Two commercial types of chickpeas are produced: kabuli and desi. The kabuli or garbanzo type, large-seeded with a thin, delicate and colorless or white seed coat, often is made into snacks (in South Asia), ground into hummus (in the Middle East) or canned whole for the salad bar trade (in North America). The desi type, small-seeded with a thick, hard and colored seed coat, often is exported whole to the Indian subcontinent. The desi type usually is prepared for consumption either by dehulling and splitting or by dehulling and grinding into flour.
Chickpeas are grown almost exclusively for human consumption, with seed type and ethnic culture determining their use. Chickpeas are an excellent source of protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Small volumes of low-quality chickpeas are being used for livestock feed.The two distinct types of chickpeas really are two different crops, each with a separate use and market. There is a small but growing demand for high-quality kabuli chickpeas in North America, where they mainly are used in salad bars and vegetables mixes. They also are used in producing a wide variety of snack foods, soups, sweets and condiments.
About 85 percent to 90 percent of the world chickpea production is the smaller, lower-priced desi while the remainder is the larger, higher-priced kabuli or garbanzo bean. A large portion of chickpeas are consumed in the countries where they are produced. India alone accounted for 56 percent to 72 percent of world production each of the past five years The bulk of the desi type is produced in the Indian subcontinent. India imports significant amounts of chickpeas despite being the world’s largest producer. India and the subcontinent, where chickpeas are a staple in their diet, import mainly the desi type, while countries in the Western Hemisphere, Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa import primarily the kabuli type.