Recipe Review

Crunchy Za’atar Chickpeas Are a Superior Salad Topper

published Feb 7, 2023
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Brussels Sprouts salad topped with crunchy chickpea salad topping.
Credit: Patty Catalano

Food trends have to be compelling to kick me out of my culinary status quo. I skipped butter boards in favor of traditional charcuterie and cheese plates, but fell hard for the viral Cinnabon-style cinnamon roll hack and the ingenious fried egg salad. This winter I noticed an uptick in baked salads on my feed, but I held off until last week. It wasn’t the actual salad that made me jump on board, however. While Justine Doiron of Justine Snacks’ recipe for baked Brussels sprout salad did look delicious on its own, it was the crunchy za’atar chickpea topper that sent me scrambling over to the grocery store. Here’s what I thought about this crouton-free crispy salad topper.

How to Make Justine Snacks’ Za’atar Chickpeas 

Start by draining and rinsing a can of chickpeas. Shake off any excess water or use a clean kitchen towel to dry the chickpeas well. Add the chickpeas to a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, and pulse until they are broken down into rice-sized pieces, or crumbs. Do not purée or over-process into a paste. 

Transfer the chickpea crumbles to an unlined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil (I used 1 tablespoon), a generous pinch of kosher salt, and za’atar seasoning. Toss with your hands to coat the chickpeas in the seasoning then spread into an even layer. Bake in a 400°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the chickpeas are golden-brown, dry, and crunchy. 

Credit: Patty Catalano

My Honest Review of Justine Snacks’ Za’atar Chickpeas 

What really makes a great salad is the interplay of flavor and texture. That is what makes a Cobb salad so satisfying, and why I usually opt for a chopped salad over one made of leafy greens alone. I have relied on crispy cheese, croutons, and toasted breadcrumbs for a highly seasoned, crunchy finish in the past, but after just one bite, these crunchy chickpeas have stolen my heart. 

I reach into my pantry for canned chickpeas when I am in need of a quick dinner or a make-ahead lunch. I have even roasted them whole for a crunchy snack, but until now I had never thought to process the beans into crumbs and bake them until dry and crisp. These chickpea crumbles are a different kind of crunchy than the crispness of romaine or crunch of baked Brussels sprouts, and that gives a fresh or baked salad extra appeal. I was wary of the amount of za’atar seasoning blend Justine recommends, but it was spot-on. The chickpea crumbles are perfect for adding an extra boost of fiber and protein to any kind of salad, while also being a crunchy topper that even gluten-free friends can enjoy.

Credit: Patty Catalano

If You’re Making Za’atar Chickpeas, a Few Tips 

  1. Dry chickpeas well. Removing excess moisture from the chickpeas before processing helps keep them from turning into a paste and encourages browning and crisping. 
  2. Pulse, but do not process. Use 5 to 6 (1-second) pulses to break the chickpeas down into rice-sized crumbles. Overprocessing will turn the chickpeas to a paste.
  3. Experiment with other seasonings. Swap the za’atar seasoning for your favorite spice blend. Italian, Cajun, Greek, and even taco seasoning can add flavor to the chickpea crumbles.
  4. Cool on the sheet pan. The chickpeas will continue to crisp as they cool, especially if left on the baking sheet. Once completely cool, store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.