Add a plant-based option to your weekly meal prep with this Make-Ahead Vegan Chickpea Salad. This gluten-free dairy-free salad is loaded with veggies, herbs and chickpeas, covered in a simple lemon cumin dressing you’ll love!
Chickpeas are growing on me. As long they’ve got some flavor, and the ratio of chickpeas to other ingredients is just right, count me in. Plus, we all need to embrace more plant-based protein options. The extra veggies in this salad are just an added benefit!
This fresh and vibrant salad features tons of veggies including red and yellow bell peppers, radishes, cherry tomatoes, red onions, plus chopped parsley and cilantro. The Middle Eastern-inspired spices in the dressing coat the chickpeas and veggies, while the lemon keeps it bright and punchy.
Not only are chickpeas an incredible plant-based protein, but they hold up in the fridge and work really well as leftovers. This means they’re just what this chef ordered for make-ahead meal options that are easy and make you feel good!
Total Time: 20 minutes
Method: No Heat
Prep: Make-Ahead Friendly
What are the ingredients in this Vegan Chickpea Salad?
If you’re already familiar with vegetarian and vegan cooking, the ingredients in this recipe won’t come as a surprise to you. There’s lots of veggies, and a simple olive oil based dressing. All of these ingredients can be found at your local grocery store.
Here are all the ingredients I used in this recipe and a little info on each:
- chickpeas – Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are the base of this salad, providing protein to satiate, a creamy texture, and a mild earthy flavor.
- red onion – I absolutely love the trick of soaking red onions slices in cold water to reduce the strong onion bite. After soaking, the onion taste almost sweet, with their flavor shining through.
- tomatoes – Ripe and firm tomatoes are the best for this recipe. Anything too squishy will add too much liquid to the salad. You can also deseed the tomatoes to reduce moisture for best salad quality.
- radishes – This root veggie is perfect for make-ahead salads. It doesn’t add any extra moisture and holds up really well in the fridge. Plus, it adds a nice crunch to the salad.
- red & yellow bell pepper – Red and yellow bell peppers add color, crunch, and the mildest sweet flavor to the salad. You could also use orange. Green has a much milder flavor, but you can use it if that’s all you have!
- parsley & cilantro – Fresh herbs add incredible freshness, aroma and flavor that you can’t get any other way. Curly parsley is preferred over flat for this recipe, but either will work!
- lemon – You’ll need the zest and juice of a medium sized lemon. The lemon is super important. It serves as a base for the dressing (with olive oil) and provides a bright and zesty flavor to the salad.
- extra virgin olive oil – Smooth and rich EVOO is the best dressing base there is. Don’t swap with any other oils!
- red wine vinegar – Along with the olive oil and lemon, red wine vinegar adds additional acid and a bright punchy fruit note to the dressing.
- Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes – Just a small amount of spice in this salad comes from dried peppers. Either one of these options works really well. Red pepper flakes are about twice as spicy as Aleppo pepper flakes.
- ground cumin – Along with the pepper you have on hand, cumin brings a savory spice to the salt, which contrasts well with the lemon and fresh veggies.
- sea salt – A bit of salt brings all the components of this salad together: the acid from the lemon, richness from the olive oil, and all the fresh flavors of each vegetable.
How do you make this Vegan Chickpea Salad?
The most important thing to remember as you make this recipe is this: less moisture overall helps the salad stay more fresh and crisp in the fridge as it sits. With that being said, I like to start making this salad by working on the components that need to dry longest, first. In this case, the chickpeas and the red onions.
First, open the can of chickpeas and rinse them well. Strain as much excess water off as possible (I use a fine mesh strainer), then spread the chickpeas out on a paper towel. Use another paper towel to blot and dry off the chickpeas as well as you can.
Next is the red onions. Peel the onion and slice it into half moons, as thin as you can. Let the red onion slices soak in a bowl of cold water to remove their bite as you prepare the rest of the veggies.
The most time consuming part of this recipe? The chopping. But it goes quick if you focus and turn on some music! First, chop the tomatoes and radishes. Then core and de-seed the bell pepper before chopping them into a small dice similar in size to the radish and tomato pieces. Chop up the herbs as well.
My preferred way to mix up a dressing is to use a mason jar and shake it together. But a small bowl and a whisk will do well too! Combine all the dressing ingredients together and whisk or shake until it’s completely combined.
After all the ingredients are prepared, transfer the dried chickpeas to a large bowl. Drain the onion slices and remove as much moisture as possible. You can turn them over onto a paper towel and dry them in a similar method to the chickpeas. Add the onions and the rest of the chopped herbs and vegetables. Stir in the dressing until everything is well coated.
