These vegan crispy chickpea nuggets are packed with fiber, protein, and plant-based goodness and perfect for serving to veggie-wary children (and adults!). They’re gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free, low-fat, and baked or air-fried in under 30 minutes!
Vegan Crispy Chickpea Nuggets (Bake or Air Fry)
Having recently shared a high-protein lentil bread and some zucchini vegetable fritters, I had the idea to merge the two ideas for protein and fiber-packed chickpea nuggets (coincidentally, similar to Starbucks ‘chickpea bites’ too).
These veggie nuggets are crispy, tender, and free from tons of highly processed ingredients. Instead, they’re packed with chickpeas and an extra sneaky helping of veggies, thanks to some broccoli; for an appetizer or side that will nourish your body.
I’ve always loved finger foods and bite-sized patties, like these mixed veggie fritters or cauliflower patties. These chickpea bites are perfect for any nugget lovers and those who are fans of falafels. The combination of chickpeas and rolled oats helps texturally and makes for a complete protein and nuggets that will help keep you satiated for longer!
Serve them to veggie wary children and adults and watch them get gobbled down in minutes either with a dip, in a wrap, or more! Plus, if you’re looking for more vegetable recipes for kids, you might also enjoy these air fryer zucchini chips, buffalo cauliflower wings, or savory veggie muffins!
This veggie bites recipe is made up primarily of pantry staples, including:
- Chickpeas: I used canned chickpeas (don’t discard the liquid ‘aquafaba’). You can use home-cooked chickpeas instead and save some of the cooking liquid.
- Broccoli: You can use a head of broccoli and break it down into florets, or use pre-chopped broccoli.
- Red onion: I prefer the flavor of red onion, though yellow/white onion should also work in these chickpea broccoli nuggets.
- Garlic: I use fresh garlic cloves, though garlic powder will work in a pinch. Adjust the amount to taste.
- Oat flour: You can make your own if needed by grinding rolled oats in a blender or coffee/spice grinder into a floury consistency. This will help to bind the egg-free, gluten-free nuggets. Use certified gluten-free oats if necessary.
- Seasonings: These chickpea nuggets use a simple but flavorful mix of nutritional yeast with smoked paprika and salt & black pepper.
- Breadcrumbs: You can use regular, or panko bread crumbs; use gluten-free breadcrumbs if preferred. If you don’t want to use breadcrumbs, you could use my homemade breading.
You’ll also need some cooking spray.
- Nuts/seeds: For a slightly more nutritious breaded coating, you could add some finely processed seeds into the breadcrumb mixture (chia/flaxseed, pepitas, sunflower seeds, etc.)
- Seasonings: Chickpeas can be bland. I used a simple seasoning blend for this chickpea bites recipe. However, there are plenty of seasonings to choose from. Cajun seasoning, curry powder, Italian seasoning, cayenne pepper, cumin, onion powder, etc.
- Herbs: For falafel-style vibes, process in a handful of parsley and/or coriander to the chickpea bites.
- Other veggies: You can swap out the broccoli or use a combination of veggies. Options include grated carrot, corn, peas, finely chopped bell peppers, grated zucchini (all liquid squeezed out), finely shredded kale/spinach, etc.
- Other pulses: Use a combination of chickpeas and lentils (brown or green) or another pulse (like white beans) for a different flavor in these vegan nuggets.
For the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information, read the recipe card below.
How to Make Chickpea Nuggets?
- First, grate/ mince the garlic, finely chop the onion, and separate broccoli into bite-sized florets.
- Next, blanch the broccoli by cooking it in boiling salted water for 4 minutes before draining the water well.
- Then, drain the liquid from the can of chickpeas and set it aside (don’t discard!)
- Transfer the chickpeas, broccoli, onion, garlic, and spices to a food processor and pulse around 8 times. Then, add the oat flour and pulse a further 2-3 times until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the food processor as needed.
Be careful not to over-process the mixture. It should still have some texture to it rather than being paste-like.
- Divide the mixture into 16, shaping them by hand into nuggets. They should be around ¾-inch thick.
- Dip each of the chickpea bites into the chickpea liquid, then the breadcrumbs to coat them.
- Finally, cook the vegan nuggets. You can do so in one of two ways:
- Air Fryer: Spray the air fryer basket with a bit of cooking spray, then spread the nuggets in a single layer with space in between. Air fry at 380 °F/190 °C for 18 minutes.
- Oven: Lightly spray a parchment paper-lined baking tray and spread the veggie nuggets over the tray, with space in between. Bake at 400 °F/205 °C for 25 minutes, flipping them after 15 minutes.
