Crispy Pesto Chickpea Kale Orzo Salad (Vegan Gluten-Free)

This Crispy Pesto Chickpea Orzo Kale Salad is packed with massaged kale, olives, tomatoes and a simple lemon vinaigrette dressing. Add on some protein-filled crunchy chickpeas for a delicious vegan and gluten-free lunch or dinner.

I love a good chickpea salad, from crunchy chickpeas and croutons to adding in juicy legumes to lettuce bowls, chickpeas are so versatile. For this salad, I wanted to turn them into crispy little bites, which I just love. The key is a tasty red tomato pesto which adds tons of flavour to each little chickpea. Serve these with a zesty zingy kale salad, some cooked orzo and vegetables and this vegan and gluten-free meal-worthy salad is ready in less than 30 minutes.

Tossed together Crispy Pesto Chickpea Orzo Salad with two forks
Crispy Pesto Chickpea Kale Orzo Salad

Why will I love this salad?

This orzo salad is fantastic for so many reasons, it is:

  • Light, hearty and wholesome
  • Zingy, rich and zesty
  • Packed with Mediterranean flavours from olives, artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes
  • Full of texture and crunch
  • Packed with protein-rich chickpeas
  • Features lots of fibrous and healthy kale
  • So much better than your usual kale salad
  • Great for meal prep as it keeps for 2-3 days
  • High in protein, fibre and vibrancy
  • Naturally vegan and nut-free
  • Easily gluten-free

If you already love this salad then skip ahead to the recipe card below. Or, first, let’s discuss the recipe in more detail.

What ingredients do I need?

The ingredients for this salad are easy to find.

Let’s start with the chickpeas and dressing:

  • Chickpeas: I love the plump, larger chickpeas from Bold Bean Co, which I have used here. They come in glass jars and are the best quality chickpeas I have tried, but tinned chickpeas are also fine. Drain away the liquid (known as aquafaba – which you can save to make Swiss roll cakes, frostings and brownies) and pat the chickpeas dry.
  • Vegan tomato pesto: I love the vegan tomato pesto from Sacla’ which has tons of flavour and is so good for these chickpeas. You can also use a green pesto (make sure it is vegan and nut-free where needed) or make your own Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto or Sunflower Seed Pesto here.
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper: for tossing and seasoning.
  • Lemon: fresh lemon juice is so great for dressings.
  • Garlic: for flavour and slight heat and tang for the dressing.
  • Nutritional yeast: this adds a lovely savoury richness to the dressing without making it taste cheesy. If you don’t have any, then you can leave it out.

As for the rest of the orzo salad:

  • Orzo: this little pasta is like rice in shape and size, but is made from wheat, like regular pasta. I love the texture and bite it adds to salads, making them more filling and meal-worthy. Make sure you use gluten-free orzo (or other small pasta shapes) where needed.
  • Kale: I just love a good kale salad and the trick is to massage it well beforehand. This wilts the leaves, softening them and making them easier to digest and tastier. I love dinosaur kale but curly kale is also great.
  • Apple cider vinegar: add this (along with some salt) to the kale as you massage it as the acidity helps to soften the leaves more.
  • Olives: I like green olives, but the black ones are delicious, too.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes: these add tons of flavour. chop them up small to add flavour to every mouthful.
  • Grilled artichokes: these are the ones you find in oil and often herbs and are so delicious. If you are not a fan, you can add more olives and/or sun-dried tomatoes instead.
  • Plum or cherry tomatoes: add freshness and juiciness to the salad.
  • Mixed seeds: for crunch, healthy fats and by using seeds, we also keep this salad nut-free. I used a seed mix, but you can use any seeds.
  • Freshly chopped basil: for some extra Mediterranean flavour.
  • Microgreens or sprouts: these are little powerhouses of nutrients and you can either grown your own or find them in the supermarkets. My ones are from Good4U and are so delicious.

How do I make this?

You can prepare this salad in a few steps:

  • Toss the chickpeas with the pesto: and roast or air fry till crispy.
  • Prepare the dressing: by tossing together all the ingredients.
  • Cook the orzo: till al dente.
  • Massage the kale to soften the leaves: and chop all the other components.
  • Toss together all the salad ingredients: and pour in the dressing.
  • Serve straight away: or keep for lunches and leftovers for the next 2-3 days.

Is this gluten-free and nut-free?

This is easily gluten-free, please use orzo (or other pasta) that is gluten-free. To keep this nut-free, make sure your pesto does not contain nuts. My Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto here uses sunflower seed instead.

How long will this last?

Once tossed together, keep this salad in a sealed container in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Two spoons in a bowl of Crispy Pesto Chickpea Orzo Salad
Crispy Pesto Chickpea Kale Orzo Salad

What other salads can I make?

If you are looking for more meal prep and meal-worthy salads, how about my:

Tossed together Crispy Pesto Chickpea Orzo Salad with two forks

Crispy Pesto Chickpea Orzo Kale Salad

Yield: 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

This Crispy Pesto Chickpea Orzo Kale Salad is packed with massaged kale, olives, tomatoes and a simple lemon vinaigrette dressing. Add on some protein-filled crunchy chickpeas for a delicious vegan and gluten-free lunch or dinner.


For the Chickpeas:

  • 200g chickpeas, drained weight
  • 1 tbsp vegan tomato pesto
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper

For the Orzo:

  • 100g orzo pasta (or other small pasta, gluten-free where needed)
  • 80g cavolo nero, or regular kale (de-stemmed weight)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 60g olives, sliced
  • 60g sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 60g grilled artichokes (in oil), roughly chopped
  • 120g cherry or plum tomatoes, in ¼ or ½
  • 2 tbsp mixed seeds
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped basil
  • Microgreens or sprouts, optional

For the Dressing:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • Salt and pepper


  1. For the chickpeas: preheat the air fryer to 180ºC (or preheat the oven to 160Fan/180ºC) and line a tray with parchment paper. Pat the chickpeas dry and then toss the chickpeas with the pesto in a small bowl, and then transfer to the lined tray. Lightly spray or brush with olive oil then air fry for 20 minutes (or bake for 25-30 minutes) until crispy, stirring halfway through.
  2. For the dressing: use the same bowl as above, without washing it out, and add all the dressing ingredients. Whisk well.
  3. For the orzo: cook the orzo pasta according to pack instructions, drain and leave to one side to cool slightly.
  4. For the kale: roughly chop the kale and add to a large mixing bowl with a pinch of salt and the apple cider vinegar. Massage with your hands for 30 seconds, until the leaves soften.
  5. To serve the salad: into the bowl with the kale, add the olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, plum tomatoes, seeds, chopped basil and microgreens. Add the chickpeas and pour in the dressing. Give it all a good toss and serve straight away,
  6. To store: keep leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for 2-3 days. If you want to keep the chickpeas crispy, store these separately and stir these in just before serving.

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I look forward to hearing what you think of this Crispy Pesto Chickpea Orzo Kale Salad so please let me know in the comments below and leave a star review above. If you do make this salad, I’d love to see so please tag me in your creations, I’m @nourishing.amy on Instagram and use the hashtag #nourishingamy. I’m also on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest  – please say hello!

With pesto chickpea orzo love x

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