Grab a spoon and give the salad a taste. Add more salt if the salad is missing a savory note, more lemon juice if lacking brightness, and more extra virgin olive oil if it needs a little more richness, which will depend on the quality of the chickpeas you started with.
You can keep the salad in the mixing bowl with lid, or portion it out into meal prep containers at this point (all going in the fridge of course). If there’s a lot of extra liquid pooled at the bottom already, try not to add it to the meal prep containers if you can.
Can I use avocado oil instead of extra virgin olive oil?
I would not use avocado oil for this recipe. Since there’s no cooking involved and the oil is used in the dressing, we want something rich and flavorful. Extra virgin olive oil is the best for this!
Best tips for making this Vegan Chickpea Salad:
While there is no heat or cooking in this recipe, there are a couple important preparation steps you shouldn’t skip!
- As you prepare the recipe, keep in mind that less moisture is better for the final salad, especially if you’re planning to eat it over the next couple of days. Dry all produce and herbs really well after rinsing or soaking.
- If your tomatoes are soft or extra juicy, I recommend deseeding them, or removing the juicy, seedy centers, before adding them to the salad.
- Follow the order of the preparation steps so that the chickpeas and onions can dry and soak while you prep the rest of the veggies and dressing.
Ways to customize this Make-Ahead Vegan Chickpea Salad:
Here are a few ways to customize this salad and make it your own:
- Add cucumber or other veggies. Just be sure to add any of these ‘moister’ veggies right when you serve the dish.
- If you aren’t vegan, I think adding some chopped grilled chicken or canned tuna over this salad would be wonderful!
- Another idea for vegetarians: this salad would be amazing with some feta or goat cheese on top!
- Instead of making this a full make-ahead meal, serve this versatile salad as a make-ahead side with lunch or dinner to get more veggies in the meal.
How do you meal prep this Vegan Chickpea Salad?
Here are a couple ideas on how to meal prep or make portions of this recipe ahead of time at your house:
- Prep for now & later: Prepare the recipe as written and enjoy a portion now while saving the rest for additional meals in the next 3 days.
- Complete prep & portion: Prepare the recipe as written and portion the salad into airtight meal prep containers to be enjoyed within the next 3 days.
Is this recipe freezer-friendly?
No, I would not recommend freezing this salad due to the fresh vegetables and herbs. It would not thaw well.
How to store Make-Ahead Vegan Chickpea Salad:
Store this salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Give it a quick stir before serving leftovers to disperse the dressing.
Add a plant-based option to your weekly meal prep with this Make-Ahead Vegan Chickpea Salad. This gluten-free dairy-free salad is loaded with veggies, herbs and chickpeas, covered in a simple lemon and cumin dressing you’ll love!
For the salad:
- 1– (15.5 ounce) can chickpeas
- 1/2 small red onion
- 1 1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1 small bunch radishes (5–7 radishes)
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1/2 cup curly parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
For the dressing:
- zest of 1 medium lemon
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus extra to taste
- fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Prepare the chickpeas: Drain the chickpeas and rinse well. Strain excess water off, then spread the chickpeas out on a paper towel. Use another paper towel to pat the chickpeas on top and remove as much water as possible.
- Prepare the onions: Peel the onion before slicing into very thin half moons. Leave the slices to soak in a bowl of cold water to remove their bite as you prepare the rest of the veggies.
- Prepare the veggies: Chop the tomatoes and radishes. Core and de-seed the bell pepper before chopping them into a small dice similar in size to the radish and tomato pieces. Chop the herbs as well.
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl or jar with lid, combine all the dressing ingredients together and whisk or shake until combined.
- Assemble the salad: Transfer the dried chickpeas to a large bowl. Drain the onion slices and remove as much moisture as possible using a paper towel before adding them to the bowl, along with the rest of the chopped herbs and vegetables. Stir in the dressing until everything is well coated.
- Serve & store: Add more salt if the salad is missing a savory note, more lemon juice if lacking brightness, and more extra virgin olive oil if it needs a little more richness, which will depend on the quality of the chickpeas you started with. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge and enjoy within 3 days.
Cucumber: 2 cups of diced cucumber (approx. 1 English cucumber) is a delicious addition if you’re serving this salad right away. But if you’re prepping this ahead, leave the cucumber out, as it will make the chickpea salad too watery and wet once it has sat in the fridge for a while.
Tomatoes: You can use larger tomatoes in this recipe, but remove the seeds before chopping to reduce excess moisture from the salad.
Nutrition information estimated with My Fitness Pal.
- Serving Size: ~2 cups
- Calories: 296
- Fat: 14g
- Carbohydrates: 39g
- Fiber: 12g
- Protein: 11g
Recipe developed by Rachel Phipps.