This post is part of my “Reformed Carnivore” week: a discussion of how this former meat-eater started focusing on a more plant-based diet in order to cut back on the footprint created by my family’s eating habits.
If you missed it, click HERE to read why and how I got started!
Do you have a meal that reminds you of your childhood?
Mine is chicken and rice casserole. It was nothing fancy: white rice, chicken, cheese, and canned cream of mushroom soup all stirred up together in a dish and baked (or microwaved!) until bubbly and hot. I think the reason it made it into the rotation so often was because my mom worked full time and needed something that was fast and easy, but also guaranteed to please everyone. This dish was IT! We all loved it and went back for seconds.
These days, I deal with some dietary restrictions in my house, so the cream soup is homemade and sometimes we skip the cheese for our dairy-free family members, too. I’ll throw in some extra chopped veggies to up the nutrition, and try to keep things interesting by using different seasonings or toppings.
But recently, as we’ve attempted to cut down on our meat consumption, I started thinking about the chicken. Was there a way to replace the chicken in this dish, in soups and chili, and other dishes that call for chopped or shredded chicken? Would it still taste as good? I wasn’t so sure.
Enter the humble chickpea.
Also called a garbanzo bean, the chickpea has quickly become one of my absolute favorite protein choices. I add them to every recipe I can! They have a subtle flavor that goes well in many different dishes, similar to chicken. I put them in my “chicken” and rice casserole in place of the meat, and honestly couldn’t taste a difference. The texture isn’t weird either (this was a big deal for me!). And the more I read about the health benefits of chickpeas, the more I love them! (Seriously, check out what the Harvard School of Public Health has to say about them HERE.)
Do a search on the internet for recipes, and you’ll find everything from appetizers to desserts made with chickpeas. They are seriously incredible. Switch out your chicken and add chickpeas instead (super simple!) or try something like chickpea blondies (and then let me try them!).
I can’t wait to hear what you think of my new favorite legume!
Here’s a recipe to get you started, which I made last night for dinner. As a bonus, it’s dairy free and can be made gluten-free based on what type of flour you use! If you use vegan mayo, it can be vegan as well!
Southwestern Chickpeas & Rice Recipe
- Place 2 cups of water in a pan with 1 cup of rice. (Optional: Add a sprinkle of salt and a few drops of oil which I’ve heard helps keep it from boiling over.) Bring to a boil then cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 20 minutes or until all water is gone.
- While the rice is cooking, gather the rest of your ingredients:
- 1 can chickpeas
- 1/4 cup dairy-free butter substitute (I use Smart Balance)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (regular or gluten free. I use Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 GF flour)
- 4 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup southwestern or taco seasoning (I use whatever I have on hand. You can also make your own with onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, and paprika.)
- When rice is nearly done, preheat your oven to 350 F.
- Put your butter substitute in a microwave safe bowl (Yes, this uses the microwave! I’ve done it on the stovetop and it works there, too.) and microwave until melted (about 20-30 seconds).
- Mix in the flour and water, then put it back in the microwave for one minute. (If you’re using the stove, just cook it for a minute or so. It may look weird and lumpy, but go with it. It’ll all work out.)
- Mix in mayo and seasoning (again, it may look weird and lumpy, but I promise it will all work out in the end), then add the rice and chickpeas, stirring until it’s all coated.
- Put it all in a greased baking dish and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes just so it’s all combined and bubbling hot.
- Take it out, let it cool, serve it up!
- **You can also add veggies to this dish for added nutrition, but last night I just wanted something quick so this is how I did it!
I hope you’ll try chickpeas this week, and let me know how it goes!