Getting kids to try new foods is simply an exercise in marketing. Case in point: When I made falafel for dinner one night, I called them chickpea nuggets instead of falafel and my children gobbled them right up. They asked for chickpea nuggets again and it got my mind churning with an idea for an actual chickpea nugget recipe — one with all the flavors and textures of chicken nuggets, but baked and egg-free.
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Two pantry staples are responsible for turning a humble can of chickpeas into nuggets: rolled oats and the liquid from the chickpeas themselves (aka aquafaba). Grinding the oats into flour makes them almost undetectable in the nuggets, but their addition makes these nuggets a complete protein and more filling. The chickpea liquid acts as a replacement for eggs, which would typically hold this type of nugget alternative together.
Toasting the panko breadcrumbs before coating the nuggets gives the chickpea nuggets a richer hue, but also adds flavor and loads of crunchy texture. This single step gives the illusion of chicken nuggets instead of chickpea nuggets.
While this recipe may have come to fruition for my children, I admit that these tasty nuggets were enjoyed by adults as well. You can easily enjoy them as you might a falafel (wrapped in pita and drizzled with yogurt), on top of a salad, or like the classic kid food we love, with plenty of ketchup for dipping.
- 1/2 cup panko or gluten-free breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans (do not drain)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (no salt)
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder (no salt)
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F.
Place the panko on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until toasted and golden-brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool while preparing the nuggets. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the oats in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and process into a fine flour. Transfer to a large bowl and reserve the food processor.
Drain the chickpeas over a bowl or measuring cup, then save the chickpeas and 1/4 cup of the liquid. Place the chickpeas into the food processor; add the salt, garlic, and onion powder; and pulse until crumbly. Keep mixture in the food processor.
Whisk 1/4 cup of the chickpea liquid in a small mixing bowl until foamy. Add the foamy chickpea liquid and 1/2 cup of the oat flour to the food processor. Pulse until the mixture forms a ball. You may have a little oat flour leftover, which you can add to the chickpea mixture 1 tablespoon at a time if the mixture is loose.
Divide the chickpea mixture into 12 equal portions and shape each one into a nugget. Coat each nugget completely in the toasted panko and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake until crispy, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce.
Gluten-free: These nuggets can be made gluten-free by using gluten-free oats and substituting gluten-free breadcrumbs for the panko.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
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