This Jamaican/Mexican fusion approach to a taco yields an extremely meat-looking chickpea filling. Cooking them down in barbecue sauce results in a deep red-brown color that almost mimics ground beef. But simulating meat isn’t really the point. Chickpea tacos are a source of healthy protein, and I love how the mashed chickpeas act as a binder to keep everything together. Too many times biting into a taco results in a mess on your plate. Not in this case.
Use a pastry cutter or a fork to break the chickpeas down to the consistency of your liking. Like peanut butter, some people prefer smooth while others prefer chunky. I’m on team chunky, so I reserve some whole chickpeas and add them into the mix upon serving. Or, even incorporate some of my buffalo roasted chickpeas. If you want something more like refried beans, then by all means mash away at this spicy concoction.
In sticking with the barbecue sauce concept, freshly shredded cabbage is added as a taco fixing. No need to make actual cole slaw here (although you certainly can). The chickpea tacos will be quite spicy, so the cabbage cools everything down a bit, and offers a crunchy contrast in texture. When building your tacos, the shredded cabbage can go above or below the chickpeas. I like to put them below as if they’re acting as a foundation.
I like to include a mix of other traditional taco fixings such as pickled jalapeños, diced onions and tomatoes, radishes, roasted poblanos, a hint of fresh lime and cilantro. Leftover salsas and Mexican crema from my local favorite Mexican restaurant all get used up when I make these. You’re also going to have extra jerk sauce so feel free to pour it on.
Jerk Barbecue Sauce
Sure you can use any barbecue sauce, but I’m a huge fan of Jerk Barbecue sauce from Grace. If you can’t find it, no worries. You can make your own by doctoring up some plain barbecue sauce. Simply incorporating some allspice, thyme, scotch bonnet pepper and black pepper will give it that Jamaican jerk experience.
Find a brand of sauce that does not use any corn syrup. Noone wants sticky, syrup-like chickpeas. I strongly recommend Stubbs original. It does contain a little cornstarch, which is far better than corn syrup in my opinion.
A second runner up in terms of barbecue sauce is Kingsford. Yes, the brand so famous for selling charcoal also makes an awesome sauce. No corn syrup or cornstarch is listed in their ingredients.
Raw or Canned Chickpeas
Raw chickpeas are the best for this, hands down. Because of the long cooking time required for chickpeas, the sauce will simmer longer, caramelize, and transform to a beef-looking color. The beans become infused with a rich jerk flavor and the sauce becomes quite thick. For a small batch I use 1 cup of raw chickpeas, 3 cups of water and about a cup of barbecue sauce. I also add half an onion and some fresh thyme. If you’re short on time, using canned beans can work just fine. The flavors won’t be as intense.
What to do
- In a slow cooker or medium pot, cook 1 cup of chickpeas in 3 cups of water and 1 cup of barbecue sauce and half and onion. If you don’t have Jerk Barbecue sauce, add a few sprigs of fresh thyme tied together, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of allspice, and 1 scotch bonnet pepper (keep it whole if you don’t want it insanely spicy).
- While chickpeas are cooking, shred your cabbage and prepare any other desired fixings. Pickle some jalapenos the same method as I do with green tomatoes. Roast some Poblano peppers over stove top and remove the skins.
- Once the chickpeas are fully cooked, mash them in a shallow pan in batches. Cook them in a shallow pan to promote caramelization to achieve a meat-like texture.
- Warm your tortillas over a medium-heat surface and build your taco!