If there was an Olympics for best ingredients, there's one bean so versatile that it would take home gold in every category. You'd recognize it instantly by it's lumpy shape and nutty taste, but are you sure enough to know if it's a chickpea or a garbanzo bean? I can't tell you how many times I've googled "chickpeas vs garbanzo beans" in the grocery store because I've been confused about which to buy. To help you avoid having to do this in the future, I've done the research on whether there's a difference between the two.

Chickpeas vs Garbanzo Beans

sweet, meat, pea, honey, cereal, garbanzo, nut, chickpeas, vegetable, legume
Kirby Barth

While the two names seem unrelated, they are in fact the same bean. A chickpea or garbanzo bean both refer to a plant in the legume category with the scientific name Cicer arietinum. Today, it's one of the most widely consumed legumes in the world.

Because they're so popular, chickpeas and garbanzo beans are used interchangeably (particularly across the US) to mean the same thing. However, if there's no difference between chickpeas vs garbanzo beans, how did we get two names?

The History of the Word "Chickpea"

vegetable, hummus, bread
Christin Urso

Because chickpeas have been eaten in the Middle East for almost 10,000, they've shared different names across many cultures. Garbanzo happens to be the Spanish term while chickpea is the common English term. While it's easy to picture the Greeks and their love of hummus when you think of chickpeas, it was actually the Romans who created the Latin term that "chickpea" would later evolve from. 

parsley, vegetable, cheese, bread
Aubrey Thompson

In Latin, the chickpea was original called a "cicer." Several centuries later, the French modernized this into “pois chiche.” The French used the flour of the "pois chiche" to make socca, a popular flatbread served as street food in southern France. However, once the English got a hold of them, people started calling them “chich-pease.”

While "chich-pease" was easier for the English to say than "pois chiche," around 1722 the name changed again. Because “chich-pease” sounded so much like plural word, people eventually thought of a singular “chich-pease” as a “pea.” Ever since, English speakers have referred to them as chickpeas.

The History of the Word "Garbanzo"

corn, garbanzo, chickpeas, pea, meat, legume, cereal, vegetable
Christin Urso

While the origin of the "chickpea" is fairly clear, the history of the “garbanzo bean” is a tad more complicated. This term became popular in Spain around 1759 and is still the term most Spanish speakers use today. You will often find them in the form of tapas like a spinach and garbanzo bean stew.

One theory suggests that “garbanzo” is derived from the Old Spanish “arvanço,” which bears a similar sound. Others theorize that the Spanish got the word “garbanzo” from the word “garbantzu” in Basque, an ancient language that is still spoken in the Basque region between northern Spain and Western France. Since "garbantzu" literally translates to "dry seed," the connection is obvious. 

Two Names, Endless Possibilities

milk, yogurt, sweet, corn, cereal
Nicole Landry

Now that Spanish speakers and English speakers live in such close proximity in the Western world, the words chickpea and garbanzo bean are synonymous. Luckily, you can still find them at almost any grocery store with both names present to clarify any mystery. 

Regardless if you prefer chickpeas vs garbanzo beans, you can be sure they're still packed with nutrients, flavor, and lots of potential no matter what you call them. Whether it's a hearty curry, a fresh salad, or even a secret ingredient in a vegan dessert, it's the one magical bean that can do it all.