My Soaked Chickpeas Smell Bad: Are They Safe to Eat?

In recent years, more and more people have got interested in the process of soaking chickpeas to use in their food. Soaking dried chickpeas has several benefits, including a shorter cooking time and more flavorful food – but have you ever found that they smell bad?

It is normal for beans and legumes to produce some strong odors while they are soaking, but a bad smell can also be a sign that your chickpeas have gone off. You need to be able to tell the difference so you don’t end up eating chickpeas that are not fit for consumption.

In this article, we’re going to look at why chickpeas might smell bad when you soak them, and how to make sure they are still fit for consumption. This will ensure you don’t end up throwing away chickpeas that are fine, or eating chickpeas that have gone off!

Do Chickpeas Smell Bad When You Soak Them?

soaking chickpeas

A lot of legumes smell bad when you soak them, and this is not necessarily an indication that they have gone off – it just tells you that you need to change the water. The soaking process should look something like this:

  • Briefly sort through the chickpeas to make sure no other debris has got into the package.
  • Tip the chickpeas into a large bowl and add water, making sure that the chickpeas are totally covered.
  • Place the chickpeas in the fridge for at least 10 hours before cooking them. Many people choose to soak chickpeas overnight. Some people like to drain and rinse the chickpeas multiple times throughout the soaking period, while others prefer to leave them.
  • When the soaking period has ended, drain away the old water and thoroughly rinse the chickpeas. This is the point at which you will probably notice a strong and unpleasant smell, but if you have followed the steps above, the chickpeas will not have gone off. Rinse them with plenty of clean water before cooking them.

As long as you follow this process and refrigerate the chickpeas, they should not go off while they are being soaked overnight. They will make the water smell bad, but this is not a sign that they have started to rot.

Some people soak chickpeas at room temperature, but there is an increased risk that they will start to decay if you do this, so it’s better to keep them in the fridge if you can – especially if you plan to soak them for longer than an overnight stint.

Why Do Chickpeas Smell Bad When You Soak Them?

Chickpeas and the water that they are soaked in take on an unpleasant smell because the chickpeas release amino acids into the water, and these start breaking down. 

Specifically, they release putrescine and cadaverine, and these both smell terrible, as the names suggest. As soon as the peas start to soften, these will mix with the water and start to create a strong, unpleasant, and very off-putting scent.

You can get rid of this by regularly changing the soaking water. This will reduce the smell, but it will soon recur. If you let the chickpeas sprout, the smell will further intensify, even if you keep changing the water.

Are Smelly Chickpeas Okay To Eat?

If your chickpeas smell really bad, you might be hesitating to eat them. We are often taught that a bad smell is a sure sign that the food is no longer safe to eat, and this is generally true.

However, soaked chickpeas that smell bad should still be fine to eat provided that you have followed the proper soaking method and kept them in the fridge while they were in water. Although dried chickpeas can be kept at room temperature, as soon as you add moisture, they will become vulnerable to mold and bacteria and need to be chilled.

If you have left soaking chickpeas at room temperature overnight, they should still be fine to eat, as it takes time for them to start going off. However, if the chickpeas have been left at room temperature for several days, there is a much higher chance that they will have gone off.

To check, you should rinse the chickpeas thoroughly and drain them, and then inspect them and smell them. If they still smell bad, or if they have taken on a fermented or alcoholic scent, they may no longer be safe to eat. Similarly, if you can see flecks of mold on them, they are not safe to eat.

Does Foamy Water Mean That The Chickpeas Have Gone Off?

Another worrying change that can occur when you soak chickpeas is the appearance of foam on the surface of the water. This can look a lot like mold forming, and it is pretty alarming the first time you soak your chickpeas.

However, this froth is again a harmless and normal part of the soaking process, and it will wash away when you drain and rinse the chickpeas. It is created by saponins contained in chickpeas. Saponins are a kind of detergent, and they create foam when they come into contact with water, making bubbles at the top of your soaking bowl.

That means that the chickpea foam is completely harmless, and you can just wash it away down your sink. You may also see this foam when cooking the chickpeas – and again, it is nothing to worry about, and does not indicate that the chickpeas have gone off, fermented, or become otherwise unfit for consumption.

However, if you find that the chickpeas are slimy, have flecks of mold on them, or taste bad, you may have soaked them for too long or at too high a temperature, and in this case, they need to be discarded.


Soaked chickpeas often smell bad, but this doesn’t mean that they have gone off. You should make sure you are soaking them in a cold environment, such as your fridge, and changing the water frequently, especially if you are going to soak them for more than a few hours. This will ensure that they remain safe to consume for as long as possible.

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for over five years! I've set up this blog because I'm passionate about veganism and living a more spiritually fulfilling life where I'm more in tune with nature. Hopefully, I can use Vegan Foundry as a channel to help you out on your own journey!