Lebanese Chickpea Stew

The first post of 2013 has to be a winner–that’s a rule–and so it’s a huge relief to share with you a dish that I made for dinner the other night that’s such a winner, it portends very good things for the year to come.

I’m at the point now where I can read a recipe and I’ll know, pretty quickly, if it’ll be something that I’ll like or not. There has to be an X-factor, something sexy about it that intrigues me, that makes me go “Heavens to Betsy! What a good idea.” This Lebanese Chickpea Stew, which I found on BonAppetit.com, had that “Heavens to Betsy” quality I look for.

Specifically, it was the process: you brown chicken thighs (I used legs and thighs) in olive oil in a medium pot or Dutch oven.


When they’re good and brown, you remove them and add a good amount of minced garlic:


Before that gets too dark, you add ground cumin, tomato paste and red pepper flakes.


The paste that forms was the factor that I knew would make things special: it incorporates the brown bits from the chicken and all of those potent flavors which get toastier as they cook, for a bit, in the oil.

Then you add water–though I added 1/4 cup white wine that I had lying around (you might try that) before adding the water–bay leaves and return the chicken back to the pot, where it simmers for 20 minutes until it’s tender:


Meanwhile, you rinse two cans of chickpeas and chop up roasted red peppers which you can buy in a jar (or you can do them yourself). I chose jar:


Here’s what happens: that liquid in the pot with the chicken and the paste? It gets thicker as it cooks so 20 minutes later, you have perfectly tender chicken and a thick, flavorful sauce. Take the chicken out, let it cool and then shred it with your hands. Add the chickpeas, the red peppers and the chicken to the pot:


Then you finish things up with lemon juice and parsley:


Take one taste and POW, you’re starting your year right.


What’s so great about this recipe is that it’s actually really healthy (all of that protein!) but it doesn’t feel healthy at all. Make sure to serve it with good bread for sopping up the sauce. And you may want to double the recipe: Craig and I ate this whole thing ourselves in one round. It’s that good.

Recipe: Lebanese Chickpea Stew

Summary: A comforting, filling winter stew adapted from BonAppetit.com.


  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 chicken thighs with legs still attached (the original recipe says “boneless, skinless” but I think that’s a terrible idea)
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from a jar
  • Fresh lemon juice (from half a lemon)
  • Coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. Coat the bottom of a medium pot or Dutch oven with olive oil and heat on medium-high heat. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, season aggressively with salt and then brown the chicken in the oil until it’s a deep, dark brown. (The best way to do this is not to move it for the first 4 to 5 minutes; then flip it over). Remove the chicken to a plate and turn the heat off for a few minutes before adding the garlic (otherwise it’ll burn). Also, if there’s a lot of rendered chicken fat in the pan, you may want to pour some of it out leaving a few tablespoons.
  2. Turn the heat back to medium-low, add the garlic and monitor carefully. When it’s fragrant but not at all brown add the cumin, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes; stir until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the white wine, if you’re using it, scrape up the brown bits as it comes to a boil; then add 3 1/2 cups water along with a pinch of salt. (If you’re not using wine, just add 4 cups water…bring it to a boil first in a kettle or another pot, if you can, so you don’t slow down the cooking process.) Add the bay leaves and return the chicken to the pot; bring liquid to a simmer, put the heat on low and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Add the chickpeas to the pot; bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Shred the chicken and add to the stew, along with the red peppers. Taste for salt.
  5. Take the stew off the heat, add a splash more olive oil, lemon juice (to taste) and a generous sprinkling of parsley. Serve with good bread.

Quick notes

I say this makes 3 servings because I followed these amounts exactly and it fed 2 of us very, very well. (So if we were less greedy, a 3rd person could’ve eaten too). That said: why not buy 4 chicken thighs and keep everything else the same? That way you’ll feed 4 for sure.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 3

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

38 thoughts on “Lebanese Chickpea Stew”

  1. I made something almost exactly like this yesterday minus the chicken though I did incorporate a quart or so of homemade stock from the freezer. For the red peppers I used a big spoonful of Trader Joes “red pepper spread” and for the tomatoes I used part of an opened jar of Giada’s creamy tomato sauce (from Target). Threw in some cooked farro and a big handful of frozen green beans (could have been spinach or peas). Yum.

  2. the beginning steps looked like a paprikash! I have been trying to figure out what to do with my can of chick peas (besides hummus) – thasnks for hte idea!

  3. This looks great! I’d have to replace the chicken with some other protein – maybe chickpeas or white beans. The garlic-tomato paste-cumin-red pepper mixture looks like it would be delicious on its own, and certainly added to other dishes.

  4. This was great! My husband loved it, and he’s Lebanese…so the recipe is solid! I saw this from Bon Appetit, but loved your photos and step-by-step instructions. So many thanks. This will be in our regular rotation!

  5. A couple of chicken thighs amount to a lot of flavor alongside the filling chickpeas and crusty bread in this hearty Lebanese-inspiredstew.

  6. this sounds amazing, but would need to substitute out red peppers (husband doesn’t like them) — thoughts on an alternative?

