Chickpea Pesto Pasta Salad
4.35 from 29 votes

This chickpea pesto pasta salad is a fast, fresh, flavorful vegan lunch! It’s made with a dairy-free pesto, chickpeas for some plant protein protein, and peppery arugula. It makes great leftovers, too.

Chickpea Pesto Pasta Salad | The Full Helping

I made this chickpea pesto pasta salad last weekend. It grew out of a desire–which I’ll explain in a minute–to create something that would feel seasonal and special without costing me a lot of time. The dish succeeded in both ways. It’s fresh and unmistakably summery, but it’s also low stress. Even better, the leftovers keep well, which means that it’s a good option for weekend batch cooking.

Chickpea Pesto Pasta Salad | The Full Helping

During my post-bacc years, I wrote about academic woes all the time. I’d study, write about studying, take an exam, write about my anticipation of said exam, and then show up here to vent about the frustrations that followed. It was what I needed at the time, I guess–communication, confession, whatever. But of course I look back over those posts and cringe at all of the drama and the oversharing.

I’ve kept my life academic life to myself since I started my RD program, mostly because I’m happier with school now, and there’s less to vent about. When things are difficult, I try to avoid the trap of once again bringing each and every disappointment to the blog. But this week was especially hard, a buildup of stress and some very meticulous, demanding assignments for my MNT class–assignments on which, frankly, I fell short. I’ve waited a long time to take this class, which is my first taste of material that’s directly applicable to dietetic practice, so there’s pressure–whether real or self-imposed–to perform well.

But as I wrote about last week, I’m working on not creating grand dramas around moments of struggle, on knowing how to distinguish between what is and isn’t worth real heartache. Striving without grasping, stumbling without despair. Resilience, humor, perspective. I don’t have it figured out, but I’m trying.

I remember something a dear friend once said to me during my post-bacc. He was saying it to himself as much as to me, because it was something we all needed to hear at the time: when things are tough, you simply take a breath, double down, and push forward. I remember finding his understated determination so heroic, because it contrasted sharply with my own tendency to get overwhelmed.

Right now, “pushing forward” means prioritizing my class as much as possible until the end of the month, when my summer term is over, without gritting my teeth or struggling too much.

Chickpea Pesto Pasta Salad | The Full Helping

Cooking food that’s both pleasurable and efficient helps me to prioritize work while nurturing a sense of wholeness. Since it’s summer, and summer means glorious and fragrant batches of pesto, here’s a pesto pasta salad that’s just a little heartier and more nutritious thanks to fresh chickpeas. It combines a lot of ingredients I love, and I hope you’ll love it, too.

Chickpea Pesto Pasta Salad | The Full Helping
4.35 from 29 votes

Chickpea Pesto Pasta Salad

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 4 servings


For the pesto:

  • 2 cups basil leaves (or 1 cup basil + 1 cup arugula or parsley)
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons nutritional yeast (to taste)
  • Black pepper to taste

For the pasta salad:

  • 8 ounces penne or fusilli (regular, gluten-free, or bean pasta)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (1 can, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 cup chopped arugula


  • Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions.
  • While the pasta cooks, place all pesto ingredients into a food processor. Pulse a few times, and then process till smooth and uniform. Scrape the bowl down and process a little more, adding an extra tablespoon oil (or warm water) if needed, to thin the pesto.
  • When the pasta is ready, add it to a large mixing bowl along with the chickpeas. Add the pesto and mix everything well. Fold in the arugula, if using, and serve.


Leftover pasta will keep for up to three days in an airtight container in the fridge.
Chickpea Pesto Pasta Salad | The Full Helping

A few things about this dish: first, I want to add chickpeas to every pasta dish now. They add so much texture contrast, and I love the fact that they add some protein and extra fiber, too.

Second, the addition of chopped arugula was at least 50% circumstantial: I had just a little bit left in the fridge, and since it was the weekend and almost time for me to do a weekly grocery haul, I wanted to use up the greens I had. Steven found the idea of arugula in pasta to be pretty weird, but he ended up really liking the combination, as did I. The arugula gives this pasta salad a hint of crunch and peppery flavor. I’m excited to make the pasta salad with other legumes, like white beans, and perhaps to add some other greens or veggies the next time I try it.

