Padma Lakshmi Loves This Easy 5-Ingredient Chickpea Salad That She's Been Making for 20 Years

This easy dinner recipe uses mostly staples, so you can even keep costs down.

a photo of Padma Lakshmi alongside EatingWell's recipe photo of Chopped Salad with Chickpeas, Olives & Feta
Photo: Lakshmi: Amy Sussman/Getty Images. Recipe photo: KELSEY HANSEN.

If the January blues have you down—and looking for recipes—sometimes an injection of summer sunshine is exactly what you need. You might enjoy a big glass of vitamin C with something like our Raspberry Lemonade, or fire up the grill pan for a veggie salad, like our Grilled Summer Vegetable Gnocchi Salad. Or, if you're Padma Lakshmi, you might opt for a simple chickpea salad to add some zip to your day.

Padma is freshening up her January with a simple salad you can make with mostly pantry ingredients. With just canned chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, chives, olive oil, lemons, baby spinach and a sprinkle of salt, you'll have all the supplies you need to copy her simple recipe.

"This is a vegan recipe," Lakshmi explains in her Instagram video. "This is a way to get all the protein you need for very little effort. I'm not sure why it's so good with just boring ingredients."

If that wasn't enough to sell you on this easy recipe, Padma says she's been making this salad for 20 years after learning the recipe in Madrid. The Top Chef judge has made some tweaks—like swapping old school sautéed spinach for fresh, uncooked baby spinach—while still keeping the tapas recipe plenty delicious.

To copy this dish, rinse and dry your chickpeas and add them to a big salad bowl. Then add in lots of chopped red bell pepper—chopped to be as small as the chickpeas—and chopped chives. (Lakshmi says you can swap in scallions if that's what you have on hand.) Then dress the ingredients with the juice of 2 lemons and a generous pour of olive oil. You can determine your dressing ratio to taste. As Lakshmi says, what's most important is that you get the richness of the oil and the brightness of the lemon juice.

With your chickpeas tossed, add the baby spinach and massage everything together. The dressing will help wilt the spinach, no sautéing necessary. The final step is seasoning with a sprinkle of kosher salt and black peppercorns—with a twist. For powerfully fragrant and flavorful black pepper, Lakshmi recommends using whole peppercorns, which you can dry toast in a small pan on the stove, then grind with a mortar and pestle. Since the black pepper is the only source of heat in the recipe, using the most flavor-packed option is a good way to go.

If you're good to your salad, Lakshmi says, it will stay delicious in your fridge for up to a week. She recommends enjoying the leftovers cold or serving them over toast, like crostini. You could also pair this salad with an equally bright and citrusy soup, like our Creamy Mushroom & Orzo Soup with Lemon & Parmesan for a café menu-worthy combo.

For an added bonus, the lemon, olive oil, chickpeas, black pepper and spinach in this recipe make it a deliciously anti-inflammatory salad, as all of those ingredients have been tied to decreasing inflammation. Depending on what you have on hand, you could add other ingredients to your salad to make it a clean-out-the-fridge meal with lots of anti-inflammatory power—avocado and quinoa would both be delicious options.

However you dress up your version of Padma's recipe, it might just be the easiest meal you make all week.

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