Chickpeas Vs. Lentils: Our RD Explains the Differences


If you’re thinking about exploring a more plant-based diet—or just participating in Meatless Monday to start—one of the first things you might research are high protein alternatives to animal products.

If that’s you, look no further than chickpeas and lentils!

Foods like chickpeas and lentils are a great place to start—not only are they rich in plant-based protein and fiber, but they are also versatile, affordable, and can be incorporated into a variety of delicious meals.

But which one is the better choice for your diet goals? In this article, we’ll explore all the differences between the mighty chickpea and the marvelous lentil, their health benefits, and the best ways to cook them.

What’s the Difference Between a Chickpeas and a Lentils?

Chickpeas and lentils are both legumes, meaning they are plants from the Fabaceae family that bears seeds or fruit that grow in pods. 


Chickpeas—also known as garbanzo beans—are typically round and beige but can sometimes be found in black, green, or red varietals.

Typical beige chickpeas have a mild and neutral flavor with a thin outer skin and become fluffy and soft inside once cooked.

Typically you’ll find them alongside the canned beans in your local grocery store but you can also purchase them dry if you have the time and patience.


Lentils are much smaller than chickpeas and come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and textures.

The main colors of lentils are:

  • Green: These can vary in size but tend to be hearty and nutty when cooked. 
  • Brown: Brown lentils are the most common type and have a ​​flattened lens-like shape known for their softness and popularity in soups, dips, and stews. 
  • Yellow and red: These are most often found in Indian cuisine like daal and create a mush-like consistency when cooked.
  • French lentils: Also known as Puy lentils, these are small and greenish, retain their shape well, and have a thicker skin that lends to a pleasant “popping” texture when eaten. 
  • Beluga (Black): These are tiny black lentils that have a similar appearance to caviar and are commonly found in warmed salads. 

These are most commonly found in their dried form next to the rice and other dried beans.

What Are the Health Benefits of Legumes?

There are numerous health benefits of legumes! 

According to TNI Registered Dietitian, Cambria Glosz, “Chickpeas and legumes both have high plant-based protein content, dietary fiber, unsaturated fat, iron, phosphorus, and B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid.”

Most legumes, including chickpeas and lentils, also contain polyphenols, which are bioactive compounds that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. 

These nutritional qualities have allowed legumes to be associated with improved cardiovascular and metabolic health and reductions in cancer risk—especially colorectal cancer.

Intestinal health is particularly improved by legume consumption because of their high fiber content, much of which is resistant starch. 

Resistant starch is a unique type of prebiotic carbohydrate that gets its name because it resists digestion in the upper gastrointestinal tract and reaches the colon instead. 

This reduces the impact on blood sugar and allows the resistant starch to act as fuel for gut bacteria, supporting the microbiome and overall health. 

Legumes are also known for promoting a healthier body weight, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Health Benefits of Lentils and Chickpeas

When it comes to nutrition, lentils have a leg up on chickpeas in most areas.  

Lentils have fewer calories and carbohydrates, more fiber and protein, and greater amounts of iron, vitamin B6, and magnesium.

However, manganese and folate are the only micronutrients that chickpeas have more of than lentils, and chickpeas also have more healthy unsaturated fat, while lentils are virtually fat-free.

According to Cambria, “Manganese is a lesser-known trace mineral that plays an important role in how we break down food for energy. It also supports bone health and is a vital component of an antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD), which helps fight free radicals. Folate is a B vitamin that also helps with macronutrient metabolism, in addition to red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis.”

Ideally, getting a mix of both chickpeas and lentils in your diet would be beneficial since they both have vitamins and minerals.

Macronutrient Profile of Chickpeas Vs. Lentils

Chickpeas (100g dry)Lentils (100g dry)
    Dietary fiber17g31g

Micronutrient Profile of Chickpeas Vs. Lentils

Chickpeas (100g dry)Lentils (100g dry)
Iron34% of the Daily Value (DV)41% of the Daily Value (DV)
Vitamin B625% of the DV25% of the DV
Magnesium28% of the DV30% of the DV
Calcium10% of the DV5% of the DV
Manganese926% of the DV61% of the DV
Folate (B9)139% of the DV120% of the DV

How Do You Cook Chickpeas?

Dried chickpeas take a lot longer than lentils to cook from their dried form. 

Their texture is soft on the inside, and they hold their shape well when properly cooked. 

Most chickpeas have a little skin on them that is noticeable after cooking—these can be removed if you have time and patience, but most people keep the edible skins on. 

