Creamy, crunchy with a hint of sweet, this Vegetarian and Vegan Chicken Salad recipe (aka chickpea salad with pecans and grapes) is a twist on the classic. Like my Smashed Chickpea Salad, it’s delicious on a bed of greens shared with crackers, as a sandwich, cute little tea sandwiches or stuffed into pita bread. Versatile and such a delight, this recipe is vegetarian, vegan and gluten free.
This recipe was first published in 2017 and has been updated September 2022 with additional recipe notes. The original recipe is unchanged.
Why You’ll Love This Vegan Chickpea Chicken Salad
No chicken here! Just classic ingredients in a not so classic mash-up. But I love this reinvented version even better. Here’s why you should give it a go:
- Easy To Make
- Simple Ingredients – with delicious variations/subs
- Hearty and Satisfying
Let’s DO this!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Cooked Chickpeas – Use canned or homemade.
- Mayonnaise – To keep it vegan, I like Vegenaise, but for a vegetarian option, enjoy with your favorite mayo.
- Lemon – You’ll use zest and juice.
- Onions – The recipe calls for both red onion and chives. They both add texture and flavor to this tasty vegan chicken salad.
- Celery – For the crunch!
- Toasted Pecans – You’ll give em a quick toast. They add earthy flavor and texture to this smash-up.
- Grapes – Choose red for color. They’re the sweet component in this recipe (but there’s more options below – read on!).
- Parsley – A nice touch for color and flavor, but is optional.
Quick Guide: How to Make Vegetarian Chicken Salad
Get your potato masher out for ease of making and snappy clean up! Here’s how to pull this delicious vegetarian chicken salad with chickpeas together (see recipe card for details):
- First, toast the pecans.
- Second, in a bowl, add cooked chickpeas. Stir in a bit of vegan mayo, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper.
- Next, mash it up! But not too much. Just enough until it’s still a bit chunky.
- Last, toss in the onions, celery, toasted pecans, grapes, chives and parsley. Give it a mix and taste for seasoning/lemon adjustment.
See all the ways to share vegan chicken salad below!
Variations on Mock Chicken Salad
There are delicious ways to switch up this vegan and vegetarian chicken salad. Try em’ all to see which one curls your toes! Here are some ideas:
Apples – Instead of grapes, try adding diced apples instead. Chop em’ small for best texture.
Cherries – fresh pitted bing cherries subbed for grapes are a delight when in season.
Dried Fruit – This is another sweet component. So sub the grapes for dried cranberries or dried cherries. It’s such a nice surprise.
Walnuts – Try subbing walnuts for pecans. They’re fabulous with apples!
Technique: Food Processor vs Potato Masher
You may be thinking, why not just throw all the ingredients in a food processor? Just like in my other chickpea salad smash-ups, I’ve tried it and the texture of hand mashing is superior to a food processor.
Here’s why: the food processor creates little sharp edges from the slicing action of the blades resulting in a less creamy texture. Mashing the chickpeas offers a much softer mouthfeel, almost creamy yet still with good texture.
This mini masher is similar to the one I use. It’s fantastic for things like this Creamy Guacamole Recipe too!
How to Share Vegan Chickpea Chicken Salad
- Sandwich Filling – this salad makes a perfect sandwich. Share simply between two slices of your favorite Multigrain Bread, Multigrain Sourdough, or Gluten Free Sourdough. Top with juicy tomatoes and lettuce, microgreens or sprouts.
- Pita Sandwiches – if you love pita bread fillings, this smash-up is a delicious in pita. If you’re into sourdough, give my Sourdough Pita Bread a go with these. It’s SO good!
- Tea Sandwiches – Cut Multigrain Bread thin, remove the crust because tea sandwiches must be fussy, and slather a few tablespoons of this chickpea salad on one side. Sandwich the two pieces together then cut in half.
- Simply Chickpea Chicken Salad – Lovely shared on a bed of lettuce with crunchy veggies like celery and cucumber for scooping, or share with crackers for spreading and dolloping.
- Croissant Sandwich – If you can get your hands on some really tasty croissants, it would be a fabulous vehicle for this no-chicken salad.
A Few Recipe Tips
- Make it Vegetarian: Use your favorite classic egg based mayo brand instead of vegan mayo.
- Use a potato masher instead of a food processor for best texture.
- Make Ahead? Yes Please! For best flavor, make at least an hour ahead of when you plan on sharing it so the flavors can marry.
- Freezer Friendly? Unfortunately this recipe loses its texture after freezing and thawing. Enjoy within about three days for best flavor and texture.
