Chickpea “Chicken” Salad – Fresh, Easy, and Plant-Based

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Chickpea “Chicken” Salad will trick your tastebuds in the very best way. This easy chickpea recipe is a fabulous plant-based, protein-packed lunch option!

smashed chickpea salad on a piece of gluten free toast

Guys, we’re giving cauliflower the day off (you’re welcome, cauliflower). It’s chickpea’s time to shine in this insanely delicious, plant-based, vegan swap for chicken salad.

Chickpea “Chicken” Salad will trick your taste buds in the very best way. It tastes exactly like chicken salad but is meat free, a cinch to whip up, fresh, protein-packed, and make-ahead so you can have healthy filling lunches on hand all week long.

If you’re looking for vegan or vegetarian lunchtime idea — this easy recipe is a MUST TRY!

chickpea chicken salad on toasts and lettuce cups

Smashed Chickpea Salad = Vegan Swap for Chicken Salad

Last year I worked with a dietitian friend to develop an ebook of plant-based recipes for her clients, and this smashed chickpea salad, aka a vegetarian version of classic chicken salad, was one of my very favorites. When she shared the concept, I thought there was no way I’d be able to use chickpeas to create a dish that not only resembled but TASTED like chicken salad…

I have never been more happy to be wrong!

Chickpea “Chicken” Salad is not only a healthy lunch idea for work or school that’s full of protein and fiber, but it tastes incredible! Fresh, crunchy, crispy, creamy, herby — all the things. It hits all the right flavor and texture notes and is oddly irresistible?

hand holding a can of reduced sodium chickpeas

Ingredients Needed

This creamy chickpea salad is made with fridge and pantry staples in about 10 minutes. Plus it keeps well all week long since it’s plant/bean-based. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Chickpeas: I use canned chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), vs cooking dried beans, so the recipe stays in the quick and easy lunch category. I like to mash the chickpeas pretty well but you can leave as much or as little whole to achieve your desired “chicken” salad texture.
  • Celery: provides an irresistible crunch. I don’t love celery in my chicken salad, but it’s must in the chickpea version!
  • Pickles: provide a tangy crunch. Use whatever you’ve got in the fridge – spears, slices, cornichons, etc.
  • Shallot or Onion: provides more spicy crunch. Are you sensing a theme here? Love the creamy/crunchy texture of this salad! Feel free to use red onion or green onion if you have it on hand instead.
  • Mayonnaise: we keep vegan mayonnaise on hand for Gwen, who is allergic to eggs and dairy, which is what I use in this chickpea salad. I like Hellman’s vegan mayonnaise of all the kinds we’ve tried. Feel free to use regular mayo, but know that most regular mayonnaise is made with eggs.
  • Fresh lemon juice: a drizzle really wakes up and brightens this salad.
  • Dijon mustard: provides a nice depth of flavor. You could use yellow mustard in a pinch.
  • Fresh dill: I truly love fresh dill best in this chickpea chicken salad. You can use dried dill if you must, but give it a try at least once with fresh — it’s a treat!

Put Your Own Spin On It

As written, this is a fantastic base recipe for chickpea “chicken” salad. That said, feel free to dress it up and make it your own. Here are some ideas:

  1. Add dried cranberries, sliced grapes, or minced apple for a little bit of sweetness.
  2. Add minced fresh peppers or roasted red peppers.
  3. Swap the pickles for drained capers, minced green olives, and/or minced kalamata olives to give the chickpea salad a Mediterranean spin. A sprinkle of feta cheese would be divine too!
  4. Add nuts like chopped pecans, chopped almonds, or sliced almonds for additional crunch and flavor.
  5. Leave it chunky. Like I said, I like to mash the chickpeas pretty smooth, but feel free to mash less of the chickpeas for a chunkier-style salad.

ingredients for chickpea chicken salad on a cutting board

How to Serve Chickpea “Chicken” Salad

Just like chicken salad, this vegan chickpea salad is super versatile in terms of how to serve it. Here are my favorites:

  • On toast. I love Canyon Bakehouse GF bread which, like the majority gluten free breads, is best toasted. Dollop the chickpea salad on top of a piece of toast, or sandwich between two toasted slices. Sliced tomato is nice inside!
  • In lettuce cups. Use butter lettuce cups or romaine hearts to enjoy this salad as a lettuce wrap.
  • Pita bread. I like MyBread or BFREE gluten free pita breads.
  • In a wrap. I like Mission GF tortillas, and have been loving EggLife egg white wraps, too!
  • With crackers. Simple Mills almond crackers are great for turning this salad into a tasty dip.
  • Over greens. Scoop over a bed of greens for a protein-packed salad.

Great for Meal Prep

Since this chicken chickpea salad is plant-based, it will keep really well in the fridge for 5 days / the typical work week. That said, feel free to portion the vegan chicken salad into individual-sized storage containers and keep in the fridge for grab and go lunches.

This recipe also makes for AWESOME mason jar salads! Scoop the smashed chickpea salad into the bottom of a 16oz wide-mouth mason jar then pack the rest of the jar full of greens (arugula is super tasty.) When it’s time to eat, pour the mixture into a bowl then dig in.

chickpea chicken salad in a mixing bowl

How to make Chickpea “Chicken” Salad

Start by adding a drained and rinsed can of chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) into a large bowl.

cooked garbanzo beans in a mixing bowl

Use the back of a fork or a potato masher to mash them up. I like to mash nearly all the chickpeas up, but feel free to leave some whole / chunky if you prefer.

smashed garbanzo beans in a mixing bowl

You’ll see the peels pull away from the beans as you mash — it’s FINE. Resist the temptation to pull them out — you won’t notice them in the final salad!

smashed chickpeas in a mixing bowl

To the mashed chickpeas add minced onion or shallot, minced celery, minced pickles, fresh dill (dried dill pictured here), vegan mayo, dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, then mix the ingredients well to combine.

As you can see, all the crunchy ingredients are finely minced so each bite is full of crunch!

Ingredients for smashed chickpea salad in a mixing bowl

That’s all she wrote — told you this was a simple dish! My advice is to RUN to the kitchen to raid the fridge and pantry and whip up this simple, vegan version of chicken salad ASAP. Let me know what think – enjoy!

Chickpea chicken salad on a piece of gluten-free toast

More Easy Lunch Ideas

Chickpea “Chicken” Salad


Chickpea “Chicken” Salad will trick your tastebuds in the very best way. This easy chickpea recipe is a fabulous plant-based, protein-packed lunch option!


  • 15oz can reduced sodium chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced pickles
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot or onion
  • 2 – 4 Tablespoons regular or vegan mayonnaise, depending on how creamy you like it
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh dill OR 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • For serving: lettuce wraps or cups, mixed greens, gluten free pita bread, gluten free toast, gluten free crackers


  • Add chickpeas to a large mixing bowl then use a potato masher or the back of a fork to smash 3/4 of them. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl then stir to combine. Taste then add more mayonnaise for creaminess or lemon juice for brightness. Serve with your choice of base or cracker. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats,

Photo collage of chickpea chicken salad

Photos by Ashley McLaughlin


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