One of the first recipes that I deliberately cooked for L from a kid-specific cookbook when she was a young toddler was roasted chickpeas. She was going through a phase of devouring chickpeas and I wanted to change up how I was serving them to her (which was usually just plain) to try to prolong her interest in the food. It was such a strange thing for her to love so enthusiastically—plain beans?—but they are filled with good carbohydrates, fiber, and vegetarian protein, so I was totally game to follow her lead. But the roasted version I made her? They were a total choking hazard.
It turns out that "kid-friendly" is not the same as "toddler-friendly", which was something I've discovered many times over the past two years. Since toddlers are still learning to chew and move food around in their mouths efficiently, there are some textures that are too tricky for them—super crunchy and round foods being one of them. And even though those roasted chickpeas did not turn out to be a great snack for her, I discovered that by drastically shortening the roasting length and adding lots of flavors to the beans, I could still offer her a delicious snack that was safe for her to eat.
If you start with canned beans, this recipe takes under 20 minutes to prepare and you can keep leftovers in the fridge and serve them throughout the week. (Just give them a quick 10 second warm up in the microwave.) We like them plain best, but also enjoy them over buttered brown rice or with cottage cheese. They are slightly sweet from the cinnamon, honey, and vanilla, but there's enough salt to keep them from being cloying. The beans are soft enough for younger toddlers—they smash almost instantly between two fingers—though mash them slightly if you are at all concerned about your little one's chewing ability.
Soft Baked Honey-Cinnamon Chickpeas
If you start with dried beans, make sure to cook them until they are very tender. If making these for a kiddo under one, swap out the honey for maple syrup.
Makes about 2 cups
- 1 14.5-ounce can chickpeas rinsed, drained, and patted dry (or about 2 cups cooked dried)
- 1 teaspoon canola or coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Stir together all ingredients in a medium bowl. Spread on a baking sheet or baking dish and bake for 15 minutes or until fragrant, lightly golden, and soft. Serve warm or at room temperature, smashing beans slightly for younger eaters if desired.
Skip the vanilla and add 1/4 teaspoon cumin for a more savory version.
Add 1 teaspoon sesame seeds before baking for extra flavor and good fats.
Mash the baked beans completely with a fork or in the food processor and spread on buttered toast.