My easy balela salad recipe makes a warm chickpea salad from the Middle East. Creamy hummus balila – a rustic, cumin-spiced hummus textured with whole chickpeas and drizzled with a lemony olive oil – is topped with a traditional Arabic salad of crunchy cucumbers, sweet tomatoes, zingy purple shallots, crispy radishes, and fresh fragrant mint and parsley.
If you’ve made and enjoyed our hummus balila recipe then I guarantee that you’re going to love this balela salad recipe for a warm chickpea salad of creamy hummus balila that’s textured with a fragrant crunchy Arabic salad spread on top. It’s deliciously addictive and it’s one of our best canned beans recipes if you’re looking for budget-friendly meals during these increasingly challenging times.
If you’re not familiar with the Middle East’s many cuisines and only know the chickpea dip called hummus or hummus bi-tahina – ‘hummus’ is ‘chickpeas’ in Arabic and ‘tahina’ is ‘tahini’ and it’s a chickpea and tahini dip – then know that there’s actually a whole huge world of hummus and we’ll be posting more hummus recipes from a region we lived in for a decade over coming weeks.
Like the recipe I shared for hummus balila, a traditional breakfast dish across the Middle East, this balela salad can also be scooped up with pita bread. But as a warm chickpea salad, you could also tuck into it for a shared lunch or dinner as part of a mezze spread of starters or sides, alongside baba ganoush, fattoush and beef kofta and the like.
If our balela salad recipe is reminding you of something, I reckon salata balela, as it’s called in Arabic, has a cousin in Antalya piyaz, a white bean salad of creamy, soupy white beans that are also topped with salad and customarily eaten with the Turkish bread called pide and Turkish köfte or meatballs. I could live off both dishes.
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Now let me tell you all about this super-easy balela salad recipe.
Balela Salad Recipe for a Warm Chickpea Salad from the Middle East
If you made our easy hummus balila recipe for a popular Middle Eastern breakfast favourite – a warm dish of creamy slow-cooked chickpeas, gently spiced with cumin, and drizzled with a dressing of lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil – and you enjoyed it, then you must make this balela salad recipe.
I like to think of this balela salad recipe as the lunchtime or dinnertime equivalent of hummus balila. The warm chickpea salad consists of creamy hummus balila topped with a traditional Arabic salad of crunchy cucumbers, sweet tomatoes, zingy purple shallots, crispy radishes, and fresh fragrant mint and parsley.
Now in case you’re wondering about the different spelling and why I used ‘balila’ for the hummus balila recipe and ‘balela’ for the salad recipe, note that there are different transliterations of Arabic terms throughout the Middle East, despite Arabic being a common language across the Arab world.
It drove us crazy when we used to write Lonely Planet guides to Dubai, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, but I think it drove our editors even crazier. Interestingly, the spelling ‘balela’ gets used more in relation to the salad rather than ‘balila’ for the breakfast hummus. That suggests more people are searching for ‘balela’ and as we want more of you to find our balela salad recipe that’s what we’re going with.
The reality on the ground isn’t as clear-cut, of course, and you’ll see far more variations than ‘balila’ and ‘balela’ on your travels around the Middle East. Of course, the differences aren’t only in translations, with recipes and presentation differing not only from country to country, but from province to province, city to city, town to town, and home to home.
This is my balela salad recipe based on the warm chickpea salads that I ate and loved during our decade or so living and working in the Middle East. As I said in my intro to the hummus balila recipe, I’ll be sharing more hummus recipes over coming weeks.
Because like many of our best canned beans recipes – chickpeas are garbanzo beans, after all – hummus dishes are not only incredibly delicious, they’re also easy to cook and are healthy and affordable, and who isn’t looking for budget-friendly meals right now? Just a few tips to making this balela salad recipe.
Tips to Making this Balela Salad Recipe for a Warm Chickpea Salad
I only have a few tips to making this balela salad recipe, as it’s super easy, just like the hummus balila recipe, with only a couple of additional steps – make the salad while the chickpeas are cooking (which won’t add time to the overall time), then spread the salad on top of the hummus balila.
Definitely use a mortar and pestle to lightly pound the garlic cloves until almost at a paste-like consistency, to release the flavours. It makes a big difference.
I use canned chickpeas, which are very affordable, convenient and healthy, so don’t feel guilty about that. Of course you could absolutely make this dish using dried chickpeas if you prefer, by soaking the chickpeas overnight to soften them but dried chickpeas are very expensive where we live, so it doesn’t make sense for us.
While you could cook the chickpeas for 30 minutes and probably be very satisfied, I strongly recommend simmering them for at least 45 minutes so they’ve softened completely. Add water as needed so that the chickpeas are always covered, and stir frequently.
At around 30 minutes, I recommend using a fork or potato masher to mash around a quarter of the chickpeas; taste, and season with more salt or cumin if needed. A little Aleppo pepper or chilli flakes is also wonderful.
While the chickpeas are cooking, you should make the salad by tossing the chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, and diced shallot and radish, with the fresh herbs. Mix the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil together and pour half onto the salad and combine.
When the chickpeas are soft, remove them from the heat, allow them to cool a little, so they’re somewhere between room temperature-ish and warm-ish then spread them thickly onto a large serving plate.
Drizzle the remaining lemony olive oil on top of the chickpeas, sprinkle on a little more ground cumin on if you like, use a large serving spoon to spread the salad on top, and serve immediately while still warm with pita bread and dishes of radishes, olives and pickles.
Balela Salad Recipe for a Warm Chickpea Salad
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tins chickpeas
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 cucumbers - sliced and quartered
- 3 tomatoes - chopped to the same size of the cucumbers
- 1 purple shallot - finely diced
- 1 radish - finely diced
- 1 tbsp fresh mint - finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh curly-leaf parsley - finely chopped
- 1 lemon - juice only
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Use a mortar and pestle to lightly pound the garlic cloves until almost at a paste-like consistency, then in a medium-sized pot over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and fry the garlic for 30 seconds or so until fragrant.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, pour the canned chickpeas and brine into the pot, add the salt and ground cumin, stir to combine, and add a little water if needed to ensure the chickpeas are completely covered.
- Cook the chickpeas for 45 minutes or so until they’ve softened, adding water and stirring as needed. At around 30 minutes, use a fork or potato masher to mash around a quarter of the chickpeas; taste, and season with more salt or cumin if needed.
- While the chickpeas are cooking, make the salad by tossing the chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, and diced shallot and radish, with the fresh herbs. Mix the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil together and pour half onto the salad and combine.
- When the chickpeas are soft, remove them from the heat, allow them to cool a little, so they’re somewhere between room temperature-ish and warm-ish then spread them thickly onto a large serving plate.
- Drizzle the remaining lemony olive oil on top of the chickpeas, sprinkle on a little more ground cumin on if you like, use a large serving spoon to spread the salad on top, and serve immediately while still warm with pita bread and dishes of radishes, olives and pickles.
Please do let us know in the Comments below if you make our Middle Eastern balila salad recipe as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.