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Garbanzos en miel, also known as chickpeas in honey, is a traditional Guatemalan dessert that combines the sweetness of brown sugar or panela with the nutty flavor of chickpeas. This chickpea dessert is a popular Guatemalan dish during Lent and Holy Week and during 1ero de Noviembre or Did de Todos los Santos. This Guatemalan food can also be enjoyed year-round as a delicious sweet snack.
As a Guatemalan living in the USA, I always look forward to the Semana Santa season as it reminds me of the happy memories of my childhood. Growing up, my family and I would gather around the kitchen to prepare this dessert together. I remember the excitement of smelling the aroma of cinnamon, vanilla, and the sweet panela filling the house as we cooked this delicious traditional Guatemalan food. The best part was getting to taste the final product, which was always rich, flavorful, and satisfying.
Every time I make garbanzos en miel, I am transported back to those happy times and feel a sense of connection to my Guatemalan heritage. Even though I am far from home, this traditional dish has become a way for me to stay connected to my culture and pass on these traditions to the next generation. Whether it’s sharing a plate of garbanzos en miel with friends or family or simply enjoying it on my own, this delicious dessert will always hold a special place in my heart.
What are garbanzos en miel?
The dish consists of chickpeas cooked in a sweet syrup made from panela (a type of unrefined cane sugar) and flavored with cinnamon and cloves. Garbanzos en miel is traditionally served during the Easter season, but it is also enjoyed throughout the year as a sweet and satisfying dessert.
This dish is easy to make and requires only a few ingredients. The chickpeas are cooked until tender and then simmered in a syrup made with honey or panela, cinnamon, and cloves. The result is a flavorful and satisfying dish that is perfect for any occasion.
History of Garbanzos en Miel
The author of the book La Cocina Popular Guatemalteca (2021), Luis Villar Anleu, explains that Lent and Holy Week cuisine in Guatemala is a blend of pre-Hispanic and colonial influences, with the latter being the predominant one. Nowadays, understanding this cuisine requires taking into account various factors such as native cultural elements, imported Spanish customs, the incorporation of foreign festivities, the use of local ingredients, the addition of foreign symbols, the cooking methods, and the serving style and timing. One iconic dish of the Lenten cuisine that embodies this blend of influences is garbanzos en miel.
Chickpeas are a legume of very ancient origin. They probably come from Turkey and were prepared by the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Romans. In no country are they more important today than in Spain. And it was the Spaniards who introduced them to the New World. In Latin America, chickpeas were quickly adopted, and new ways of preparing them were created, such as chickpeas in syrup or chickpea honey. In Guatemala and other Central American countries, garbanzos en miel are often prepared with tropical fruits. For Holy Week, they are usually served with pan de yemas, a traditional sweet bread.
Garbanzos en miel is a classic example of the fusion of Mayan and Spanish culinary traditions that characterizes Guatemalan cuisine. To prepare this dish the process of nixtamalization is used by cooking the chickpeas in an alkaline solution by adding baking soda, ash or lime to the water. Nixtamalization is a cooking process that was invented and developed in Guatemala by the Mayan people and dates back to 1200 -1500 BC.
Garbanzos en miel is a dish that reflects the cultural richness and diversity of the region. It combines Spanish ingredients with Mayan cooking processes and it is an important and beloved part of Guatemala’s food culture.
When is miel de garbanzos traditionally eaten?
Garbanzos en miel are a beloved and traditional Guatemalan dessert that are enjoyed during various religious and cultural celebrations.
Along with torrejas and plátanos en mole this sweet dish is a favorite dessert during Semana Santa or Homy Week. During this time, many Guatemalans fast and abstain from meat, which makes garbanzos en miel a perfect alternative as it is both filling and nutritious. They are the perfect dessert to follow traditional Guatemalan Semana Santa dishes like bacalao a la Vizcaina.
In addition to being a popular Guatemalan dessert during the Lenten season and Semana Santa, Garbanzos en miel are also enjoyed on other special occasions throughout the year. For example, they are often made on November 1st, which is All Saints’ Day, a day of remembrance and celebration for loved ones who have passed away. In Guatemala, November 1st is typically marked with the preparation and sharing of fiambre, a traditional salad that combines a variety of meats, vegetables, and condiments. Garbanzos en miel are a fittingly sweet and satisfying dessert to enjoy after a savory fiambre.
The recipe for garbanzos en dulce or miel de garbanzos is different depending on the region and also depending on the family’s recipe. I recently had molletes rellenos de garbanzos en miel which I had never had before. I thought this was a great combination that is perfect and combines two traditional Semana Santa desserts: molletes and garbanzos en miel. So be sure to check out my recipe for making molletes rellenos de garbanzos en miel.
