KANSAS CITY — Ingredient suppliers are offering chickpea ingredients in at least three forms: protein extracts that may not need flavor-maskers, starches that offer sustainability benefits and a gluten-free option, and flour that also is a choice for gluten-free items.

A neutral protein taste

The neutral flavor profile of chickpeas makes them unique among pulses, said Scott Cowger, vice president and national sales manager for Cereal Ingredients, Inc., Leavenworth, Kan.

“Utilizing chickpeas as an alternative plant protein source as a potential meat replacement and rich source of protein in any number of food applications is the future for chickpeas,” Mr. Cowger said. “Folks are looking for an alternative pulse protein source, and the future is quite bright for chickpeas.”

He added, “If you want to extrude chickpea protein, you need to be aware of fat content. Fat content has to be checked due to the inability to expand with that higher fat level.”

Ram Reifen, MD, founder and chief scientific officer for ChickP Protein, Ltd., Rehovot, Israel, also pointed to chickpeas’ neutral taste and lack of off-flavors.

“Many plant proteins are characterized with a bitter taste (‘beany’) and sandy texture,” he said. ”ChickP proteins, however, are neutral in taste and have a clean, smooth mouthfeel. As such, it does not have to be masked by artificial flavors and/or addition of sugar.”

ChickP Protein has patented its ChickP protein that is 90% protein and developed by the faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The company’s ChickP S930 is designed specifically for use in ready-to-drink applications as it prevents an increase in viscosity after heating, and it also prevents rapid sedimentation. Chickpea protein also shows promise in sports bars, high-protein beverages, dairy replacers and high-moisture extruded meat analogues, Dr. Reifen said.

Starch for sustainability

ChickP Protein in November launched a native starch developed from chickpeas.

“Chickpea starch is the same as corn, tapioca, potato, pea and wheat starches as it is mainly composed of carbohydrates, providing a source of energy to the body,” Dr. Reifen said. “The usage of starches in the food industry, however, is mainly done to achieve various functional properties rather than adding nutritional benefits.”

ChickP starch may be used to thicken sauces and puddings, as a filler in meat applications and meat analogues, or as a replacement for wheat in gluten-free baked foods.

“The development of ChickP native starch allows ChickP to utilize one more component from the whole chickpea to be used as food ingredient rather than dispose it for waste treatment or use it as animal feed,” Dr. Reifen said. “The starch fraction is about 40% to 45% from the whole chickpea, and therefore this development provides a much more sustainable process.”


Gluten-free flour

Natural Products, Inc., Grinnell, Iowa, offers steamed chickpea flour made from whole dehulled chickpeas.

“The various fractions of the chickpea are never separated, isolated or concentrated,” said Jon Stratford, sales and marketing manager. “It is in essence a ‘whole chickpea flour.’ As such, it has all the nutritional qualities of whole chickpeas.”

The steamed chickpea flour may be used in flour blends, or it may replace all the wheat flour in various types of gluten-free bakery products. Natural Products has developed gluten-free formulations that companies may use as a reference or starting point for product development or reformulation projects, Mr. Stratford said, adding that creating gluten-free bread with the right volume and texture will require experimenting.

“Formulators will immediately notice the mild, pleasant flavor profile of steamed chickpea flour,” Mr. Stratford said. “This will allow higher-than-expected inclusion rates in food products. Another important point is that steamed chickpea flour is ready-to-eat, so it can be safely used in extruded bars or other snacks, or even in instant grain-based beverage dry mixes.

“One important question about steamed chickpea flour is regarding the functionality of the starches found in chickpeas. The steaming process does not gelatinize or modify the starches in any way, so the flour must be cooked up in order to achieve a paste, such as is needed for hummus.”