This tasty vegan chicken salad is a perfect summer dish. Satisfying and creamy chickpeas are the main ingredient in place of chicken.
It’s inspired by a traditional chicken salad and is smothered in healthy tahini-based dressing. It is also gluten-free and has so much flavor.
Delicious on its own as a mock chicken salad, piled on top of toasted slices of bread or bundled up in lettuce wraps. Try it as a main meal, a side dish, or a feature at your summer picnics.
If you love bright and filling salads, try my pesto and couscous salad or this yummy butterbean salad with herb dressing.
Why You’ll Love This Vegan Chicken Salad
- Protein and nutrient-dense: Chickpeas are a healthy source of protein, while tahini is full of healthy antioxidants and vitamins. This salad is full of wonderful whole foods. This salad is my favorite way to load up on nutrition.
- Versatility: One of the great advantages of vegan chicken salads is the ability to incorporate multiple vegan chicken alternatives. Depending on your taste preferences or dietary requirements, you can use various plant-based chicken substitutes like soy-based products, seitan, tempeh, or even homemade jackfruit “chicken.” This versatility ensures a diverse range of flavors and textures in your salad.
- Allergy-friendly: Vegan chicken salads featuring chickpeas as the protein base can accommodate various dietary needs. They suit those with common allergies or intolerances to meat, dairy, eggs, or gluten. Using plant-based ingredients ensures a dish that is inclusive and accessible to a wide range of individuals.
- Portability: Ideal for on-the-go meals or packed lunches. Whether you’re headed to work, school, or a picnic, you can easily prepare a vegan chicken salad in advance and store it in a portable container.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Chickpeas: AKA garbanzo beans, provide a hearty texture and good protein. If you don’t have canned chickpeas, you can substitute them with cooked white beans, such as cannellini beans or navy beans. Soy curls are another option.
- Seedless red grapes: The sweet and juicy red grapes add a refreshing element to the salad. you can swap them out with diced apples, dried cranberries, or chopped dried apricots for a touch of sweetness. Green grapes go well, too!
- Celery: For crunch and a fresh flavor. Try diced cucumber or jicama for a similar crunch as alternatives.
- Green onion: Lovely and mild with a pop of color. If you don’t have green onions, you can substitute them with finely chopped red onion or chives.
- Fresh dill: You can substitute it with fresh parsley or cilantro for a different herbaceous note. If it’s your first time tasting dill, start with a little bit in this recipe.
- Tahini: It adds richness and depth of flavor to the dressing. If you don’t have tahini, you can substitute it with almond butter, cashew butter, or sunflower seed butter for a similar creamy texture and nutty taste. A little vegan mayonnaise makes a great base, too.
- Black pepper and salt: Feel free to adjust the amount to suit your taste preferences. I like using sea salt in my recipes.
- Garlic powder: If you prefer fresh garlic, you can substitute 1-2 cloves of minced garlic for the garlic powder.
- Apple cider vinegar: If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, you can substitute it with white wine vinegar or rice vinegar for a similar tanginess.
- Juice from half a lemon: Fresh is best. Use the juice of 1 lime if you don’t have lemons.
- Walnuts: Try slivered almonds or pecans if you can’t find walnuts.
Pro Tips and Tricks
- Toast the walnuts: Toasting enhances their nutty flavor and adds a delightful crunch. Spread the walnut halves on a baking sheet and toast them in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 8-10 minutes or until fragrant and slightly golden.
- Allow time for flavors to meld: Once you’ve mixed all the ingredients together, let the salad sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to an hour before serving. This allows the flavors to meld and develop, resulting in a more flavorful and cohesive salad.
- Add dressing slowly: When adding the dressing to the salad, start with a smaller amount and toss well to coat the ingredients evenly. Add more dressing as needed, ensuring that the salad is well-dressed without becoming overly soggy. It’s easier to add more dressing than to remove excess.
- For a super smooth dressing: Whizz everything up in a food processor.
- Thin back the dressing: With a little olive oil, vegan chicken broth, or a splash of cold water.
