A Creamy Buffalo Chickpea Salad That Just Happens to Be Vegan

June  4, 2018

The challenge: Make a salad that’s hearty enough to be a meal and delicious enough to be (shhh!) vegan. Mission impossible: accepted.

To get things started, I mapped out the ideal components of any good salad. For me, it comes down to three things: the protein, the dressing, and the greens. The protein should be a bit sparse but pack a flavorful punch. The dressing should complement but also contrast the flavor of the protein. And the greens, including whatever other vegetables you want to add in, should hold up to the salad dressing and add texture.

Photo by James Ransom

The protein: Whenever I’m in need of a protein-rich addition to any salad, I tend to grab a can of chickpeas. They’re super-inexpensive and require minimal effort. I think it’s fair to say that a plain chickpea tossed into a salad wouldn’t be enough for this challenge. I really wanted to spice things up. So I sauteed the chickpeas in a little olive oil with a heaping glug of hot sauce. That’s it. No need to overcomplicate things, right?

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The dressing: Frankly, it would be sinful to serve Buffalo-spiced anything without ranch. The obvious problem: Ranch dressing isn’t vegan. But luckily I had an ingredient up my sleeve with the ability to produce a cool and creamy dressing that’s still, somehow, dairy-free. Cashews. I blended up a handful of the nuts with lemon juice, oil, and a splash of water. Once it got thick and creamy, I added in some chopped herbs and seasoned it well.

The salad: Another sin in the Buffalo-ranch Bible would be to serve this salad without carrots and celery. So I thinly cut some celery and julienned a couple carrots, but you could grate the carrots to save time. I also added sliced radish for spicy crunch and tossed it all in a big bowl with baby kale—but, really, you could use whatever hearty green you like.

This is also vegetarian!

I gave the salad a few tosses with the dressing and dished it up with a big spoonful of the red-hot chickpeas on top. The result: a nostalgically whimsical salad that’s at once craveworthy, super-hearty and, yes, shockingly vegan.

Mission accomplished.

What's important to YOU in a salad? Tell us in the comments below.

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Grant Melton is an Emmy Award-Winning producer, recipe developer and food writer. His favorite food is chocolate chip cookies (with salt.)