Characterization of plant varieties is traditionally based on phenotypic observation. However, some varieties have very similar morphological characteristics, which make it difficult to distinguish between them. The present study employed 15 microsatellite markers distributed across all linkage groups (LG) of the chickpea genetic map to characterize 32 commercial chickpea cultivars and determine the usefulness of these markers for cultivar identification. These markers showed a high level of polymorphism; a total of 154 different alleles were detected, with a mean of 10·3 alleles per locus. The polymorphic information content (PIC) value ranged from 0·455 to 0·897. All the markers, with the exception of TA130, TA135 and TA144, were considered to be informative (PIC>0·7), indicating their potential usefulness for cultivar identification. A subset of markers (TA186, TA200, TA106, TA113, TA117 and TA30) was sufficient to identify all the cultivars studied. In order to confirm their discriminatory power, 16 unreleased chickpea cultivars (V1–V16) were screened and all of them presented different patterns. Therefore, these microsatellites can be regarded as a reference set for chickpea cultivar identification and their profiles can be used as a DNA fingerprint for each registered cultivar, avoiding redundancy of identical cultivars as well as to protect breeders' rights.