This recipe for Black Pepper Chickpeas is inspired by the traditional Panda Express meal, but with a plant-based twist! Garbanzo beans are the perfect pantry substitute, making this meal weeknight friendly. Serve with noodles or rice for a high-protein vegan and gluten-free dinner!
Note: This is not an authentic recipe, simply a personal interpretation of a Panda Express classic. I am working to be better educated around chopstick imagery and etiquette. I did find this guide to Japanese chopstick traditions; this can of course vary culturally so it’s helpful to be aware.
The Inspiration for Black Pepper Chickpeas
As you may have already gathered, this recipe is inspired by the traditional Panda Express menu item of black pepper chicken. Panda Express is a restaurant chain here in the United States that specializes in “Americanized” Chinese food. It is not at all traditional but fairly popular (especially in shopping malls). Their signature dish is Orange Chicken (which I actually copied in this recipe for Orange Tofu!)
Black pepper chicken is fried and coated in a sticky sauce that is both sweet and spicy (due to the high quantity of fresh peppercorns). Today’s remix recipe swaps out the chicken for canned chickpeas, which saves time and money. Additionally, we’re forgoing any deep-frying and lightening up both the sugar and sodium levels. Not to worry, the classic flavor is not going anywhere.
What is black pepper sauce made with? What does it taste like?
This vegan and gluten-free sauce is made with freshly grated black pepper, fresh ginger, soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, and lime juice. The cornstarch helps the sauce become “sticky” and cling to the crispy chickpeas. It tastes both sweet and spicy, with a touch of sour. If you do not like strong pepper flavors, feel free to use 1/2 of the recommended amount.
Ingredients Needed for this Recipe
- 1 can of chickpeas, drained (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
- 2 TBS cornstarch or flour
- 1 TBS grated fresh ginger, or 1 tsp powdered ginger
- 1 tsp grated black pepper (about 20 twists from a grinder)
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos for gluten-free
- 3 TBS maple syrup, depending on desired sweetness
- 2 TBS rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- Juice of one large lime (3-4 TBS)
- 2 TBS neutral oil, like refined coconut or avocado
- 1 small onion, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery, sliced thinly
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup fresh or frozen broccoli
- Cooked rice or rice noodles to serve
- Green onions, cilantro and sesame seeds for serving (optional)
How to Make Black Pepper Chickpeas
1. In a medium bowl, toss chickpeas with cornstarch, ginger, and pepper. Set aside.
2. Prepare the sauce by mixing soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, and lime juice. Set aside.
3. Heat oil in a skillet over medium. Sauté diced onion and celery for 5 minutes, or until slightly translucent. Add minced garlic and cook one minute more, stirring to prevent burning.
4. Add prepared chickpeas to the skillet, stirring to coat. Cook chickpeas until slightly browned, 4-5 minutes.
5. Finally, add sauce to the skillet along with broccoli. Let cook a few minutes longer to thicken. Remove from heat and serve with prepared rice noodles.
Possible Ingredient Substitutions
- Honey can be swapped in for maple syrup (but that will make this recipe no longer vegan, if that matters to you).
- Coconut aminos would be a gluten-free substitute for soy sauce. I recommend a low sodium soy sauce for this recipe, so you may want to take note of how salty your coconut aminos is, prior to adding here.
- Any stir fry vegetable can be swapped in for broccoli. Feel free to try cauliflower, carrots, snap peas, or even bok choy.
- I like serving this recipe with rice noodles but it is just as delicious alongside cooked white rice or quinoa.
More Healthy Takeout-Inspired Dinner Recipes
If you love restaurant-quality meals made right at home, feel free to try one of these recipes next (all vegan)!Print