Garbanzos de Miel

By Simone Riddle

“Se puede comer garbanzos salados?!” “You can eat chickpeas as a savory dish?!” asked my friend in disgust when I proudly presented a vegetarian chickpea curry at one of my first potluck dinners here in Xela. It’s fair to say it didn’t go down very well. But who knew that chickpeas could be eaten as a dessert? Any true Chapin would not eat them any other way.

‘Garbanzos en miel’ – chickpeas in honey (or, what should really translate as ‘chickpeas in lots of sugar’) is a Guatemalan delicacy eaten  para la pascua (for Easter). Like many other colonial imports, Guatemala has embraced el garbanzo and made it very much their own. It is now as familiar to Easter and as paches are to Christmas.

Semana Santa (Holy Week) would not be the same without garbanzos en miel. Imagine Antigua without procesiones y alfombras; Imagine Domingo de Ramos (the Sunday before Easter) without traffic-halting crowds around parque central, drowning in the scent of burning incense and cuetes (fireworks); Imagine la cuarezma (lent) without mango season. God forbid! There is no Semana Santa without garbanzos en miel.

There may be more complicated recipes but few of us have the ingredients, utensils or time. So this is a quick and easy recipe to impress your friends and host family this Easter by demonstrating your timely cultural awareness of local traditions.

1. Boil one pound of chickpeas in a pressure cooker for about 20 minutes until soft. This does vary depending on the efficiency of your cooker. Drain and take off the shells (the outer layer) as necessary. Alternatively you can soak the chickpeas a day before, drain and wash and cook in a normal pan until soft, spooning off the espuma when needed. Otherwise, you can now buy cans of cooked chickpeas at larger stores like La Despensa.

2. Put the chickpeas in a pan, add 3-4 tb of panela depending on how sweet you want it. Panela is sold in most markets. It comes as a solid cubed dark brown block. It’s a great alternative to brown sugar (not so easy to find). Just shave off about a handful and once melted in with the chickpeas, check that the mixture is sufficiently sweet.

3. Add one ramita de canela (‘cinnamon stick’) or about 3 tsp of ground cinnamon. If you have any fresh ginger in the cupboard, add about an inch of ginger – remember to remove this and the cinnamon stick before serving.

3. Add enough water to just cover the chickpeas to create a sauce, adding more if needed as you go.

4. Cook on a low heat stirring from time to time until the chickpeas are soft.

5. Serve cold with crema fresca if desired.

Book your cookery class with Asociacion de Mujeres del Altiplano (AMA) where Women Circle members offer traditional Mayan techniques. Email or check out their website ( for more information.


My food blog online can be found at:


You may also like...