The rice will hit shelves in Whole Foods this week.
Credit: Banza

When Banza first launched chickpea pasta a few years ago, the team was surprised by all of the creative ways customers began to use it. Taco shells, pasta fries, grain bowls—even as a replacement for rice, in dishes like curry. The latter was a “lightbulb moment” for the company, says Banza’s co-founder and CEO, Brian Rudolph, and it was clear that people wanted a “nutritious base for more than just their cacio e pepe on pasta night.” Thus, Banza’s new chickpea rice, which the team announced today, was born—and it starts rolling out at Whole Foods this week.

“People are familiar with more nutritious alternatives to rice (e.g. quinoa, farro, brown rice) but legume rice is a brand new category,” Rudolph told Food & Wine via e-mail. “Made from chickpeas, Banza Chickpea Rice is a high-protein, high-fiber alternative to rice, grains, and cauliflower rice.”

The rice comes in two varieties: regular Chickpea and “Tricolor Legume,” which mixes chickpea, red lentil, and green pea. Compared to brown rice, each serving of chickpea rice has three times the protein (11 grams for Chickpea, 10 grams for Tricolor Legume), double the fiber (5 grams), and 30 percent fewer net carbs, according to Rudolph—plus, it’s naturally gluten-free. Environmentally conscious shoppers can also feel good about the rice, since Rudolph explained that legumes are a highly sustainable product to grow, while regular rice is not—another factor which attracted Banza to the idea of chickpea rice.

The formula went through several rounds of testing—including at a university, where it outperformed quinoa in taste and texture—and a one-month in-store test at certain Whole Foods stores. Which begs the crucial question: how does it taste? I tried the regular Chickpea rice myself at home, and it was fairly quick and easy to make. You simply boil salted water, reduce it to a simmer, and then add the rice, cooking for about five to six minutes (I went with five). Then, drain, fluff, and serve. The end product resembles orzo, and the flavor is similar to couscous—a little savory, with a lot more body than your average rice. The texture is on par with rice too, so I can easily see myself using it for a quick weeknight dinner.

If you want to try the rice out yourself, it will be available at 450 Whole Foods stores nationwide, at $3.99 a box. And, knowing the Banza customer base, that means more creative recipes will probably be on the way—we wouldn’t be surprised to see chickpea rice arancini and risotto recipes cropping up online in the near future.