So there you are, an unfussy dish for summer. Whether it finds you calm or struggling or glad or sad, I hope you’ll enjoy it. If you make it, let me know how it goes.

See you this weekend for some weekend reads and recipes. Have a great end of the week.


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Categories: Recipes, Salads, Pasta
Method: Stovetop
Ingredients: Chickpeas
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Vegan
Recipe Features: 30 Minute or Less, Meal Prep, Quick & Easy

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Recipe Rating

  1. 5 stars
    I love this dish! I was looking for something simple, yet hearty and I found it! It’s such a pretty meal and I definitely have enough for leftovers!

  2. 5 stars
    Gena, the pesto for this salad was possibly the best I’ve had. The fam agreed. The salad was delicious and easy too! Thank you for the recipe!

  3. 4 stars
    I love your blog and your recipes, but I’ve noticed that advertisements for meat and fish items keep appearing in the centre, which I find disturbing! I imagine that this is not of your choosing, and wonder if you are able to stop these ads – I can’t be the only one to find it odd! I don’t expect you to publish this comment – it’s just to let you know what’s happening on your plant based blog!!! Norge Nowegian Salmon is this post’s offering, Harvester meats was on another post. Kind regards, Christine

    • Hi Christine!

      Thanks so much for telling me. My ad network tries to filter this and is very receptive to my letting them know when a user sees ads. I’ll certainly pass your words along and see if they can do a better job with preventing it.



  4. 5 stars
    Made this today and it was delicious. I prefer not to consume oil so I subbed it with 1/4 avocado and added a bit more lemon juice and some water for moisture. Very quick to make and super delicious!

  5. 5 stars
    This was so delicious! I’ve been craving pesto a lot since I switched to vegan, so making my own was definitely a great option!! Everything turned out great, but I added a little soya cream to make it a bit creamier.

    Definitely gonna make it again!

  6. 5 stars
    Gena, your writing just gets better and better.

    “not creating grand dramas around moments of struggle, on knowing how to distinguish between what is and isn’t worth real heartache. Striving without grasping, stumbling without despair. Resilience, humor, perspective.”

    Drama and oversharing? I totally get the feeling, but for what it’s worth, when you showed up and shared your life, your struggles, and how you dealt with the good, the bad and everything in between, it never felt like either of those things to me (and probably not to your other readers!).

    It’s been incredibly comforting, encouraging and inspiring to me these last few years as you’ve shared all the nuances of your experience chasing passionately after your dreams, even when those dreams morphed into something unexpected, and even more incredible.

    I’m so grateful for your blog and your work – perhaps sharing past disappointments on the blog wasn’t a trap, but exactly what you needed to work through it? And reading about them and knowing that we’re not alone was exactly what we (or at least what I) needed. <3

  7. 5 stars
    Oh beauty! I haven’t been here in ages and I’ve missed you! Gotta say, to me it never felt like oversharing. We readers take in your heart behind whatever it was/is you’re writing about and that’s the glory of it. We just want to hear YOU and that means whatever you are in that exact moment. Im so thrilled school feels right and good even though its a tough patch at the moment. I’m happy for you. Sending love and good vibes from Sweden. Ps. so need to get my hands on your new book! Still in love with your first!

  8. I knew I had to make this recipe as soon as I saw it and read your post: “special without costing me a lot of time” sounded like what I need. Now I made it and I’ll be packing it up to bring it to the library tomorrow and Tuesday! I can’t wait for lunch break 😉

  9. Looks like a really tasty recipe. I love pasta with pesto. Such a great combo. I really hope it goes well for you in your studies even though it’s hard right now. I have been there too – I remember failing an important exam and I thought it was the end of me. But I just took it again and I did really good. So have faith in yourself and like your friend said: take a deep breath <3

  10. Would love to hear more about your dietetic program experiences and how you feel about the curriculum compared to your personal beliefs and insights on nutrition. You have an interesting and unique background and as an RD myself, look forward to your communications on this subject!