More Vegetarian Sandwiches to Love
- Mushroom Goat Cheese Panini Sandwich
- Greek Pita Sandwiches
- Italian Pressed Sandwich
- Smashed Pimento Chickpea Sandwich
- Pulled Portobello BBQ Sandwich
Vegan Chicken Salad with Chickpeas Recipe
- 1/4 cup (35 grams) Pecans
- 1 1/2 cups (230 grams) Cooked Chickpeas one can, drained and rinsed
- 4 tablespoons (60 grams) Mayonnaise I like Vegenaise
- 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoons Fine Sea Salt
- 1/2 Lemon zested and juiced, add to taste
- 2 tablespoons Red Onion chopped fine
- 1/4 cup (30 grams) Celery chopped fine
- 1/3 cup (60 grams) Red Grapes quartered
- 2 teaspoons Chives chopped fine
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Fresh Curly Parsley chopped fine
- Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- Oven or Stovetop Oven: Preheat oven to 325F (162C).* Place the pecans in a small pan and toast for 15 minutes. They will be fragrant and slightly darker in color when done. Stovetop: Dry toast the pecans in a pan on low heat for about four to five minutes, tossing frequently or until fragrant and slightly darker. Just keep an eye on them because they can burn quick!Set aside to cool, then chop into small pieces.
- In a medium mixing bowl, add the chickpeas, mayonnaise, salt and pepper, lemon zest and juice (add a little, then more to taste). Smash with a potato masher just until creamy with some whole peas left. The mixutre will be pretty loose at this point but will thicken once the remaining bits get added in.
- Fold in the red onion, celery, grapes, chives and parsley. Generously add fresh ground pepper then taste for seasoning/lemon adjustment.
- Rest salad in the refrigerator for at least an hour if you can, then assemble as a dip, on a sandwich, tea sandwiches, or simply on a bed of lettuce.
- Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
I tweaked this a bit, and it was DELICIOUS!! Cooked the chickpeas with a bit of poultry seasoning and about 1/4c of Better than Boullion Roasted chicken broth and seasoned them with montral steak seasoning to give them a more chicken like flavor. Also added a tablespoon each of sweet and dill relish. We can’t stop eating it!!
Oh my, Shannon! So many good things.. Thank you for your note and tips!
The best an the dressing delicious
Thank you for your note and rating Sammi!!
How long would this keep in the fridge please?
Hi Melanie! Up to three days. I hope you love it!
Best lunch ever! Reminded us of a delicious chicken salad I used to make BV (before vegetarianism). The combination of the lemon zest and juice, celery, nuts and grapes were just the right amount of tangy, crunchy and sweet. Great job, Traci!
Hi Linda! SO excited you found this one deep in the archives :D Yes, yes, exactly the taste I was going for, and me too.. BV! Thank you for giving the salad a go and sharing your thoughts!
SO DELICIOUS! Thank you for this recipe!
Hey Christine! Hooray! Thank you for your note and giving the smash up a go. So happy to hear!
Best ever chickpea salad! I’ve tried a lot, too. I didn’t use the lemons just according to my family’s taste, and I don’t use black pepper due to reflux issues, but it still tasted fantastic. Thinking about adding a little dill next time. If using canned chickpeas, get the Goya brand. They are noticeably different than other chickpeas – much more tender and creamy. I’ll never go back to any other canned chickpea. Next best thing to cooking them from scratch.
Hi Beth! Thank you for your note, tips and giving the recipe a go! SO happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe.
vegetarian or not, everyone loves this salad (which I serve as sandwiches) and I’m always asked for the recipe! I added curry powder this time…delish!!
Hi Barbara! Thank you for coming back and leaving a note. Indeed, I find this recipe is versatile for so many diets – vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, carnivores too! I looove your addition of curry… I do that too! So happy to hear you’re enjoying the recipe and thank you for sharing!
Hi, Traci! I made this recipe and it was a successful hit with everyone. Such a great alternative to tuna or chicken. I was in Denver in July visiting my son and his family. My daughter-in-law, my granddaughter and I went to High Tea at the Brown Palace, my first time ever. It was a lovely experience and hope to do it again. The tea sandwiches and scones were delicious, not to mention the truffles for dessert.
So happy to hear the news, Claudia! Oh my… those truffles would hook me. I might even skip the sandwiches. LOL! Thank you for sharing!
Jen @ sweetgreenkitchen.com
I love this combination of flavors and textures, from the savory smashed chickpeas and the crunchy pecans with the sweet grapes, sounds delicious. Reminds me of a chicken salad with halved grapes I had on a rafting trip down the Colorado River 20+ years ago, it was a fantastic trip with amazing food and even though I no longer eat chicken I still think about that salad.
And…I love your beautiful photos.