Hearty Pesto Salad with Tomatoes, Farro, and Air-Fried Chickpeas

Don’t you love the smell of in-season tomatoes? Now, you can feast on that gorgeous aroma in this tantalizing pesto salad featuring colorful, chunky, tangy heirloom tomatoes and fresh spinach. Farro adds heft, making this a meal-worthy salad, while slivered red onions deliver subtle pops of heat. The whole salad has a rich herbal flavor thanks to a light vegan basil-spinach pesto, which does double duty: First, you’ll use it to coat the chickpeas before air-frying them until they’re perfectly crispy; then, just before serving the salad, you’ll spoon the remaining pesto over top, for a flavor-packed meal or side dish loaded with the best of summer’s bounty. This deluxe salad is wonderfully adaptable; feel free to use the grains and greens you have to hand.

Tips

Crispy chickpeas: For the crispiest chickpeas, coat them lightly with the pesto and don’t overcrowd them in the air fryer.

Gluten-free: To make this gluten-free, swap out the farro for a gluten-free grain such as quinoa or brown rice.

For more inspiration, check out these tasty ideas:

By Nancy Macklin, RDN,

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Ingredients

  • 1 15-oz. can no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and ⅔ cup liquid (aquafaba) reserved
  • 2 cups packed fresh spinach
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil + a few leaves for garnish
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups salad greens
  • 4 cups cooked and cooled farro
  • 2 lb. assorted heirloom tomatoes, cored and sliced
  • 1 cup slivered red onion

Instructions

  • Rinse and drain chickpeas (reserve ⅔ cup of the aquafaba); place chickpeas in a medium bowl.
  • For pesto, in a food processor combine ½ cup of the reserved aquafaba, spinach, 2 cups of the basil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, garlic, cayenne, and 4 tablespoons of the pine nuts. Process until nearly smooth. Season with salt and black pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of the pesto to bowl with chickpeas; toss to coat. Stir the remaining aquafaba into the remaining pesto.
  • Preheat an air fryer to 400°F for 5 minutes. Spread chickpeas in a single layer in air-fryer basket. Air-fry 10 to 12 minutes or until chickpeas are lightly browned and crisp. (You might have to work in batches.) Spread chickpeas on a plate to cool.
  • Arrange salad greens on a platter or plates. Top with farro, tomatoes, onion, and chickpeas. Top with reserved pesto, the remaining 2 tablespoons pine nuts, and additional fresh basil.

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About the Author

Headshot of Nancy Macklin

About the Author

Nancy Macklin, RDN

Nancy Macklin has a bachelor of science in dietetics from Iowa State University and a Master of Science in health services administration from the University of Saint Francis. Macklin worked as a hospital-based clinical dietitian, providing counseling for diabetes, heart disease, and weight loss and as a food service director in health care dining sites. She now serves as a test kitchen dietitian, developing 500+ recipes per year. She is a member of the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics and International Association of Culinary Professionals. Find her on LinkedIn.
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