In 2007, Poorvi Patodia was pregnant and felt like she was eating too many chips. Her cravings for salty, crunchy snacks were intense, but what moms should eat while pregnant is a touchy subject. “I had this thought of, What else could I be eating that’s better for me?” she says. “I remembered these roasted chickpeas that my mom used to make.”
Patodia started roasting chickpeas for herself. She had her baby and went on with her life, but the thought stuck with her. Her fellow Americans were missing out on something delicious.
Five years later, Patodia put her pregnancy cravings, Indian background, and professional experience in the food industry together and started Biena Snacks, which offers more than a dozen varieties of crunchy, flavored chickpeas. It was the right thing at the right time, even in a country that has long ignored the ingredient: The snacks are now available in more than 12,000 retail locations.
Biena is part of a constellation of American food companies, including Banza and The Good Bean, that has sprung up around the humble chickpea in recent years, ready to fully integrate a global staple food into the country’s diets. Now there are chips made with chickpea flour and vegan butter emulsified with the liquid waste of hummus manufacturing. There’s dessert hummus, which might be one of the more difficult sells in the garbanzo-food family tree. Beyond the grocery store, there are viral chickpea recipes to prepare at home, and maybe even some chickpea brine behind the bar at your favorite cocktail spot. (The substance, commonly called aquafaba, can be used to create a fizz without the threat of salmonella borne by a raw egg white.)