Chickpea Salad with Pesto might just be the perfect salad, perfect for family meals, potlucks and working lunches alike. This deliciously colorful Mediterranean bean salad should be a staple in any healthy meal plan.
Can a salad be perfect? I guess so, because this one checks all the boxes~
- it’s super healthy: legumes like chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are nutritional powerhouses.
- it’s super convenient, the beans and olives are right in the pantry, the crisp veggies are staples, and the pesto, pine nuts, and little mozzarella pearls are a quick grocery store pick up.
- it’s year round, perfect for a summer potluck or a January side dish.
- it keeps well in the fridge making it ideal for packable lunches all week.
- it’s gorgeous, which makes it fun to make, share, and eat.
- it’s adaptable ~ add in or leave out ingredients as you like, i.e. feta for mozzarella, green olives for black, cannellini beans for garbanzos, etc.
Are you in a health quandry? Beans are the answer!
So many of us constantly wonder what’s healthy, what’s not, and how to adjust our diets so that we can still enjoy our food and be reasonably certain we’re doing the right thing. We all sort of know we’re supposed to eat more fruits and veggies, but don’t forget the beans!
Beans (legumes) are high in protein and fiber, full of vitamins and antioxidants, low in fat. Beans are a complex carbohydrate that helps keep you feeling fuller longer.
“It seems clear that replacing red meat with legumes can reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease and even certain forms of cancer” ~ Harvard Health Watch
The problem is that a lot of people don’t know how to include beans in their diet, and that’s where this type of easy bean salad comes in. I make a big one on the weekend and we can eat it for days.
Are canned beans as healthy as dried beans?
- I say yes, canned and dried beans are about the same nutritionally except for one important detail: sodium. Canned beans are much higher in sodium because of the canning process.
- Canned beans are so much more convenient than dried, so in my opinion, they’re the best choice.
- Remember, the healthiest beans are the ones you actually eat!
Does rinsing get rid of the sodium in canned beans?
- Yes, some of it! Draining well and rinsing under the faucet for one minute will remove much of the sodium, but not all. Depending on what source you look at, between 26 and 50% of the sodium in the beans will be removed by thorough rinsing.
- If you’re watching your salt intake, look for low sodium canned beans.
I’ve done quite a few beans salads here on the blog because we actually love them and them a lot. The detail that distinguishes this one is the bright pesto dressing. I was inspired by a Lebanese bean salad we get at one of our local farmers markets. The pesto makes a really nice change from vinaigrette ~ it’s less tart and somehow makes the salad a little more hearty and satisfying. The vivid basil flavor is always a bonus.
Fresh is always best…
I bought some readymade pesto from Trader Joes thinking I would use it for this salad (if any of you are regulars you might have seen Saturday’s post about the things I always buy from Trader Joe’s.) Their pesto actually didn’t make that list, and it became clear to me why, when I opened it and tasted it prior to dressing the salad. It just isn’t great, the flavor is off, it doesn’t taste fresh or even particularly basil-y to me.
So I grabbed something that DID make the list, my living basil plant, mowed off all the stems, and popped them into my processor with a clove of garlic, a glug of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, a few scrapes of Parmesan cheese, and a pinch of salt. Now I had the pesto dressing of my dreams :)
Excuse me while I go polish off my lunch…
Reader Rave ~
“I made this last night and am eating more for lunch as I write this! I think you are right that this might be the perfect dish! So easy, tasty and healthy. I am fortunate that I can buy homemade pesto at my local farmers market, which made it that much easier and it’s a genius idea to use pesto as the dressing. This is a keeper!” ~ Nancy
Chickpea Salad with Pesto
- 2 15- ounce cans chickpeas drained and well rinsed
- 1 cup finely diced bell peppers assorted colors
- 1/2 cup thin sliced Persian cucumber these are the small ones, do not peel
- 1/2 cup small mozzarella pearls
- 1/2 cup halved or quartered cherry tomatoes assorted colors
- 1/3 cup quartered small radishes
- 1/3 cup diced black olives
- 1/4 cup finely minced red onion
- fresh cracked black pepper
pesto dressing (this will make more than you need, use the rest on pasta!)
- 2 large handfuls fresh basil leaves and part of the stems I used my whole TJs basil plant
- 1 small garlic clove smashed and peel removed
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- a good grating of fresh Parmesan as much or as little as you like
- 1/4 cup olive oil give or take
- salt to taste
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts toast in a little olive oil in a skillet for several minutes, stirring constantly until they turn nutty brown.
- lemon wedges
- Put the drained, rinsed, and dried chickpeas in a large salad bowl along with the rest of the salad ingredients.
- To make the pesto dressing, process the basil, garlic, and lemon briefly until it breaks down into a thick paste. Add the cheese and enough olive oil to make a loose pourable consistency. Add salt to taste, and more cheese, and/or lemon if you like.
- Toss the salad with just enough pesto to thoroughly coat everything. Serve topped with the toasted pine nuts, a good grinding of fresh cracked pepper, and accompanied by a couple of lemon wedges.
More healthy bean salads if you’re ready to take the ‘eat more beans’ challenge ~