Chickpea, (Cicer arietinum), also called garbanzo bean or Bengal gram, annualplant of the pea family (Fabaceae), widely grown for its nutritious seeds. Chickpeas are an important food plant in India, Africa, and Central and South America. Hummus (or hummous)—chickpeas mashed to a paste with lemon juice, olive oil, and tahini (sesame paste)—is widely eaten in the Middle East as a sauce and dip for bread. Mashed cooked chickpeas are formed into small flat cakes or balls and fried for falafel, a popular Middle Eastern dish. In southern Europe and Latin America, chickpeas are a common ingredient in soups, salads, and stews. A kind of meal or flour is also made from chickpeas and can be used to make a flatbread known as socca or mixed with wheat or other flours for baking.