What are the ingredients for making garbanzos en miel?
Garbanzos en Miel is a traditional Guatemalan dessert that requires a few key ingredients for its preparation. The recipe calls for raw chickpeas that are soaked overnight with either wood ash or baking soda. The use of wood ash or baking soda helps to speed up the cooking process and makes it easier to peel the chickpeas. Other important ingredients for this recipe include panela or brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla extract. Additionally, to enhance the flavor of the desert, some recipes call for the use of ginger, cloves, and peppercorns. These spices help to give the dish a warm and comforting flavor. Altogether, the combination of these ingredients creates a unique and delicious dessert that is loved by many in Guatemala.
Sometimes also referred to as garbanzos en dulce garbanzos en miel are sometimes prepared with one or more tropical fruits such as mangoes, papayas, pineapples, or bananas. The fruit is carefully cut into cubes so that they mix harmoniously – in terms of size, quantity, colors, flavors, and textures – with the chickpeas. The fruit is added to the chickpeas with the honey, and everything is cooked very slowly until everything melds together and achieves the texture of being coated in honey.
This style of garbanzos en miel is a delightful variation that adds a burst of tropical sweetness. This version made with fruits is a popular dessert during Lent and Semana Santa in the Guatemalan Pacific coast region, where an abundance of fresh, juicy tropical fruits are readily available. The addition of fruit also adds a touch of color to the dish, making it even more visually appealing. The slow cooking process ensures that the honey and fruit flavors fully infuse into the chickpeas.
Easiest method for peeling chickpeas
To peel garbanzos, start by soaking them in water overnight or for at least 8 hours. Drain the water and rinse the garbanzos before placing them in a pot with fresh water. Add a teaspoon of baking soda to the pot, which helps to soften the outer layer of the garbanzos and make them easier to peel. Bring the water to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer, cooking the garbanzos for 1-2 hours until they are tender.
Once the garbanzos are cooked, drain them and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Take a handful of garbanzos and rub them between your hands or using two clean kitchen towels. The outer skin should easily slip off, leaving behind the tender garbanzo inside. Repeat with the remaining garbanzos until all have been peeled.
Peeling garbanzos can be a time-consuming process, but using baking soda can make it easier and quicker. It’s also worth noting that not all garbanzos will peel perfectly, but don’t worry – the taste and texture will still be delicious for making your garbanzos en miel. This method also works really well for peeling chickpeas to make hummus or other chickpea recipes.
Recipe for Guatemalan Garbanzos en Miel
The delicate flavor of chickpeas combines deliciously with panela, brown sugar and cinnamon, transporting me back to my childhood. I love their taste and aroma, their texture and color. This is one of the easiest traditional Guatemalan desserts and I am thrilled to share this recipe with you.
Ingredients for Garbanzos en miel o miel de garbanzos
2 lbs. of raw garbanzo beans
1 cup of wood ash or 2 tbsp of baking soda
1 lb panela block or marqueta (unrefined cane sugar also known as rapadura)
1 small piece of ginger
1 lb. of brown sugar
6 cups of water
2 tsp of vanilla extract
Instructions for making garbanzos en dulce:
In a large pot, combine 6 cups of water with 1 cup of wood ash or 2 tbsp of baking soda.
Add the garbanzo beans previously washed with water.
Boil until the garbanzo bean skin begins to peel, which takes approximately 15 minutes from boiling. Stir occasionally during this time.
Test if the garbanzo beans are ready by taking a few beans in your hand and moving them around. The skins should fall off easily.
Once the garbanzo beans are peeled, rinse them with a colander and water. Add water until it runs clear, and move the beans vigorously to remove all the skin. You can also rub them between two clean kitchen towels to finish removing the skins.
In a separate pot, put the panela, of brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, ginger, cloves, and peppercorns in 6 cups of water.
Cook over medium heat until the mixture boils, then stir until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
Place the peeled garbanzo beans in a pot with 6 cups of cold water and 1 cinnamon stick.
Cook over high heat until it starts boiling, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for approximately 2 to 3 hours. If the water evaporates during that time, add another cup, but it should be warm.
To make sure the garbanzo beans are cooked, they should feel very soft inside and out when bitten. This is important because when the syrup is added, it will slightly firm up.
Once the garbanzo beans are cooked, add 2 tsp of vanilla extract and the syrup mixture through a strainer.
Let it simmer for half an hour or until it thickens slightly.
Let it cool before serving.
Tips for Making the best garbanzos en Miel:
Use dried chickpeas instead of canned for a firmer texture and more authentic flavor.
Soak the chickpeas overnight in water to soften them before cooking.
