Taste test sought for Australian chickpeas

Photo of group gathered at a table

PhD student Soumi Paul Mukhopadhyay (fourth from left) holds the pan she used to cook fried split chickpeas for evaluation by her voluntary sensory panel. The panellists included (from left) Jim Rees, Linda Ovington, John Mahon, Neil Russell, Bithika Saha, Mark Macleod, Saba Nabi and Luyang Duan. Each panellist sampled a range of different chickpea varieties for a range of characteristics including appearance, aroma, fingerfeel, mouthfeel, taste and aftertaste.

PHOTO: Nicole Baxter

A panel of 14 volunteers has been involved in ‘taste’ research aimed at giving Australian chickpea growers a competitive market advantage in the global snack-food market.

The panellists have worked with GRDC-supported PhD student Soumi Paul Mukhopadhyay, based at Charles Sturt University (CSU) at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, in her research into the sensory attributes that drive Indian and Australian consumers’ preferences towards fried split chickpeas.

Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay, a former food scientist from India, says fried split chickpeas are a common snack food in India.

Working under the supervision of CSU’s Associate Professor Paul Prenzler, Associate Professor Chris Blanchard and Professor Anthony Saliba, as well as Dr Jenny Wood from the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay is endeavouring to understand consumer acceptance for fried split chickpeas.

To do this, she has worked with Australian consumers to determine their key ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ drivers for fried split chickpeas.

In Australia, Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay worked with the voluntary sensory panel to develop common descriptors for the sensory attributes of various Australian chickpea cultivars.

“Australia currently doesn’t have a chickpea sensory panel similar to the Australian olive oil sensory panel, which was developed to ensure olive oils met world standards,” Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay says.

“A chickpea sensory panel would be valuable for the grains industry to better understand the sensory attributes (appearance, aroma, fingerfeel, mouthfeel, taste and aftertaste) of Australian varieties so new varieties could be targeted to market needs.

“The principle for describing the visual appearance for fried split chickpeas and puffed chickpeas is the same; however, the resultant descriptors for those two different cooking methods are different. By training and testing the panel, my aim was to make the members expert in chickpea tasting.”

Ms Paul Mukhopadhyay met with the panel for three hours each week, for four to five weeks at a time, to evaluate one type of cooked chickpeas.

In the initial training session she provided the panellists with fried split or puffed whole desi chickpeas and outlined the different sensory attributes they would encounter, such as appearance, aroma, texture and taste of the chickpea samples.

The panel members – from a variety of backgrounds and demographics – smelled, touched and tasted the chickpeas and developed different words to describe the attributes they experienced.

In the final training session, through discussion and consensus, Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay created a list of descriptors that characterised the sensory attributes for fried split or puffed whole desi chickpeas.

Next, the panellists were presented with cooked chickpea samples and asked to rate their key sensory attributes using a continuous scale (ranging from 0 to 15).

Preliminary analysis of the sensory panel’s results showed not all chickpea varieties are suitable for all cooking methods.

Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay says there is a vital connection between a particular chickpea variety and a specific recipe or end use.

“When exporting Australian desi chickpeas to India, it is imperative to know where the chickpeas are destined so specific varieties can be targeted to specific recipes,” she explains.

“Having sensory quality attributes for specific recipes would also allow Australian pulse breeders to select for those traits, which would in turn allow new chickpea varieties to be developed in light of consumer preferences.”

In addition to her research with the sensory panel, Mrs Paul Mukhopadhyay also asked a selection of Wagga Wagga residents to evaluate their preferences for selected chickpeas and cooking methods.

She has analysed the results and hopes to submit her thesis for examination in March.

A follow-up article will be published to outline her results.

More information:

Soumi Paul Mukhopadhyay,
0405 230 274,



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Region South, North