Get ready to ditch the croutons for this crispy salad topper.

By Zoe Denenberg
June 09, 2021
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As a kid who was allergic to peanuts and averse to cold cuts, I've always had to be creative when it comes to packed lunches. My childhood can be marked by my many lunch phases: the Ritz crackers sandwiched with sun-nut butter of seventh grade, the red velvet-flavored yogurts of freshman year. Now a grown adult, I pay special attention to lunch. Some may treat lunch as a throw-away meal-merely intended to carry you through the day-but I firmly believe that lunch should be just as exciting as any other meal. I've tried countless meal prep tactics to turn lunchtime into an occasion, but today I'm letting you in on my latest obsession: Crispy chickpeas.

When it comes to meal prep, my go-to option is a salad. It's quick, easy, healthy, and more often than not doesn't require any cooking at all. As I've leaned into the lunchtime salad routine, I've found quite a few ways to change up my salads to bring a little more excitement to the day. Fearing the dreaded lunch rut, I challenge myself to prepare a different salad each week. Some weeks, I'll adorn arugula with roasted sweet potatoes, dried cranberries, and toasted pepitas; others, I'll toss kale with Caesar dressing and Parmesan. The one constant that carries through all of my salads, though, is crispy chickpeas.

It's time to ditch the croutons: Crispy chickpeas are the instant upgrade that your work-week salad routine needs. While croutons add a welcome note of crunch, they don't do much to enhance the flavor of the salad. Not only do crispy chickpeas add flavor-there are countless ways to spice them, a few of which I discuss below-but they also deliver a boost of plant-based protein. I've never been a fan of dry, cold chicken breast as a salad accoutrement; crispy chickpeas serve a similar role, adding substance but also textural contrast.

Cucumber-Chickpea Salad with Feta-Mint Vinaigrette
Credit: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

How to Make Crispy Chickpeas

  1. Preheat your oven to 400° and line a sheet tray with parchment paper.
  2. Drain and rinse two cans of chickpeas in a colander, then dry them well with a paper towel (the drier you get the chickpeas, the crispier they'll be-I'll usually dry them once in the colander, then again on the sheet tray).
  3. Pour the chickpeas onto the prepared sheet tray, drizzle them with a nice glug of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss it all together.
  4. Roast the chickpeas in the oven for around 30 minutes, tossing them every 10 minutes until they're golden and perfectly crisp.

If you want to season your chickpeas with additional spices, prepare the spice blend in a large bowl while your chickpeas are roasting. If you add the spices before roasting, they may burn in the oven-instead, after removing the chickpeas from the oven, let them cool for a minute, then carefully toss the warm chickpeas in your chosen spice blend. To match my kale Caesar, I'll season my chickpeas with garlic powder and onion powder. Another favorite is ranch-seasoned chickpeas-simply toss the warm chickpeas with a packet of ranch seasoning, or if you're feeling fancy, make your own ranch spice blend.

Crispy chickpeas are the crown jewel of our Cucumber-Chickpea Salad with Feta-Mint Vinaigrette; they pair beautifully with a variety of seasonal flavors. I'll prepare a big batch of crispy chickpeas each week, selecting a spice palate that complements my chosen salad. I prefer to roast my own chickpeas and customize the flavors-the whole process takes around 30 minutes-but if you're short on time, you can buy pre-packaged crispy chickpeas at the grocery store (you can even order a 6-pack of various flavors on Amazon). I'll snack on these all day long.