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 72 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.

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 72 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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111 comments on 20-Minute Chickpea Tacos

  1. Gina Glatis

    I love this recipe! I live in an independent living environment.
    I am a senior resident and I cook vegan meals every Sunday.
    I have made these tacos twice so far. The only mistake that I made was not making enough. Everyone wanted seconds and I only made enough for 10 people.
    Thanks so much for the recipe.
    Can’t wait to see more from you!

  2. Rebekah

    5 stars
    I am trying this tonight! I was wondering… can I use roasted and SALTED pistachios? Or do I need to purchase plain unsalted pistachios? Thank you in advance!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Rebekah, we hope you love it! As for the pistachios, yes you can use salted. If you’re worried about the pesto being too salty, omit the 1/4 tsp salt until you’ve tried the finished product and only add/blend it in if you feel it needs a bit more salt. Enjoy!

  3. Rilla

    5 stars
    Hey… wondering how you store leftover roasted chickpeas? Do they need to be refrigerated? Thanks!

    1. Hannah @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Rilla, thanks for reaching out. You can store roasted chickpeas on the countertop with a lid slightly ajar for 2 days. Alternatively, you can store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, although they’ll be less crispy.

      1. Rilla

        Thanks! I made some yesterday and put them in the fridge in a sealed container, so will try the countertop next time. So delicious! Made thrm to add to a bowl of cous cous and pesto roasted yams, broccoli & red onion. Yum!!

  4. Kenna

    5 stars
    Legitimately life changing!! The cilantro pesto is one of the best things I have ever tasted. If I had children, I would pass this recipe down to generations.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      I just tried this pesto last night, and I can say I wholeheartedly agree! Such a refreshing change of pace from traditional pesto. Thanks for leaving your review, Kenna!

  5. summer

    i’m so sorry to be that person! but is there any substitutions for the tortillas… i don’t have any on hand right now but i would love to make this recipe for tonight since spring has finally sprung and i’ve been waiting to make this! love all your recipes, so flavourful and get me excited about cooking. :)

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Summer, sorry if we’re late to reply but you could always make this into a chickpea pesto bowl! With your favorite grain as the base. We definitely recommend trying the recipe with the tortillas, though, as that’s how the recipe is meant to be served!

  6. Janet

    5 stars
    We have made lots of vegan taco recipes and this is by far our favorite!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Woohoo, what a compliment, Janet! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Langille Family

    5 stars
    So filling and amazing taste. This is going into my dinner rotation. Loved by everyone in the family! Very flavorful. Next time though I’m not adding the cayenne pepper to the chick peas. We coughed all night from the fumes. Lol

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Great to hear you loved the recipe! So sorry to hear you had a hard time with the cayenne, in the future we’d recommend turning on the stove fan, opening windows and/or wearing a mask if you make a recipe that requires cooking spicy ingredients!

  8. AB

    5 stars
    Phenomenal! I roasted the chickpeas at 400 for 20 minutes, and added some roasted zucchini and it will still super easy and delicious. The pesto was so good!

  9. Ryan

    5 stars
    This recipe shook me to my very core. Amazing, took my breath away.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hey Ryan! Wow, I can feel your enthusiasm about this recipe through the screen! Love it!

  10. Beth

    5 stars
    Absolutely amazing!! I l always go to Nisha when looking for recipes to impress my plant-curious/omnivore friends and family. Winners every time. I will be making this just for me next time!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Beth! It makes us happy to know that you enjoy the recipes on the blog :)

  11. Diane

    Hi Nisha
    FYI – whenever I watch your recipe video and an ad comes on, I click “skip”. When I do this, a video for a different recipe begins and I am unable to continue watching the first recipe.
    Not sure if anyone else experiences this.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Diane, thanks for the heads up, we will definitely look into it!

  12. Vitor Rios

    5 stars
    Absolutely amazing.
    Loved every bite.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Vitor, we’re so happy you enjoyed it! Thanks for leaving a review :)

  13. Jah

    5 stars
    This dish took me an hour and my pesto was extremely bitter because of the cilantro and olive oil I used. May this be a lesson to everyone to read the notes Nisha leaves because they are important! I didn’t try my stems or my olive oil before I threw them in, my bad. But otherwise this was great!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Ahh, we’re sorry to hear it, Jah. Thank you for trying the recipe, we’re so happy you enjoyed the tacos otherwise :)

  14. Andrea Sachse

    5 stars
    I appreciate that this dish ACTUALLY only takes 20min and it’s seriously delicious! I could eat the pesto with a spoon and have started making it to go along with many other meals- thanks Nisha!

  15. Monique

    5 stars
    This is perhaps my favorite recipe not this far! It is fast, easy, budget friendly, and so very delicious and flavorful! I love that the sauce lasts over a week, Al’s that literally everything is healthy and packed with flavor. I loved it with diced tomatoes and cilantro as toppings to an already super delicious and easy dish

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