Your favorite bean may become your new favorite flour. 
Credit: Photo: olgakr / Getty Images

The variety of flours available today is mind-boggling, but there's a certain one that stands out from the rest. Naturally gluten-free and protein packed, chickpea flour is a healthy choice for everything from baking to frying. 

Packing a serious nutritional punch when compared to whole wheat flour, chickpea flour has less calories and carbs—plus more protein. Below are the nutritional break downs for each flour per cup:

  • Whole wheat: 408 calories, 3g fat, 86g carbohydrates, 16g protein
  • Chickpea: 356 calories, 6g fat, 53g carbohydrates, 21g protein

Made of finely milled chickpeas, the ultra-fine flour is the base for countless recipes. You can usually find it in health food stores near the other gluten-free flours or in the bulk bins, or you can even try your hand at making your own. To DIY a batch, just add dried chickpeas to your food processor or a high power blender and process on high until a flour forms. Sift your newly made flour through a sieve to remove any large pieces, and you're ready to get cooking. 

Chickpea flour is naturally dense, with a stickier texture than all-purpose flour when added to liquids. Because of these traits, it makes a fantastic binder for baking (use it 1:1 to replace heavy flours like rye or teff) or for dishes that need a little extra stability (think veggie burgers or fritters).

Ironically, despite its dense texture, chickpea flour makes for an incredibly light batter when frying. Simply mix it with spices and club soda before battering and frying your favorite foods to create an easy tempura-like texture. The flour can also be the base for savory waffles or act as a great thickener for sauces and soups.