Variations and Add-Ins
- Creamy avocado: Avocado adds richness and creaminess while also providing healthy fats.
- Dil pickle or olives: For a briny kick by, including diced pickles or sliced olives.
- Fresh herbs galore: Experiment with different fresh herbs to elevate the flavor profile of your vegan chicken salad. Besides dill, try incorporating chopped fresh basil, cilantro, mint, or tarragon. These herbs add a vibrant and aromatic touch to the dish.
- Spicy kick: If you enjoy some heat, add a dash of Dijon mustard, hot sauce, sriracha, or crushed red pepper flakes to the dressing. This will give your vegan chickpea salad a spicy kick that balances well with the other flavors.
- Add in other ingredients: A great base salad to load up with other veggies. Try bell peppers or diced red onion!
- Grains or pasta: To make the salad heartier, add cooked grains like quinoa, bulgur, or farro. Alternatively, toss in cooked and cooled pasta such as rotini or bowtie. These additions add substance and make the salad more filling.
- Vegan cheese: If you enjoy a cheesy element, crumble some vegan feta cheese, sprinkle vegan Parmesan, or add cubes of vegan mozzarella to the salad. These vegan cheese options provide a savory flavor and a touch of creaminess.
Make Ahead Instruction And Storage
Make ahead instructions:
- Prepare the vegan chicken salad as directed, excluding the dressing.
- Store the salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Prepare the dressing separately and store it in a sealed jar or container.
- When ready to serve, mix the salad with the dressing, ensuring it is well-coated.
By preparing the salad and dressing separately, you can maintain the freshness and texture of the ingredients, preventing the salad from becoming soggy.
- Refrigerator: Store the prepared vegan chicken salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Remember that the salad may become slightly softer as it sits due to the moisture from the dressing and other ingredients.
- Dressing: Store the dressing separately in a sealed jar or container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Give it a good shake or stir before adding it to the salad.
- Ingredients: If you have leftover individual ingredients, such as chickpeas or grapes, store them separately in sealed containers in the refrigerator. They should remain fresh for a few days.
Can I substitute the chickpeas in the vegan chicken salad with another legume?
You can substitute chickpeas with other legumes in the vegan chicken salad. Cooked white beans, such as cannellini or navy beans, can be a suitable alternative.
Can I make the vegan chicken salad without nuts?
Absolutely! If you prefer to omit nuts from the salad, you can still enjoy a delicious vegan chicken salad. Consider incorporating diced vegetables like bell peppers or carrots for a crunchy element.
- 1/4 cup raw walnut halves
- 2 cups chickpeas, drained and rinsed if canned
- 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 large green onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
- 1/3 cup tahini
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Juice from half a lemon
- 5 tablespoons ice water
Place the chickpeas into a large mixing bowl and use a fork or your hands to smash the chickpeas. Next, add in grapes, celery, green onions, dill, and walnuts.
- Add tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the apple cider vinegar, then the ice water, and stir until smooth. Add additional ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, until you have a smooth, pourable thick dressing.
- Pour the tahini mixture over the chickpea mixture and toss to coat. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as desired. Serve inside lettuce cups or in a sandwich.
Plant-Based Chick’n Salad
- 1/4 cup raw walnut halves
- 2 cups chickpeas drained and rinsed if canned
- 1 cup seedless red grapes halved
- 3 stalks celery diced
- 1 large green onion thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp fresh dill chopped
- 1/3 cup tahini
- 1/2 tsp salt plus more to taste
- 1/2 tsp black pepper plus more to taste
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- juice from half a lemon
- 5 tbsp ice water
- Place the chickpeas, into a large mixing bowl and use a fork or your hands to smash the chickpeas. Next, add in grapes, celery, green onions, dill, and walnuts
- In a small bowl, add tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Whisk to combine. Add the apple cider vinegar, then the iced water, and stir until smooth. Add additional ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, until you have a smooth, pourable thick dressing.
- Pour the tahini mixture over the chickpea mixture and toss to coat. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as desired. Serve inside lettuce cups, or in a sandwich.