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The Best Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad

June 15, 2023
Shanika | Orchids + Sweet Tea
The Best Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad is the perfect lunch or dinner with buffalo chickpeas, brown rice, kale, and your favorite dressing and tossed in your favorite dressing.

The Best Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad

The Best Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad recipe is just the thing that you'll need to fill you up during any season! Enjoy the beautiful green color of this salad with pops of red as well as the flavor and nutrients with a variety of ingredients like green kale, brown basmati rice, chickpeas, cucumbers, avocado, onions, etc. Entirely dairy-free, vegan, + gluten-free. Make ahead option.

Kale salad in a large wooden serving dish with two gold spoons.

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I first made this loaded kale salad during one of those weeks when I was just feeling burnt out. It's so easy to throw together. And even when you're craving junk food, this recipe makes you feel good and is so satisfying. It truly lives up to it's name----The Best Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad. Ever since then, I've been making this recipe regularly to save time and fuel myself and my family with whole foods, plant-based ingredients in the most delicious way possible.

Usually, I love a good loaded salad like this Roasted Cauliflower Green Goddess Salad, Fall Harvest BBQ Chickpea Kale Salad, or chicken salad like this Chicken Caesar Salad with Cornbread Croutons, however, you will certainly enjoy the "meatiness" of these roasted cauliflowers which are coated in a savory blackened seasoning. If you're not restricted to a meatless diet, you'll love these Crispy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken. And if you're into salads, then you'll love this Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato Chopped SaladUltimate Summer BBQ Chopped Kale SaladEasy Loaded Corn Salad, and Baked Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad.

The best part about this salad is that it's entirely meatlessvegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free which makes it perfect for the entire family. Of course, you can mix and match ingredients to meet the need for all of the eaters in your family and you don't have to use just kale as your base and instead add your favorite greens like lettuce, arugula, collard greens, spinach, you name it.

Jump to:

Why and How to Massage Kale

When it comes to massaging kale, it's usually recommended because kale is known for being tough and fibrous, which makes it sometimes hard to chew and digest. However, massaging the kale softens it a great deal and helps the flavors to be more pronounced which works hand in hand with the other ingredients.

My easy method to massage kale is to add the de-stemmed and chopped kale to a large bowl and then drizzling it with 1-2 tsps of lemon juice or Extra virgin olive oil and using your clean hands, rubbing the leaves together gently for about 2-3 minutes. They should look glossy and slightly reduced in volume when massaging is achieved.

Ingredients on a white wood table including chickpeas, buffalo sauce, maple syrup, brown rice, herbs and seasonings, and veggies.

How to Make The Best Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad

When I say that this Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad is loaded, I mean LOADED! It's full of plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. So GOOD!

Ingredients for Salad

Check out this powerhouse of an ingredient list for this salad:

  • Chickpeas. Canned chickpeas are one of the very important protein sources in this kale salad. Drain your chickpeas and rinse them well before making the hearty buffalo chickpea salad.
  • Kale. Be sure to chop your kale leaves well into bite-sized pieces. No one likes feeling like they have to chew for 5 minutes to get through a tough leaf of kale! If you prefer a different leafy green, you can use spinach, romaine, butter lettuce, or another favorite salad base. For an extra touch, I chose to roast my kale for a nice crisp!
  • Olive oil. Use a nice high-quality extra-virgin olive oil to cook your chickpeas and massage the kale. This adds healthy fats to this dish. You can substitute with avocado oil, grapeseed oil, etc.
  • Buffalo sauce. You can use your favorite store-bought buffalo sauce or make your own! I love using organic buffalo sauce by Noble Made sauce.
  • Herbs + seasonings. I use staple spices like salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, parsley, oregano, basil, and thyme.
  • Cucumber. You'll need to peel + chop.
  • Onion. I love using red onions, but yellow would do. Adds great nutritional value.
  • Avocado. I like to use Haas avocados and chop them into chunks. You can also use them to make guacamole as a topping.
  • Basmati rice. Use cooked, cooled basmati brown (or white) rice to round out this dish into a complete meal with whole-grain carbs, fats, protein, and flavor!
  • Salad dressing. Use your favorite homemade or store-bought dressing to bring this salad to life, however, my favorite dairy-free Creamy Lemon Garlic Dressing adds a great bold flavor.
Fresh kale leaves in a white bowl on a white wood table.