Although time-consuming, cooking dried chickpeas on the stovetop is not very difficult—follow these instructions: 

  • Soak the dried chickpeas in a bowl of water for at least six hours—ideally overnight. Keep in mind that dried chickpeas can triple in size while soaking, so choose a large bowl.  
  • Drain and rinse the chickpeas well.
  • To cook, add the rinsed chickpeas to a large pot, cover with 3 inches of water, and add salt (about 1/2 of a teaspoon) and cover the pot.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let the chickpeas cook for 1.5-2 hours. 
  • You’ll want to cook them for longer to make dips or spreads like hummus, while the shorter time may be best for use in salads. 
  • Rinse with cool water once cooked. 

You can also cook dried chickpeas in an Instant pot or slow cooker, which will speed up the cooking process. 

How Do You Cook Lentils?

As lentils are smaller and less dense, they take significantly less time to cook than chickpeas, making them ideal for a busy night. 

Unlike chickpeas, lentils do not require soaking beforehand. 

However, the different types of lentils will require varying cooking times, with red and yellow lentils taking about half the time of brown, green, and black lentils. 

On the stovetop, follow these instructions to cook brown, green, or black lentils:

  • Rinse your lentils and look out for small stones or debris (your teeth will thank you for not skipping this step).
  • For every 1 cup of lentils, add 3 cups of water and ½ of a teaspoon of salt to the pot or large saucepan. 
  • Cover and bring the lentils to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 25-30 minutes. 
  • Strain well and rinse with cool water before serving. 

The instructions are similar for red and yellow lentils, with slightly different water ratios and cook times: 

  • Rinse lentils and look out for stones or debris.
  • For every 1 cup of lentils, add 1 ½ cups of water and ¼ of a teaspoon of salt.  
  • Cover and bring the lentils to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. 
  • Strain well and rinse with cool water before serving. 

How Can You Use Chickpeas and Lentils?

The texture and mild taste of chickpeas and lentils work well in both savory and sweet recipes. 

Chickpeas are common salad toppers, while lentils are often used in curries, soups, and stews. 

One of the world’s most well-known ways to utilize chickpeas is with hummus—a blend of chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, and various spices. 

Chickpeas are also often included in healthy baked goods, like cookies, brownies, or “dessert hummus.” 

Many lentil varieties also work well atop salads, including Beluga and French lentils. 

Lastly, both chickpeas and lentils are tasty when roasted after boiling—add different herbs or spices to make a crunchy snack. 

FAQs About Chickpeas and Lentils 

Do Chickpeas Have More Protein Than Lentils?

No, lentils have slightly more protein than chickpeas. 

Per cup, cooked lentils contain 18g of protein, while cooked chickpeas have 15g of protein.

Are Chickpeas and Lentils Carbs?

Yes, chickpeas and lentils are both sources of carbohydrates.

However, they are healthy carbs, as they are a great source of fiber and resistant starch that bypass digestion. 

Are Lentils or Chickpeas Easier to Digest?

This will vary from person to person, but the greater amount of fiber in lentils may make this legume a bit harder to digest than chickpeas if you have an unhealthy gut microbiome or are not used to eating high-fiber foods regularly. 

Which Color Lentils Are the Healthiest?

While all colors of lentils are healthy, the Beluga (black) lentils are a bit more nutritious because they have higher amounts of antioxidants, protein, and iron than other colors of lentils.

What Is the Recommended Daily Intake of Legumes?

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming about 3 cups of legumes per week. 

Another healthy eating program, the DASH Eating Plan of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, recommends splitting your legume intake into 4 or 5 half-cup servings per week. 

However, most Americans only eat less than one cup of legumes per week.  

Key Takeaways

  • Legumes are a healthy food group that includes chickpeas and lentils. 
  • Both chickpeas and lentils are rich in fiber, plant-based protein, resistant starch, and plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Lentils have a slightly higher nutritional value compared to chickpeas, and chickpeas take significantly longer to cook, but both are healthy and tasty options.

Ganesan K, Xu B. Polyphenol-Rich Lentils and Their Health Promoting Effects. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(11):2390. Published 2017 Nov 10. doi:10.3390/ijms18112390

Polak R, Phillips EM, Campbell A. Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake. Clin Diabetes. 2015;33(4):198-205. doi:10.2337/diaclin.33.4.198

Wallace TC, Murray R, Zelman KM. The Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Chickpeas and Hummus. Nutrients. 2016;8(12):766. Published 2016 Nov 29. doi:10.3390/nu8120766

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