20-Minute Chickpea Tacos

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These vegan spiced chickpea tacos come together in just 20 minutes but taste gourmet! Pan-fried spiced chickpeas are paired with a citrusy and spicy cilantro pesto, then topped with salsa and avocado for the perfect fuss-free taco night.
Prep 5 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 20 minutes
5 from 95 votes

These Spiced Chickpea Tacos with Cilantro Pesto are the perfect weeknight meal when you’re pressed for time but still craving a delicious taco night.

Here, charred corn tortillas are lathered with a citrusy cilantro pesto, then topped with pan-fried canned chickpeas dressed up with a Mexican-inspired spice blend. They’re finished with a dollop of salsa and diced avocado for creamy goodness (and healthy fats).

With a little multitasking, you’re looking at a gourmet dinner with fresh and bright flavors in just 20 minutes. Bonus: you’ll have leftover pesto, so you can whip up another batch of chickpea tacos in a couple days in lightning speed.

And if you’re looking for more gourmet but easy taco recipes, my Tempeh Tacos with Avocado Crema and Double Decker Black Bean and Corn Salad Tacos are must-makes!

Table of Contents
1. Recipe video
2. Ingredient notes
3. Step-by-step instructions
4. Tips for making this recipe
5. Frequently Asked Questions
6. Recipe card

vegan chickpea tacos with cilantro pesto served with salsa and avocado, five tacos arranged on a platter on a brown backdrop

Watch: How to make Chickpea Tacos!

Ingredient notes

ingredients for chickpea tacos with corn tortillas on a brown board.

Roasted nuts: I use pre-roasted cashews for this pesto recipe to keep things quick, but if you only have raw nuts, roast them first (roasting nuts draws out their essential flavors). Add the nuts to a sheet pan, spread out, and roast at 350ºF/175ºC for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Pistachios and walnuts also work well in this pesto.

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Cilantro: Cilantro is the base ingredient for the pesto, so you need a fair amount. Use the leaves and tender stems (they are edible and flavorful!), but omit any thick stems, usually towards the bottom as they don’t taste great. If you have that gene that makes you think cilantro tastes like soap (so sad, I’m truly sorry), use flat-leaf parsley instead; if it’s summer, use fresh basil.

Jalapeño: The pesto uses one small jalapeño pepper for a moderate heat. If you can’t tolerate spice at all, feel free to omit. If you want just a tiny bit of spice, remove the membranes from the pepper.

Chickpeas. Canned chickpeas keep this recipe very quick, but if you’re in the habit of cooking chickpeas from scratch, it’ll make these chickpea tacos even better :)

Corn tortillas. To give new life to store-bought tortillas, char them over a gas flame or in a hot cast iron pan so they get chewier and a little smoky in flavor. Instructions are in the FAQ section below, and the recipe card.

Step-by-step instructions

Rinse the chickpeas and dry them well in a towel. Heat a bit of oil in a large frying pan. Once hot, add the chickpeas and spread out in a single layer. Cook undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes to allow some browning. Toss, and cook 3 more minutes until starting to blister in spots.

Add the spice blend and salt and toss quickly to prevent spices from drying out. Coat the chickpeas and cook for another 2 to 4 minutes. Take off the heat, then squeeze a bit of lime juice into the chickpeas.

While the chickpeas are cooking, start on the pesto. Blitz your toasted or roasted nuts in a food processor until they’re in tiny pieces.

Add the remaining pesto ingredients—cilantro, garlic, lemon or lime zest and juice, jalapeño, salt, and pepper. Blend until a paste forms. Then stream in the olive oil with the motor running until you have a relatively smooth and thick sauce, scraping down the sides as needed.

Slather some pesto onto charred corn tortillas, top with a handful of chickpeas, and a couple spoons each of your favorite salsa and diced avocado.

Tips for making these chickpea tacos

Make sure your chickpeas are dried well. When you pan-fry chickpeas in hot oil, they need to be well-dried so (1) the hot oil doesn’t splatter and (2) they can get browned and blistered and a tad crispy.

Taste the cilantro before you make your pesto. Occasionally, I’ll get a bunch of cilantro that’s really bitter, at least the stems. I recommend tasting a bite before making the pesto to be sure. If the stems are bitter, (1) use only the cilantro leaves and (2) use a lemon in the pesto instead of lime, as lemon is better able to counteract bitter flavors. If you taste the pesto and it’s a bit bitter, add more lemon juice and salt and a couple pinches of sugar or agave nectar to balance.

Multitask. To ensure you get dinner on the table in 20 minutes, you’ll need to multitask. While the pan is preheating, get started on the pesto, while the chickpeas are cooking, make the pesto, etc.

Make a double batch of the pesto. The pesto will stay good in your fridge for at least a week and is such a versatile sauce. You can use it to make another batch of tacos later in the week, or drizzle it on any number of savory meals: other tacos, burrito bowls, grain salads, fried or baked tofu, roasted cauliflower or winter squash, etc.

