This recipe was born out of an almost-empty fridge and a can of chickpeas found in the storage ottoman / makeshift pantry in my dorm room. I wasn’t working with much: a questionable bunch of parsley, a few eggs from the week-old carton in my mini fridge, a lemon, and some seasoning essentials.
I toted my ingredients across the street to 2k and shot a quick text to warn my friends that I’d be taking over their kitchen for the next 30 minutes. I knew what I wanted to make, I just hadn’t the slightest idea how to execute it. A few weeks prior, I saw a recipe in The New York Times for crepe-like chickpea pancakes. I wanted something sturdier. I knew how to make a decent meatball, but what I had in mind wasn’t meant to serve the same purpose as a meatball.
By the time I reached the apartment, I still had no idea how I was going to throw together a chickpea pancake with no guidance. I was quickly distracted by warm “hellos” and hilarious conversation, forgetting why I had come to see my two friends in the first place. My growling stomach reminded me of the task at hand: chickpea…Pancakes?? Patties?? Whatever it was that I was making, I had to get cooking.
I decided to trust what I knew, and I loosely followed part of my recipe for meatballs. Sautéed onions would add some sweetness, parsley would brighten things up, and lemon (not generally a player on the meatball roster) would bring in a bit of zing. I needed binders to hold everything together: egg and cornstarch would have to suffice.
Once my batter was made, I turned on the heat. I spooned a few globs of my chickpea mixture into the pan and hoped for the best. The edges sizzled in the oil: the first green flag. Within a few minutes, I could smell the onion and crispy crust as the pancakes browned: another good sign. Next up was the dreaded flip. The test of all tests. The pancakes falling apart would guarantee the failure of my freestyle recipe. I held my breath as I shimmied a spatula under the first pancake and plopped it over. A slight splatter of oil on the stove, but an otherwise perfect flip AND a perfect golden crust on the bottom of the pancake. Sweet success.
In just a few minutes, I took the five pancakes off the pan and sautéed some heirloom cherry tomatoes and garlic and oil until they burst and became slightly saucy. I quickly fried two eggs over easy and assembled my meal. Two pancakes went down first. A hefty spread of tomatoes on each pancake, and eggs placed ever-so-carefully on top so as not to break the yolks. A few dribbles of chili crisp and some leftover parsley to seal the deal.
A few bites in, and I knew this one was a winner. Soft and steamy on the inside and crispy-crunchy on the outside, these pancakes were exactly what I had in mind when I first set out to make them. The chickpeas provide a blank enough canvas to get creative with the herbs and spices; so feel free to improvise with what you have on hand. Reheat your leftovers in a toaster or air fryer to keep that crunch.
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon cornstarch or flour
In a medium skillet over medium heat, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add in the chopped onion. Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes until soft. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Remove the onions and garlic from the skillet and set aside. Turn off the heat, but leave the onion-y oil in the pan.
In a medium bowl, crush chickpeas with the tines of a fork, leaving only some intact. The chickpeas should be broken down, but not smooth and hummus-like. Add in the egg, and stir well to combine. Sprinkle in the chopped parsley, lemon juice and zest, crushed red pepper, salt, and a few generous twists of cracked black pepper. Stir once again until everything is incorporated evenly throughout. Add in the cornstarch or flour to bind the mixture. The batter should be slightly thicker than a muffin batter, but it shouldn’t hold its shape easily.
Reheat your pan to medium high and add in the rest of the olive oil. The skillet should be more than generously coated; this will allow for a crispy fry on each pancake. Spoon the batter into medium rounds (about the size of the palm of your hand) in the hot oil. Work in batches so as not to crowd the pan. Fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the bottom of each pancake is golden brown. Flip and fry for 3 more minutes. Remove from the skillet and place onto a plate lined with paper towels. Serve with a squeeze of lemon and extra parsley. Enjoy as a stand-alone bite or with toppings.