If you don’t have time to soak chickpeas overnight, don’t worry! You can quickly soak them in boiling water for an hour instead. Just add them to a pot of boiling water, let them sit for an hour, drain and rinse. This will soften them up and make them more flavorful, while also reducing cooking time
To cut the cooking time in half use a pressure cooker or instapot.
Don’t overcook the chickpeas or they will become mushy. Check them frequently and remove them from the heat as soon as they are tender.
Use panela instead of sugar for a more traditional flavor. Panela, also known as piloncillo or rapadura, is an unrefined cane sugar that is commonly used in Latin American cooking.
Serve garbanzos en miel warm or at room temperature as a dessert or snack.
To brighten up the flavor you can add 1 tablespoon of grated lime zest and one tablespoon of grated orange zest to your garbanzos en miel.
Garbanzos en Miel Recipe: Guatemalan Chickpea Dessert
- 2 lbs. of raw garbanzo beans
- 1 cup of wood ash or 2 tbsp of baking soda
- 1 lb panela block or marqueta (unrefined cane sugar also known as rapadura)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 small piece of ginger
- 4 cloves
- 6 black peppercorns
- 1 lb. of brown sugar
- 6 cups of water
- 2 tsp of vanilla extract
- Instructions for making garbanzos en dulce:
- In a large pot, combine 6 cups of water with 1 cup of wood ash or 2 tbsp of baking soda.
- Add the garbanzo beans previously washed with water.
- Boil until the garbanzo bean skin begins to peel, which takes approximately 15 minutes from boiling. Stir occasionally during this time.
- Test if the garbanzo beans are ready by taking a few beans in your hand and moving them around. The skins should fall off easily.
- Once the garbanzo beans are peeled, rinse them with a colander and water. Add water until it runs clear, and move the beans vigorously to remove all the skin. You can also rub them between two clean kitchen towels to finish removing the skins.
- In a separate pot, put the panela, of brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, ginger, cloves, and peppercorns in 6 cups of water.
- Cook over medium heat until the mixture boils, then stir until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
- Place the peeled garbanzo beans in a pot with 6 cups of cold water and 1 cinnamon stick.
- Cook over high heat until it starts boiling, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for approximately 2 to 3 hours. If the water evaporates during that time, add another cup, but it should be warm.
- To make sure the garbanzo beans are cooked, they should feel very soft inside and out when bitten. This is important because when the syrup is added, it will slightly firm up.
- Once the garbanzo beans are cooked, add 2 tsp of vanilla extract and the syrup mixture through a strainer.
- Let it simmer for half an hour or until it thickens slightly.
- Let it cool before serving.
Garbanzos en miel is not just a delicious dessert in Guatemalan cuisine, but also a symbol of the blending of pre-Hispanic and colonial cultures that make up the country’s rich culinary heritage. The combination of tender garbanzo beans, sweet honey, and fragrant spices is delightful. For chapines living abroad like myself this dessert is a source of nostalgia, like myself. Enjoy this dessert on its own or paired with traditional pan de yema and a refreshing glass of horchata or rosa de jamaica. Garbanzos en miel is a dessert that has stood the test of time and remains an essential part of Guatemalan culture. I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as I enjoy sharing it with you all!
Other Guatemalan desserts you are sure to love!
- Rellenitos de plátano. If you’re looking for the best Guatemalan rellenitos de plátano recipe, you’ve come to the right place. This Guatemalan dessert is one of my favorites: ripe plantains filled with beans and covered in sugar. This sweet plantain recipe is one of the most popular desserts in Guatemala.
- Arroz Con Leche Classic Recipe. In this yummy rice pudding recipe, you will taste the flavors of Guatemala melting in your mouth. It is an easy dessert you will surely be delighted to eat. Arroz con leche is the perfect Guatemalan dessert to make with the whole family on a rainy day. I hope you enjoy this quick and delicious typical Guatemalan recipe as much as I do.
- Jocotes En Miel. Cooked in a bubbling sweet syrup and heavenly spices, these juicy jocotes (hog plums) are a traditional Guatemalan food commonly served around the Day of the Dead celebrations. Still, you can now enjoy this simple yet delicious Guatemalan recipe any day!
- Empanadas De Manjar De Leche (Filled With Custard). Empanadas de manjar are hand pie-like pastries filled with a milk-based creamy filling. If you want to surprise your loved ones with this delicious Guatemalan dessert, here is a quick recipe for you to prepare.
- Canillitas De Leche. Canillitas de leche are my favorite Guatemalan traditional candy. For this Guatemalan dish, I took a few shortcuts. I love experimenting and turning the traditional, time-consuming recipe into a simple, easy, no-bake dessert. As a result, this incredible recipe has all the authentic canillitas de leche flavors without the hard work!
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