What Are Good Ingredients to Add to a Salad?

If you want to take this already delicious Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad to the next level, have fun tossing in your favorite salad toppers. I especially love the following ingredients with the kale and spicy buffalo flavors in this recipe:

  • Beans + legumes (i.e. black beans, kidney beans, etc.)
  • Other greens (i.e. spinach, lettuce, mixed greens, arugula, mustard greens, etc.)
  • Chicken, shrimp, steak, and salmon (if you're a meat eater)
  • Vegan meatballs or vegan chick'n
  • Bacon, chopped
  • Cauliflower, roasted
  • Tofu, mushrooms, tempeh, etc. (Great meat alternatives)
  • Nuts + seeds
  • Croutons, baked tortilla, or pita chips
  • Cheese, either dairy or plant-based (feta cheese would be especially nice in this salad)
  • Grains like farro, quinoa, couscous, etc.
  • Boiled or poached eggs
  • Shredded carrots
  • Edamame, peas, etc.
  • Roasted veggies (i.e. asparagus, potatoes, sweet potatoes, zucchini, butternut squash, etc.)

Truly, the list is never-ending. This is a great make-ahead vegan meal that you can use whatever is in the fridge or pantry!

Chopped veggies on a cutting board with chickpeas and brown rice.

Best Dressing for Loaded Kale Salad

Because the buffalo chickpeas add so much bright and fiery flavor to this salad, I like to use a lighter dressing. You can use a simple vinaigrette de with olive oil and vinegar, or your favorite bottled salad dressing. However, you can always try any of these dressings as well:

Creamy Chipotle Dressing/Sauce

Creamy Lemon Garlic Dressing

Homemade Green Goddess Dressing

Why Chickpea? Any Health Benefits?

For those of you who aren’t aware, another name for Chickpeas are Garbanzo Beans. Despite the most recent craze, chickpeas have been around for thousand of years and originate from the Middle East.

Chickpeas have such a great texture and nutty flavor, which allows them to successfully pair well with a lot of other ingredients, especially in vegan and/or vegetarian recipes.

When it comes to the health benefits of Chickpea, here a few awesome reasons why you should probably add this simple ingredient to your diet more often:

  • Packed with Nutrients + have a moderate amount of calories!
  • Rich in Plant-Based Proteins!
  • Support Blood Sugar Control.
  • Full of Fiber + might aide digestion.
  • May protect against Chronic Diseases (such as heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes, etc.)
  • May Help keep your appetite under control (Think about how protein + fiber helps to slow down digestion, therefore keeping you full longer!).
Cooked buffalo chickpeas in a white skillet on a white wood table.

What Can Be Used in Place of Kale in this Chickpea Salad?

Although, kale is the most common veggie that I love to use as my salad base, you can definitely use other greens such as romaine lettuce, spinach, collard greens, bokchoy, etc. for a nice twist! When it comes to vegetables, there are so many benefits as we all know. While some veggies pack a greater punch when it comes to nutrients, we’ve curated a special list of our Our Top 12 Favorite Healthy Green Leafy Vegetables! Most of these are super popular while others are under utilized in many dishes. Lettuce Eat, Shall We?

Salad in a brown wood serving platter on a white wood table with dressing and herbs.

Common Q + A's for this Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad

Can I make this kale salad ahead of time?

Absolutely! The buffalo chickpeas and chopped veggies can be made up to 2 days beforehand and stored in an airtight container and refrigerated. The dressing can be made and refrigerated in a separate airtight container. The kale can be chopped up to 30 minutes before serving.