Feel free to jazz these tacos up. If you’re not limited to a 20-minute window, you can add more pizzazz to these tacos. A few options.

  • Make my homemade Pico de Gallo (the 5th recipe card in that post) or Mango Avocado Salsa instead of using store-bought salsa.
  • Supplement the spiced chickpeas with crispy roasted mushrooms (find the instructions in this post) or roasted cauliflower.
  • Instead of diced avocado, make Guacamole (the 6th recipe card in that post).
  • For a little zing, serve with pickled red onions (the 7th recipe card in that post).
  • If it’s summertime, grill some corn, bell peppers, or zucchini and add along with the chickpeas.
vegan chickpea tacos with cilantro pesto served with salsa and avocado, five tacos arranged on a platter on a brown backdrop

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a substitute for the cashews in the pesto?

You can sub with roasted/toasted pistachios or walnuts. If you’re allergic to tree nuts, try pepitas instead.

How do you char tortillas for tacos?

You have two options. First, if you have a gas stove, turn a burner to medium-low and use tongs to place the tortilla directly over the flame, 10 to 20 seconds per side until charred, in spots.

Or, you can add each tortilla to a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for 15 to 30 seconds per side. Stack and wrap charred tortillas in a dish towel to keep them warm.

How long does the cilantro pesto last?

A week! Store in a sealed jar in your fridge.

How can I double this recipe?

If your food processor is large enough, you can easily double the pesto all at once. To double the chickpeas, you’ll want to cook them in two batches so that they can spread out enough and get blistered and browned (this improves their texture).

What should I serve these tacos with?

If you’re looking for a side dish, either this Grilled Corn Salad or Charred Corn Salad would be great accompaniments. If it’s summer and you want to fire up the grill, some grilled vegetable skewers would be great (the 4th recipe card in this post). For something a little unconventional but delicious with a similar flavor profile, serve this Avocado Gazpacho as a starter.

That’s all you need to know about this easy and quick Spiced Chickpea Tacos. If you love this recipe, please rate and review the recipe below :)

20-Minute Chickpea Tacos

5 from 95 votes
These vegan spiced chickpea tacos come together in just 20 minutes but taste gourmet! Pan-fried spiced chickpeas are paired with a citrusy and spicy cilantro pesto, then topped with salsa and avocado for the perfect fuss-free taco night.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican-inspired
Diet Vegan
Serving size: 3

Ingredients

Spiced Chickpeas

  • 1 (15-ounce/425g) can of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican oregano if you have it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Squeeze of lime juice

Cilantro Pesto

  • ½ cup (70g) roasted cashews (or pistachios or walnuts)
  • 2 ½ cups (36 to 40g) loosely packed cups of cilantro leaves and tender stems (no tough stems)*
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, roughly chopped**
  • 1 medium lemon or 1 large lime, zested and juiced***
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • cup (75 mL) extra virgin olive oil

For serving

  • 6 corn tortillas
  • Your favorite store-bought salsa****
  • 1 large avocado, diced

Instructions

  • If your nuts are raw, spread them out on a sheet pan and roast for 7 to 10 minutes at 350ºF, tossing halfway through.
  • Transfer the chickpeas to a clean dish towel or a layer of paper towels and gently pat dry as much as you can without smushing them. They need to be well-dried before cooking.
  • Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat with the 2 teaspoons of oil and spread the oil out with a paper towel to evenly distribute it. Once hot, add the chickpeas and spread out in a single layer. Cook undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes to allow some browning. Toss and cook for another 3 minutes, or until chickpeas are golden brown and blistered in spots.
  • Add salt and spices, and toss well to coat the chickpeas. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes to allow flavors to blend, then take off the heat and hit with a squeeze of lime juice.
  • Meanwhile, make the cilantro pesto. Add the nuts to a food processor and blitz until in very tiny pieces.
    Add the cilantro, garlic, jalapeño, lemon (or lime) zest, 2 tablespoons lemon (or lime) juice, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste and blend until a paste forms. Scrape the paste towards the middle. Turn on the motor and stream in the olive oil until it comes together into a sauce. If needed, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to bring it all together, or add it for a thinner sauce. Taste, adding more lemon juice or salt as needed.
  • To char corn tortillas: If you have a gas stove, turn a burner to medium-low and use tongs to place the tortilla directly over the flame, 10 to 20 seconds per side until charred, in spots.
    Or, you can add each tortilla to a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for 15 to 30 seconds per side. Stack and wrap charred tortillas in a dish towel to keep them warm.
  • To assemble the tacos, spoon some cilantro pesto into the center of each tortilla. Add a handful of the spiced chickpeas. Top with diced avocado and salsa.

Notes

* I recommend tasting your cilantro first to ensure it’s not too bitter (if it is, it can make the whole pesto bitter). Occasionally, the stems will be bitter, so use just the leaves. 
** If you can’t tolerate spicy food at all, omit the jalapeño. For a little heat, remove the membranes or use half of the pepper. 
*** Lemon is better at masking bitter flavors, so it’s my preference in case the cilantro is a bit bitter. 
**** For homemade salsa options, check out the “Tips” section of the blog post. 

