Chickpea flour is also called besan, garbanzo bean flour, or gram flour. It is a nutritious gluten-free flour with numerous applications in recipes from Europe and Asia. In America, it is not quite as popular as other gluten-free flours but it is gradually gaining attention. If you cannot find it in your local grocery store or have run out and need some immediately, try one of the chickpea flour substitutes below.
Your best bet: Make your own chickpea flour
The first thing that you should try — if you have a decent blender, food processor or even an electric coffee grinder — is to mill your own chickpea flour. You will need dried chickpeas that you will grind until they are as fine as your appliance can get them. In most cases, this will be about the consistency of coffee grounds or cornmeal. Sift the ground chickpeas to separate the finer grains from the coarser ones. If there are enough to cover the blades, place the coarse grains back in the appliance and repeat the process until you have the amount of chickpea flour that your recipe requires.
It is also possible to make chickpea flour using canned chickpeas. Start by dehydrating them in a food dehydrator or in an oven set to a low temperature. You can then grind the chickpeas in one of the appliances mentioned above.
In a batter or other wet preparation, you may be able to use canned chickpeas without dehydrating them. Simply grind them in a blender and then press the ground chickpeas through a sieve to obtain the smoothest texture possible. You may have to reduce the quantity of any other liquid ingredients in the recipe.
You can also toast your chickpeas before grinding them to enhance their nutty notes and to lessen any bitterness. Note that you will want to be careful with this step as it is easy to toast them too much.
A decent second choice: Quinoa flour
Quinoa is an ancient grain that has recently become prized by people who want to avoid gluten. In addition to being gluten-free, it is also rich in protein just like chickpea flour; in fact, it is a complete protein in that it has all of the essential amino acids. You can make a quinoa flour by grinding it in much the same way that you would grind chickpeas to make chickpea flour. No toasting is necessary in this case. It has a slightly nutty flavor that is similar to the nuttiness of chickpea flour and you can use it as a 1:1 substitute in the same recipes.
In a pinch: Millet flour
Like quinoa flour, millet flour is made from an ancient grain. It shares some of the same nutritional characteristics as chickpeas and quinoa. Despite being rich in protein millet only has two essential amino acids, so it is not a complete protein like quinoa. Its flavor and texture are both more similar to corn than to any other grain or to chickpeas, which may actually be seen as a benefit rather than a drawback if you don’t like the flavor of chickpea flour. It is certainly sweeter, which means that it may be a better option for desserts and other preparations where the stronger taste of chickpea flour may be undesirable. You can use millet flour as a 1:1 substitute for chickpea flour.
Cassava flour can be a great chickpea flour alternative in recipes where you want a mild flavor or if you need a flour with a finer texture. It is also a great stand-in for chickpea flour in recipes where the chickpea flour is used as a thickener.