According to our food editor.
Spicy Sausage-and-Chickpea Soup with Garlic Oil
Credit: Greg Dupree

Canned chickpeas are my kitchen pantry secret weapon. As long as I have a can of them in my cabinet, I can handle any curveball that life throws at me. (Well, almost any cuveball.)

I prefer Goya brand canned beans, especially their chickpeas. They are always intact, never broken or mushy, have a firm, creamy texture, not too salty in flavor, and uniform in size. When you crack open a can of Goya chickpeas you know what you're going to get—which isn't always the case with other brands, which can be mealy in texture and overly salty.

But back to those curveballs:

Need a healthy dinner on the fly? Saute a drained, rinsed, dried can of chickpeas (always drain and rinse your chickpeas) in a little olive oil, minced garlic, and fresh ginger if you have it, until aromatic and golden. Season to taste. Add chopped greens (spinach, kale), a can of diced tomatoes. Stir in a can of coconut milk to make a creamy sauce, or serve the chickpea mixture as-is over steamed rice. (Or try this delicious version with okra.)

Need an impromptu happy hour nibble? Fry up a drained, rinsed, dried can of chickpeas in a little olive oil until crispy and season with salt and smoke paprika. Serve hot with cold beer.

Need an easy supper and the pantry is bare? Make those same fried chickpeas (bonus points if you add a little minced garlic), then toss the chickpeas in hot, cooked pasta dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste and sprinkle with whatever cheese you have on hand (Parmesan, feta, etc.).

WATCH: How To Make Traditional Hummus

Need a last-minute dish to bring to a potluck? Make a hummus-y dip. Blend a can of chickpeas in a food processor with a healthy amount of full-fat Greek yogurt or sour cream and a few glugs of olive oil. Add a squeeze of lemon. Season to taste and serve with pita chips and crudité.

Need to make a salad or soup more satisfying? Toss in a can of chickpeas. Or serve up a hearty soup where chickpeas are already the star.

And these are just a few suggestions. Chickpeas lend themselves to so many dishes and are so good for you and inexpensive that there's no reason not to stockpile them.