Calories: 686kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 47g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 30g | Sodium: 934mg | Potassium: 832mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1331IU | Vitamin C: 33mg | Calcium: 140mg | Iron: 5mg

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150 comments on 20-Minute Chickpea Tacos

  1. Steve DiSorbo

    Can I substitute cashew butter for chopping cashews in the pesto?

  2. Shannon

    5 stars
    So so good! Taco Tuesday hit with all types of eaters. The leftovers were also some of the best I’ve had in a while. That cilantro pesto should be patented!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Sounds like the tacos were a success, Shannon! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Teresa

    5 stars
    This is my favourite go-to “I don’t know what to make for dinner” recipe. I freeze the pesto, so it’s always ready to defrost. So quick and so YUM!!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      That’s a great idea, Teresa! Thanks for sharing :)

  4. Dalisha

    5 stars
    I have Nisha’s cookbook and have cooked a few recipes from the blog. This simple recipe has a tie in my heart with her cornbread recipe! The pesto is so fresh and pairs very nicely with the smoky flavors on the chickpeas. Well done! There’s so much flavor in this convenient recipe.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Your positive feedback is the best reward for our hard work. Thank you, Dalisha!

  5. Marie

    5 stars
    The recipe sounds amazing – unfortunately I am one of those people that hates cilantro because it tastes like soap to me. Do you have a suggestion what I could use as an alternative? Thanks a lot and love your recipes!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Marie, you can use flat-leaf parsley or basil, or a mix of both, in the pesto. It will still be delicious! If using flat-leaf parsley, use only very tender stems.

    2. Teresa

      I have made this with basil pesto — still just as delish!

  6. Rachel R Balcarcel

    5 stars
    Great recipe! That said, what is the serving size for the Nutrition Info? 686kcal for how many tacos?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Rachel, we’re so happy you think so :)

      And this recipe makes 6 tacos, so each serving size is 2 tacos. Hope that helped!

  7. Stephanie

    5 stars
    I love this recipe. It’s such an easy thing for me to take to work. And I can carry everything separate and assemble it there. I love most of your recipes though so I might be bias…lol

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Stephanie, So glad to hear you loved this recipe! Thanks for the awesome review :)

  8. Liz

    5 stars
    Wowza! That was so yummy! The only thing I changed was adding roasted beets to the tacos because I had beets on hand. I like spicy food so I may add more jalapeno next time. Thanks for another wonderful recipe! I’m sure it will be a regular in our house. :)

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Liz! Sounds like some wonderful tacos you had there. We’re thrilled this recipe will be going on rotation!

  9. Jules

    5 stars
    I made this and it was amazing. However I did not have corn tortillas, cashews or cilantro, but I did have galic hummus. I spread the hummus in a flour tortilla then added the chickpeas plus fried sweet potato chunks. They were even good cold for lunch the next day. Wrapped it up like a burrito and placed on my panini grill. Mmmmm good.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      It’s great to hear how you modified the recipe and that you enjoyed it, Jules! :) Thanks for sharing!

  10. Becky

    5 stars
    I love this recipe so much. The pesto is amazing!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Becky, thank you so much for your kind review!

  11. Tara

    5 stars
    Delicious! We’ve made a few times now. My meat eater hubby loves them too.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We appreciate your feedback and support, Tara. Thank you for leaving a review!

  12. Robin D

    5 stars
    Another if your recipes that is DELICIOUS and permanently in rotation at my house. I love how quick and satisfying these are. I also make a version of the cilantro pesto every week now using whatever greens and herbs I have on hand. It is delicious!!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thank you for the kind review, Robin! And thanks for being a member of the RPL community!

  13. Sara

    5 stars
    We loved this! Lots of flavors and textures going on and heartier than I thought it would be. Also, while I tolerate Cilantro, I am not someone who loves it. With all the other ingredients in the pesto, I didn’t find the Cilantro overpowering. I used sunflower seeds for the pesto and it turned out great. It was a little thick through so would use less next time.

    Love that this is an easy pantry meal. But, I will say separating all those Cilantro leaves took a bit of time so definitely recruit some help for that portion.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Sara, we’re so happy you loved it! :)

      And as for the cilantro, no need to separate the bunch! Just rinse and dry, then chop the bottom tough stalks off from the softer stems and leaves- you can use both the softer stems and leaves together!

  14. Diane

    This look so colorful and delicious! I don’t care for avocados (I know it’s hard to believe) lol. Do you think this would taste ok without avocado or what would you replace it with?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Haha, no worries. It adds a nice creamy factor, so a good substitute would be a dollop of vegan sour cream. If you don’t have access to that, some plain vegan yogurt with lime juice or lemon juice and salt mixed in would be nice.

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