Cooking with dried chickpeas gives you an opportunity to incorporate so much more flavor throughout the beans.
A common way to prepare dried chickpeas for cooking is to soak the chickpeas in advance to help shorten the cooking time.
As I left my chickpeas to soak overnight, I started to wonder – can you soak your chickpeas for too long?
Chickpeas can soak at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours while chickpeas can soak in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Chickpeas will start to ferment after 2 days of soaking at room temperature or 3 to 4 days of soaking in the fridge.
Before fermenting happens, the chickpeas will start to break down and lose their structure when they soak for too long.
Therefore, there is some nuance to oversoaking chickpeas. It depends on the conditions in which your chickpeas are soaking including the air temperature and timing.
If you soak your chickpeas in advance of cooking, follow the suggested maximum amount of soaking time to retain the optimal flavor, freshness, and texture.
How to Soak Chickpeas Before Cooking
Chickpeas can be soaked on the countertop or in the refrigerator. Depending on the air temperature and your refrigerator space, you may prefer to soak your chickpeas in one location over the other.
Soaking Chickpeas On The Countertop
- Place your dried beans in a bowl with enough water to allow for their expansion
- Loosely cover the bowl with a kitchen towel
- Soak for 8 to 12 hours
If you live in a warmer climate or if the heater is always on then there is a greater risk of fermentation or spoilage.
It is better to soak the chickpeas in the refrigerator if the room temperature is warm.
Soaking Chickpeas In The Refrigerator
- Place your chickpeas in a jar with water
- Seal with a lid
- Soak for 8 to 24 hours
Chickpeas that are soaking in the refrigerator should be cooked within 24 hours. Otherwise, the chickpeas may start to spoil the longer they are allowed to soak.
How Long You Can Soak Your Chickpeas Before They Spoil
If you left your chickpeas soaking for longer than you expected because you weren’t ready to cook with them yet, you have a few options.
You can check for mold and odors. If the chickpeas look and smell normal then simply drain, rinse, and cook them.
If you need to soak your chickpeas for a little longer then change the water and store them in the fridge. Make sure to place a lid on the jar or cover them in order to slow down fermentation.
Aim to cook the chickpeas sooner rather than later.
It is not recommended that to oversoak the chickpeas. Aside from the risk of spoilage, oversoaking can cause their structure to break down. The chickpeas may end up having a mushy texture from absorbing too much water which means they will not absorb seasonings very well.
This may not be an issue if you’re making a dip with a ton of seasoning, but if you want the chickpeas to hold their shape and absorb flavors in a broth then you’ll want to cook them soon after soaking.
How to Identify Spoiled Chickpeas
Chickpeas that have been allowed to soak longer than the recommended soaking time of 8 to 24 hours may still be safe to cook and consume.
Inspect the chickpeas to determine if they have spoiled or if they are safe to use.
Here are some signs of spoiled chickpeas:
- Smell the chickpeas for odors especially after discarding the soaking water and rinsing the chickpeas
- If they emit a moldy, mildewy, or foul odor then they are likely spoiled
- Look at the chickpeas for any physical mold or discoloration
Chickpeas that have been left to soak for a long time may start sprouting. However, sprouted chickpeas are not an issue and are safe to consume.
Many cooks intentionally sprout their beans and legumes. In fact, here’s an article that goes over the benefits of sprouted beans and what to do with them.
What to Do If Your Chickpeas Ferment
Chickpeas that have begun fermenting will emit a slight odor. However the odor will not be particularly pungent or strong.
If the chickpeas ferment a little bit before you’ve cooked them then they are technically still safe to enjoy as long as there are no signs of spoilage, like foul odors, mold, or discoloration.
Cook slightly fermented chickpeas as planned and enjoy.
Why Chickpeas Foam When Cooking
A common way to cook chickpeas after soaking them is to boil the chickpeas. Typically boiling chickpeas will cause a white foam to rise to the top of the pot.
This white foam contains natural proteins, carbohydrates, and saponins from the chickpeas that get released into the cooking liquid.
The white foam is completely safe and normal when boiling chickpeas. In fact, many recipes include the cooking liquid in the final product to incorporate those nutrients into the dish.
Can Old Chickpeas Make You Sick?
Chickpeas that have been soaking for days beyond the suggested soaking period will have likely spoiled. Consuming chickpeas that have spoiled can result in food poisoning which will make you sick.
It is not recommended to consume chickpeas that have soaked for more than 24 hours at room temperature or 48 hours in the fridge.
If the chickpeas are past the suggested soaking times then pay close attention to any odors emitted after the soaked chickpeas have been rinsed.
Ultimately, it’s best to soak chickpeas for up to 12 hours at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the fridge.
However, if life got in the way of your original plans, use your senses to determine if the chickpeas are still safe to consume.