How long does kale salad last in the fridge?

Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days, depending on the ingredients. Always determine the ingredients in your salad and keep it no longer than the shelf life of your fastest-spoiling ingredient.

Why is iceberg lettuce not nutritious?

According to research, iceberg lettuce has a high water content, which causes it to not be as rich in nutrients as other types of lettuce.

Can you eat kale raw in salads?

Yes! kale (aka as a superfood) is one of the healthiest and most nutrient-dense foods you can eat, therefore, adding it to a salad or making it the base is a great option. Massaging your kale makes it easier to digest and enjoy.

How do you remove the bitterness out of kale salad?

Prior to chopping my kale, I find that soaking the leaves in a bit of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar for 10 minutes and then rinsing them off thoroughly helps. In addition, it's great to massage your kale with olive oil or lemon juice, which helps as well.

Does lemon make kale less bitter?

Yes! Adding salt and squeezing lemon unto your kale leaves when massaging them makes a big difference by removing the bitterness.

Do you eat kale stems?

While Kale stems have a reputation for being fibrous and tough, they're actually completely edible and can be delicious if prepared right.

Why wash kale with vinegar?

In general, leafy vegetables like kale should be soaked (in water + vinegar) for optimal disinfection and the removal of any dirt. Vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar) is a natural "disinfectant" and it is safe for human consumption so it is a natural choice when cleaning vegetables thoroughly.

Do you wash kale before or after cutting?

Believe it or not, you can give it a little rinse before cutting, but rinsing it off after cutting helps removes more of the bitterness. Soak the chopped kale in cold water + vinegar and then rinse thoroughly after. The cold will help remove some of the bitterness, and the vinegar will help to deep clean the leaves.

Kale salad in a large wooden serving dish with two gold spoons.

How to Make Homemade Croutons

This Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad is easy to throw together, but if you'd love additional texture + crunch croutons are a great addition! While you might think that it's so hard to make----I'm here to show you just how easy it is, using the following ingredients:

  • Rustic bread, cubed into ¾ inches
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Italian seasoning
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried parsley
  • Salt + Black pepper

How to Make Chopped Salad with a Food Processor

For greater ease, you can easily make this kale salad a chopped salad by chopping your ingredients in a food processor for the perfect bite. I suggest first starting with solely the kale leaves once they are de-stemmed. Add them to your food processor and pulse for a few seconds before they are too minced. Then remove those chopped greens and place them into a bowl and work your way through the other ingredients (all processed separately).

Once all ingredients are chopped, add them together in a bowl and continue recipe.

How to Make Herb Roasted Tomatoes

If you'd like to switch things up a bit by roasting your tomatoes-----the key to this recipe is to start with great-quality tomatoes. Choose a mix of large and cherries, and several different colors if you can find them.

Fully loaded Kale salad with white dressing in a large wooden serving dish with two gold spoons.

What to Serve with Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad

You can enjoy this Spicy Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad on its own as a nice lunch or dinner. Or, if you'd like to add additional protein to round out your meal, add crispy tofu or nuts to keep things plant-based. If you're not vegetarian or vegan, you can add seared salmon, Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders or leftover cooked chicken.

If you're offering this salad as a side dish, I personally love it paired with a hearty and warming entree like Creamy Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup, Creamy Garlic Chicken Gnocchi Soup, Roasted Carrot Soup + Cheesy Croutons, or Easy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. For a hearty bite, I enjoy this salad with the following meals also: Southern Hot Honey Fried ChickenCreamy Jamaican Rasta PastaCrispy Buffalo Cauliflower Wings/Bites, or Baked Sticky Orange Cauliflower + Quinoa.

More Delicious Chickpea Recipes to Try!

Now that you're on a chickpea kick with this kale salad recipe, give these recipes that your entire family will love a try next:

MADE OUR RECIPE(S)?

If you tried this Best Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad recipe or any other recipe on my website, please please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the 📝 comments below. I love hearing from you.

