Za’atar Roasted Chickpeas
I’m home visiting my parents in Madison, Wisconsin, and I can tell you one thing for certain about the weather: I would not want to turn on the oven right now.
It’s been a humid swamp of a week, with the air outside as warm and thick as a sauna, punctuated only by nightly thunderstorms. Miraculously, a slight breeze has been keeping the mosquitoes at bay… otherwise it’d remind me even more of my childhood.
My parents’ occasionally air conditioned house is a temperate refuge from the heat and humidity; I see no reason to meddle with that by turning on the oven (although my sister made her spinach cheese mini quiches, among other things, in preparation for my family’s solstice party over the weekend.)
These roasted chickpeas happen to be the last reason I turned on the oven before I left California, and they’ll be the first reason I turn it on again when I get back.
Just as Paula has always done with pinto beans, we have been soaking and boiling our own dried chickpeas for a while now—only falling back on the canned ones when a true Hummus Emergency strikes.
Each time we soak a pot of the tiny dried garbanzos we end up with a temporary wealth of chickpeas (and a freezer-space-worthy chickpea broth, rich with olive oil, onion, and cilantro).
So what to do with too many chickpeas? Hummus or chana masala might be the obvious answers—or there’s always homemade baked falafel (for the ambitious) or tossing them onto salads along with tomatoes and feta (for the unambitious)—but I thought it was time I joined the ranks of the roasted-chickpea obsessed and tried my hand at crunchy roasted chickpeas.
Most of the recipes out there for roasted chickpeas seem to use Indian combinations of spices—which also sound completely awesome, of course; I thought I’d attempt something a little different. Also, my za’atar obsession seems to be sticking around.
Za’atar is a Middle Eastern blend of thyme, sumac, sesame, and salt. It’s a perfect way of perking up pita chips, popcorn, yogurt, or hummus, but it’s good for so many other things, too. (Paula recently made some za’atar crusted salmon that significantly upped my willingness to eat cooked fish for dinner—we kept exclaiming how delicious it was between bites!)
I took it as given that the flavors of za’atar would go well with chickpeas, but this recipe doesn’t exactly call for za’atar since I left out the sesame… The first time I made it, I had all of the ingredients at home (including fresh thyme!), but I worried that sesame seeds wouldn’t stick to the chickpeas and would simply create more of a mess without adding much flavor. (I’m curious about incorporating tahini actually, but I’ve still never tried it; let me know how it turns out if you do.)
I also added a little paprika and cayenne to the mix, but I think the lemony sumac and aromatic thyme—accompanied by just a hint of salt—were the keys to the addictive flavor.
And guess what? The chickpeas were so good that now I’ve made them several times with the EXACT SAME SEASONINGS. Way to branch out and be original and creative in the kitchen, I know…
I didn’t get them quite crunchy enough the first time, but it turns out that first drying out your cooked chickpeas as thoroughly as possible (using a dish towel + air-drying them on a baking sheet if time allows) will help them crisp up nicely. I ended up increasing the cooking time to a total of up to 45 minutes, too.
You might be boycotting your oven this summer, but I’d say ready your sumac supply and go out in search of fresh thyme: be prepared for that one afternoon it just happens to cool off a little outside, because these are worth turning on your oven for.
(Paula’s genius addition to all this the last time we made it: scrape up the leftover chickpea seasonings—from the medium bowl or baking sheet—to swirl into some hummus, and/or sprinkle some of the za’atar roasted chickpeas on top of a bowl of homemade hummus to garnish. I might just have to serve them like that every time…)
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Za’atar Roasted Chickpeas
~ 2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1¾ cup from a can of chickpeas), as dry as possible
~ 2½ Tbsp. olive oil
~ 2 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
~ 1½ tsp. sumac
~ ¾ tsp. paprika
~ ¼ tsp. fine grain sea salt
~ dash of cayenne pepper
How to make it:
1. Make sure the chickpeas are as dry as possible. (Pat them dry with a clean dish towel, then spread the chickpeas on a rimmed baking sheet and let them air-dry for 1-2 hours.)
2. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the chickpeas on a rimmed baking sheet and bake near the top of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until they start to crisp up, stopping to shake the pan and move them around halfway through.
3. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, mix together the olive oil, thyme, sumac, paprika, and sea salt. Remove the chickpeas from the oven, carefully transfer them to the bowl, then toss to coat them in the seasonings.
4. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Return the chickpeas to the baking sheet and to the oven for 10-15 minutes. Serve warm (great with beer or on top of hummus!).
Store leftover cooled chickpeas in an airtight container for another day or two.
Print this recipe! (PDF)
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