  7. Aw Adam, I’m so sad to have to write this because I am a huge fan but I made this recipe last night and I thought it was so bland! I am an experienced home cook so I believe I followed your recipe correctly but we were so bored with it. I suspected as I was adding all that water that it was too much and having now tried the final dish, I really think it was. I think less liquid, or a more reduced liquid, would be a vast improvement here. After 20 minutes of strong simmering there was still an awful lot of liquid, and it was not thickened. I used the wine, 4 chicken thighs, an extra clove of garlic and ample salt throughout and it was just…flavorless. I’m convinced it’s all that water because it smelled and looked very promising until all that liquid went in. I tried my best to doctor it up at the end with the lemon, parsley, some dried paprika, and a cornstarch slurry to help it thicken but it was all to no avail really–still very boring. Finally I added some good harissa I had in the fridge and that perked it up enough to eat it. I feel like this is the first draft of a good recipe but some edits are desperately needed, sorry :(

    1. Hi LizLemon,
      Sorry to hear that! All I can say is that mine wasn’t bland at all so maybe it came down to ingredients? Did you use chicken with skin? Your idea to do it again with less water is a smart oneā€¦ If you try it that way, let me know how it turns out! Adam

      1. I did not use chicken with skin but that’s the only change I made, and it’s only because my store was out of skin-on thighs when we went shopping. Otherwise, I always buy the skin-on ones! But, I still think that although skin would’ve improved the dish, it wouldn’t have been enough on its own to transform it. This dish seems like it has a lot of potential so I might try it again with broth, stock, or pureed tomatoes instead of some/all of the water, less liquid overall, and reducing the liquid a bit before I add the chicken back in. Some diced carrot and/or onion with the garlic probably wouldn’t hurt either. I’ll report back if I try it.

  8. Thank you Adam! I just made this stew and it turned out fantastically flavorful. I followed your recipe closely except I had 4 chicken thighs (+ skin/bones) and let the broth reduce about 20 min more at a low temp in step 3. I can’t wait to keep eating it!

  9. I followed this recipe to the letter, and it was superb! I can’t understand how anyone could call it bland. In fact, at first taste, I thought it might be too hot (and I’m not afraid of spicy foods) but then realized it was perfectly *warm*. Thank you! I’ll definitely make it again!

  10. Really enjoyed this tasty dish. Thanks for sharing this recipe. …. kinda makes me think of ‘pozole of a different world.’ Similar textures.

  11. brett hershberger

    Yes, this is a a standard prep, delicious and satisfying. i have made similar many times for the family. But what about this makes it Lebanese?

  12. This was A-MA-ZING, not bland at all!!!
    I recently started following your blog and so far, I’m very happy and entertained with it all. Thank You!!

  13. Just made this and it was a big hit with my family! Even my picky little sister liked it. My stew looked almost identical to your picture; I did find however, that the broth didn’t quite thicken as described, but it was still flavorful and delicous. Thanks for sharing! I will be sharing some with my Lebanese friends tomorrow.

  14. I made this last night and after reading the comments I cut back on the water to 3 cups which seemed perfect. It’s a soupy stew; commenters are correct that the soup doesn’t thicken per se, but it’s beautifully seasoned. I can’t understand how people found it bland with 2 T. cumin, 3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper, lemon juice and parsley. I would cook the chicken legs longer, 30 minutes rather than 20. (And I used two whole chicken legs — thighs and drumsticks — which I think is what Adam intended.) I ladled it over Israeli couscous, with plenty of the broth, and I served it with spoons. A dollop of 2% Fage plain Greek yogurt was delicious on the side. This goes into the regular rotation. Enjoy Australia, Adam!

  15. i just made this and i am so proud of myself! i used chicken breast (with bones and skin) because i’m not a fan of dark meat, and rather than bread, i served it with israeli couscous i made with chicken broth, cinnamon and some juice from the stew. i am in taste and smell heaven right now! thank you adam!

  16. This is another one of the best chick pea recipe.
    The Lebanese way of cooking is some what similar to Indian style.
    I just like personally to my taste , the garlic to be less in
    this lovely dish

  17. This is another one of the best chick pea recipe.

    The Lebanese way of cooking is some what similar to Indian style.

    I just like personally to my taste , the garlic to be less in

    this lovely dish

  18. This looks so fantastic. If it wasn’t blizzard-ing outside right now, I’d run to the store for the couple ingredients. Tomorrow though for sure!

  19. final simmer as we speak! Very excited, a french loaf in the oven to pair! Made some alterations with chicken broth instead of water after reading about the “bland” experience. I’m wondering how I might thicken it up? More like a stew… flour and water? More tomato paste? More to come after we eat it!

  20. i know this is a very late reply, but I’ve made this recipe several times, and tonight I used apple cider vinegar instead of the white wine and while I liked the recipe before, I feel like the vinegar really made it even better – the little bit of sourness it added was very nice.

  21. This recipe was amazing. I made it with smaller chicken thighs (as we enjoy eating our chicken off the bone, used a little less water and added a little sugar.

  22. I made this the other day. I used chicken stock instead of water, along with half a chicken (instead of just thighs), added an onion (because I love onions) and mashed a few of the chickpeas when I tossed them in. It was a big hit, thickened up nicely and definitely wasn’t bland.

  23. This sounds brilliant. My pantry is quite empty at the moment and I just did a search for chicken thighs and chicken peas on google and found your recipe. Looking forward to cooking this for dinner tomorrow night.

  24. p.s. Turned out fabulous~ Used about 8 skinless boneless thighs and swapped chili flakes for chili powder. Used chopped roasted orange sweet peppers which I had on hand and roasted and peeled myself – about a cup – the colour of the dish a little duller as a result, but still incredibly tasty. This dish is going into the regular repertoire as a quick and super satisfying meal. Thanks again for the recipe.

  25. Just tried this recipe and i didn’t love it :( I found it way too watery for my liking… Much more soup than stew. I followed the recipe exactly except for using chicken thighs (skin on) and adding carrots and onions. Also added more puree and tried to leave it longer (uncovered for the whole cooking time) to get rid of more liquid. Liked the spice and the chicken was tasty but totally agree with the earlier comment that it lacked the depth of flavour I was looking for.

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