Fully loaded Kale salad with white dressing in a large wooden serving dish with two gold spoons.
Fully loaded Kale salad with white dressing in a large wooden serving dish with two gold spoons.

The Best Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad

June 15, 2023
5 from 7 votes
The Best Buffalo Chickpea Kale Salad is the perfect lunch or dinner with buffalo chickpeas, brown rice, kale, and your favorite dressing and tossed in your favorite dressing.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients

BUFFALO CHICKPEAS:

  • 1 (15 oz.) can organic chickpeas, drained + rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups organic Buffalo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin

SALAD:

  • 2 bunches organic kale, de-stemmed + roughly chopped (You can use green or red or both)
  • 2-4 cups cooked basmati rice
  • 1 organic cucumber, peeled + chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 Haas avocado, chopped into chunks

DRESSING:

  • 1 Creamy Lemon Garlic Dressing

Instructions

TO MAKE THE BUFFALO CHICKPEAS:

  • In a medium skillet (10-inch) over medium-high heat, add the olive oil until heated. Add the chickpeas followed by: salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, thyme, cumin, oregano, basil, and parsley, stirring to combine. Let it cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add in the buffalo sauce and maple syrup, stirring until chickpeas are coated. Reduce the heat to low and allow everything to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once done, the sauce should be "cooked unto" the chickpeas.

TO MAKE THE DAIRY-FREE DRESSING:

CHOP + MASSAGE KALE:

  • Strip the leaves from 2 large bunches kale and discard the stems if you haven't already. Roughly chop the leaves and add them to a large bowl. Drizzle about 1-2 tsps of lemon juice or olive oil atop chopped kale and using clean hands, rub together the kale gently for about 2-3 minutes to soften the leaves and help to infuse the 'flavors' of the kale.

ASSEMBLE THE SALAD:

  • In a large serving plate or salad bowl, add the chopped kale followed by the cooked basmati rice, chopped cucumbers, onions, avocado chunks, and the buffalo chickpeas.
  • To serve, add the salad to your favorite bowl(s), drizzle with Creamy Lemon Garlic Dressing, and additional favorite toppings like grated parmesan, croutons, etc. if desired.
  • Bon Appetit!

Tips & Tricks

  • STORAGE: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days, depending on the ingredients. Always determine the ingredients in your salad and keep it no longer than the shelf life of your fastest-spoiling ingredient.
  • MAKE AHEAD: The buffalo chickpeas and chopped veggies can be made up to 2 days beforehand and stored in an airtight container and refrigerated. The dressing can be made and refrigerated in a separate airtight container. The kale can be chopped up to 30 minutes before serving.
  • HERB ROASTED TOMATOES: To see the recipe, tap this link.
  • GREENS: If preferred, you can always add greens like Romaine lettuce, Arugula, Mustard Greens, Microgreens, Spinach or Collard Greens to this salad for added flavor + texture.

Nutrition

Calories: 200kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 622mg | Potassium: 459mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 6824IU | Vitamin C: 65mg | Calcium: 223mg | Iron: 3mg

DID YOU MAKE THIS recipe?

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Signature of my name, Shanika in black font.

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  1. Well this was a fun take on salad! I like how easy it is to customize with whatever veggies you have on hand. I added cauliflower, bell pepper, celery and green onion. I found it very spicy- I used to be able to handle the heat, but I’ve gone soft, lol! The rice tempered the heat somewhat. But it was a great salad!

  2. When I was vegetarian, I always used chickpeas in my salads. I could eat them straight out of the can! I love that this salad also uses rice and quinoa - so good!

    • Yes, I love chickpeas also Lauren! They are so amazing! And I love using rice and quinoa in a lot of my dishes! They just work perfectly!

    • Thanks so much, Nicole! I love a good salad too, especially since there's such a misconception of salads being boring. I just love their versatility!

  3. Greta recipe! I love anything with chickpeas. And I can't believe the holidays are almost here either. It happens so fast!

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