How to Store?
Make ahead: Prepare the chickpea nuggets right up to the point of cooking them, then transfer them to an airtight container in either the refrigerator (for 1-2 days) or the freezer (for 3 months). When cooking from frozen, add a few minutes to the cooking time.
Store: These vegan nuggets are the crispiest straight from the oven/air fryer. However, you can store any leftovers (fully cooled) in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days.
Freeze: Allow the vegetable nuggets to cool, spread on a parchment-lined baking tray, and freeze until solid (1-2 hours). Then transfer the chickpea bites to an airtight Ziplock style bag or container and freeze for 3 months.
Reheat: Reheat them in the oven/ air fryer for a few minutes or in a skillet with a small swirl of oil. Avoid the microwave unless you don’t mind them losing all their crispiness.
You can enjoy these chickpea bites as an appetizer, snack, or part of a larger meal. Here are a few ways to enjoy them:
- With a Dip: These vegan nuggets are pretty versatile and pair with all sorts of dips, including yum yum sauce, ketchup, vegan mayo, ranch dressing, a yogurt dill dip, etc.
- With pita: You can enjoy the chickpea nuggets similar to falafels, in a pita wrap/sandwich with salad veggies and sauce.
- In a salad bowl: You can enjoy the chickpea bites to add protein to a salad/ buddha bowl.
- With fries: Including regular fries, wedges, carrot fries, etc.
- With spaghetti: These chickpea broccoli nuggets also work in place of meatballs with spaghetti.
Can I use frozen broccoli florets?
If you allow them to thaw first, then you should be able to use them immediately (no need to blanch first as they’re already blanched). However, I haven’t tried, so I can’t guarantee the results.
Can I make chickpea nuggets without a food processor?
Yes, you could use a potato masher instead and finely grate the broccoli and very finely chop the onion. It will likely be slightly chunkier, but should still work fine. If the mixture seems a little too dry, add a spoonful of the chickpea liquid to the mixture and mix it with your hands to form a ‘dough.’
Can you pan fry them?
I haven’t tried, though it may work. Swirl some oil in the bottom of a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, pan-fry the vegetable nuggets on both sides until golden brown (3-5 minutes per side).
Recipe Notes, Tips, and FAQs
- For even-sized patties: You can weigh the chickpea mixture and divide it by weight.
- Experiment with herbs/spices: These chickpea bites are an excellent base that can be experimented with.
- To increase crispiness when baking: Broil the vegan nuggets for a minute or two at the end of the baking process.
- When forming the nuggets: Pack the mixture tightly in your hands to avoid falling apart while cooking.
- If you have issues with binding: This shouldn’t be the case, but you can add some of the chickpea liquid, a spoonful at a time.
More Vegan Chickpea Recipes
- Chickpea pasta (Pasta e Ceci)
- Chickpea tofu
- Crispy air fryer chickpeas
- Chickpea eggplant curry
- Chickpea tacos
- Mushroom and chickpea risotto
- Chickpea stuffed zucchini boats
If you try this chickpea bites recipe, I’d love a comment and ★★★★★ recipe rating below. Also, please don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan #elavegan—I love seeing them.
- 3/4 cup breadcrumbs gluten-free, if needed (see notes)
- Cooking spray
- You can watch the short video for visual instructions.Drain the liquid of the chickpea can into a medium bowl and set it aside.
- Cook the broccoli florets in boiling salted water for about 4 minutes, then drain the water very well.
- Add the broccoli to a food processor, along with the chickpeas, onion, garlic, and spices.
- Pulse about 8 times, then add the oat flour. Pulse a couple of more times (making sure not to over-process the mixture), until it's combined, scraping down the sides of the food processor, if needed.
- Using your hands, shape the mixture into 16 nuggets.
- Dip each nugget into the chickpea water and then into the breadcrumbs to coat the nuggets from all sides. You can also use your favorite breading. I used this homemade breading.
- Spray the air fryer basket (or a lined baking sheet) with a little cooking spray and also the nuggets, so that they don't stick and become a little crispier.
- Air fryer method: Air fry for 18 minutes at 380 F (190 C), flipping after about 12 minutes.
- Oven method: Bake them in your preheated oven for about 25 minutes at 400 F (205 C) flipping after 15 minutes.
- Enjoy with this yum yum sauce or a dip of choice.
- If you don't want to use breadcrumbs, then follow this recipe for my homemade breading.
- More tips, FAQs, and storing instructions can be found in the blog post above.
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically