This African salad is a perfect side dish, but protein-rich chickpeas make it a hearty meatless meal, too. Try this recipe for Moroccan salad soon!
This recipe for Moroccan salad is unlike any salad you may have eaten before. The amount of protein-packed nutrition and major flavor in what appears to be a seemingly simple dinner salad is amazing!
Oh, and the za’atar croutons are out of this world delicious! If you haven't tried Lebanese za'atar, you are in for a treat. All bets are on that you will fall in love with it.
What does zaatar taste like, you ask? Well, it's a blend of spices, so the flavor profile is complex, but you definitely taste its earthy notes first.
It's useful as an all-purpose seasoning for fish, beef, and chicken, and many people sprinkle it onto roasted vegetables or as we've done here, combine it with olive oil and chickpeas. Oh, and speaking of chickpeas, it's a fantastic seasoning for Mediterranean hummus!
African Salad - Ingredient Notes
There are some basic ingredients in this recipe that are adaptable to whatever vegetables you happen to like in a dinner salad.
Veggies like bell pepper and carrots, for example. If you want to swap them out and use something else, it isn't going to affect the overall flavor profile for the dish.
That being said, there are some ingredients that make this salad unique. To keep true to the African roots of the dish, they really shouldn't be substituted. Those ingredients are:
- Chickpeas- Also known as garbanzo beans, these legumes are packed with protein. They are a staple ingredient in African, middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. If you are trying to eat meatless meals, chickpeas and lentils are both great sources of plant-based protein.
- Persian cucumber- This variety of cucumber is similar in appearance to English cucumbers, so they are a good substitute for Persian cukes.
- Pomegranate- The little seeds of this fruit are called arils. These little jewels have a sweet-tart flavor. Nutritionally, they are categorized as a superfood for, among other things, their antioxidant properties and ability to help reduce inflammation.
- Feta cheese- Another staple ingredient, this fresh cheese is soft, briny tasting, and very low in calories. If you want to substitute it for something else, goat cheese and farmers cheese are good choices.
- Pine nuts- These salty, crunchy seeds are the edible portion of pinecones. Also known as piñón, pinoli, or pignoli, they are tucked inside of an inedible casing. The time and labor required to harvest them is one of the reasons for their high price tag.
An economical substitute for pine nuts is cashews. When they are finely chopped, they mimic the texture and salty flavor of pine nuts really well.
How to make Moroccan Chickpea Salad
There really isn't much to assembling the salad itself. However, you will need to make the homemade croutons and the salad dressing.
And to be honest, making the dressing is incredibly simple as well. It's a flavorful cumin and lemon vinaigrette salad dressing.
The only tip to keep in mind is that vinaigrette dressing tends to separate after it sits for a while. So, before serving, you may need to whisk the dressing to recombine the vinegar and oil.
FOR THE CROUTONS
1. Season the bread cubes. Add cubes of wheat or sourdough bread into a bowl and toss them with a drizzle of oil and Lebanese za’atar spice.
TIP: you can make Lebanese za'atar for a lot less money than buying it from a store. Plus, the flavor will be better.
2. Bake. The croutons take about 20 minutes to toast, because you'll be using very low oven heat. This is a great time to mix the dressing.
Or, feel free to make the croutons in advance. Just keep them stored in an airtight container until you are ready to use them.
African Salad with Chickpeas and Carrots
- 6 slices wheat or sourdough bread cubed
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp za’atar spice blend (See Note 1)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
- 30 oz 2-15 oz cans chickpeas or fresh made drained and rinsed
- 2 large carrots peeled and shredded
- 4 Persian cucumbers sliced (See Note 2)
- 2 plum tomatoes diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- ½ cup pomegranate arils
- ½ cup pine nuts toasted
- ¼ cup mint leaves chopped
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves chopped
- ¼ cup parsley chopped
- 3 cups arugula greens
- Preheat oven to 250°F. In a bowl add the cubed bread and toss with oil and Lebanese za’atar spice. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Set aside.
- In a small fry pan, toast the pine nuts over medium heat until golden brown. Season with salt and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine chickpeas, carrot, cucumbers, tomatoes, red pepper, herbs, feta cheese, pomegranate and pine nuts.
- Pour lemon cumin dressing over chickpea salad and toss to mix thoroughly. Serve immediately over arugula greens and topped with Za’atar spiced croutons.
- You can find my recipe for Classic Lebanese Za'atar Spice Mix here.
- Persian cucumbers can be substituted with English cucumbers.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.