Source for Plant-Based Proteins

Vegans and vegetarians often struggle to get enough protein in their diets. Legumes generally are a good source of plant-based protein, offering a means to replace animal products in people’s diets. Necessary for a wide array of bodily functions, protein plays a role in supporting organs, muscles, and other body parts. Protein intake influences blood sugar, builds muscles, slows aging, provides energy, fights infection, and helps heal injured tissue. Inadequate protein leads to issues with eyes, poor skin health fatigue, muscular weakness, heart problems, and other concerns. 

Foods Made from Garbanzo Flour

Also known as gram flour, garbanzo flour can replace up to a quarter of wheat or other flours to decrease gluten content. Typically mixed with other flours, it’s a good source of plant-based protein. Garbanzo flour works well as a nutraceutical ingredient within the food and, when mixed with other gluten-free flours, it is a common ingredient in gluten-free baked products. 

Garbanzo flour can be used as a replacement for wheat or other flours in these dishes:

  • crackers
  • empanadas
  • falafel
  • farina
  • hummus
  • pancakes
  • pasta
  • pizza crusts
  • socca

Additionally, when mixed in certain percentages garbanzo flour results in the following: 

  • Cookies, muffins or pizza dough containing 15-20 percent garbanzo flour have altered textures, reduced loaf volume, and higher protein content. 
  • Layer cakes with 15-20 percent garbanzo flour have reduced volume, less symmetry, increased crust browning, and lessened batter density. 
  • Sponge cakes made up of 15-20 percent garbanzo flour have increased density of their batter, reduced volume, and asymmetrical shapes. 
  • Wheat bread made with 10 percent garbanzo flour has better water absorbency, reduced loaf volume, and improved crust browning. 

Garbanzo flours work well as supplemental flours in all types of cakes and quick breads, with the taste usually disguised by other ingredients, especially when mixed with flavored dishes containing such ingredients as cheese, chocolate, herbs, or pumpkin. It can also be found in baking mixes for bread, brownies, and pancakes. 

How to Make Garbanzo Flour

Garbanzo flour can be made with dried, roasted, or raw beans. Flour made from roasted garbanzo beans tends to be most flavorful, while flour made from raw beans tastes slightly bitter. As legumes contain several compounds that interfere with nutrient absorption, reducing raw seeds to counter these factors is essential to retain nutritional value and digestibility. 

For commercially-made garbanzo flour, beans must undergo the following or a similar process:

  1. Soaked in water for 8-24 hours to eliminate undesirable elements. 
  2. Dried at temperature of 122-212°F (50-100°C) in a single layer exposed to air, allowing beans to dehydrate for up to 12 hours.
  3. Milled and ground until particles are reduced to a fine powder with no lumps. 
  4. Graded and separated through various sieves, often using air classifiers that also aid in transporting the garbanzo flour during processing.
  5. Packaged (usually in plastic bags) and stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Which Machine Do I Need?

Prater Industries: Machinery for Garbanzo Flour Processing

Prater makes a variety of equipment used to process agricultural products, including legumes like garbanzo beans. Versatile and easy-to-maintain, Prater’s machinery used for milling, grinding, classifying, and conveying garbanzo flour can be customized further to meet requirements for specific applications. In particular, its air classifier mills and fine grinders, along with equipment like its MAC Air Classifier, provide efficient production of high-quality end products for food processing manufacturers. 

Prater Air Classifying Mill

Prater’s air classifying mills work in three stages during garbanzo flour processing.

  1. First stage grinding occurs when garbanzos are conveyed by air and are metered as they enter behind the rotor. Here grinding blades provide impact, accelerating particles outward. The garbanzos collide against both the jaws and screens, breaking down until they can exit through the screen’s openings.   
  2. Classifying after this grinding stage happens as particles circulate outside the grinding chamber, with secondary drafts of pressurized air entering through intakes to cool and fluidize the material. Reduced garbanzos are pulled in toward the classifying rotor, where they are separated by size. Passing through the rotor, correctly-sized particles pass are conveyed pneumatically on to the next stage, while rejected particles go through a second stage of grinding. The air classifying rotor allows precision particle size classification by adjusting its variable frequency drive (VFD) or rotations per minute (RPM) as it is independently controlled.
  3. Second stage grinding occurs when rejected particles re-enter from the classifier into the grinding chamber at the front of the rotor. Again grinding blades accelerate and impact particles outwards, providing intense material reduction enabled by grinding ring segments. The resulting material combines with product from the first stage before returning to the classifier and becoming finished garbanzo flour.

Prater Fine Grinders

Operating under the principle of high-speed impact, Prater’s fine grinders feed raw garbanzo beans through a meter into the central part of the mill, where rotor blades impact the material. The crushed beans accelerate outward, impacting and shearing against the stationary jaws and screens.  These stationary surfaces cause the material to decelerate, bouncing back into the rotor blade where they are again impacted. Once the garbanzo flour particles reach the desired size, they are pulled through the screen openings and transported on to the next processing stage.