They sound similar, and are both known as good sources of protein.
Chicken is one of, if not the, most popular source of animal protein, while chickpeas are one of the most popular plant-based sources of protein.
So which one’s best?
I’ll break down the differences in protein and amino acid profiles, plus the nutritional value of each.
Table of Contents
Do Chickpeas or Chicken Have More Protein?
There’s a reason most athletes think going vegan would be hard, if not impossible.
It’s true that getting protein from plants is harder than getting it from animal sources.
Although chickpeas are one of the best plant sources of protein, chicken has way more protein:
- In 100 grams of chicken (239 calories), there is 27 grams of protein
- In 1 cup of cooked chickpeas (269 calories), there is 14.5 grams of protein
I tried to match up the calories reasonably well so we could compare them head-to-head.
Chicken has about 2 times as much protein on a per calorie basis.
Here are the full macros for reference:
|Fat||2.6 g||14 g|
|Carbohydrates||27.4 g||0 g|
|Fiber||7.6 g||0 g|
|Protein||8.9 g||27 g|
Chicken is of course low in carbohydrates, while chickpeas are relatively high in carbohydrates (and fiber), and lower in calories.
While it depends on the cut of meat, chicken is almost always much higher in protein and fat than chickpeas. On the other hand, chickpeas have a lot more carbohydrates and fiber, while being lower in calories overall.
Amino Acid Profile Comparison
While it doesn’t matter if a single food is a “complete” protein (you can get different amino acids from other foods during the day), it is more convenient when a single protein source has all the amino acids you need.
Let’s look at the amino acids of chickpeas and chicken, side-by-side with the RDA for each of them.
|mg per kg||for 70 kg person||1 cup||300 grams|
Chickpeas honestly aren’t that bad. If you have two to three servings of chickpeas, you will meet your RDA for almost all amino acids other than methionine.
But chicken meets all your essential amino acid RDAs within 300 calories, so it’s clearly the better of the two, even if it’s not a huge difference in practical terms.
Chicken easily exceeds the RDA of all essential amino acids in a small serving. Conversely, chickpeas do have a reasonably strong amino acid profile (only really low in methionine), but takes a sizeable serving to meet the RDA of most amino acids.
Nutritional Value Comparison
If you’re an omnivore and just want the most protein, you’d always choose chicken.
But the story is flipped when it comes to vitamins and minerals.
The data makes this clear:
Chickpeas don’t just win most categories, they absolutely crush chicken in most nutrients. More importantly, they have the most of the most important nutrients like iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium.
Chicken has more niacin, vitamin B6, and selenium, but those aren’t the hardest to find from other sources.
Chicken is not particularly nutritious in terms of vitamins and minerals, while legumes like chickpeas have a high amount of several nutrients like iron, magnesium, and potassium.
Environmental Impact of Chicken and Chickpeas
Another factor that many people care about is the impact of their diet on the environment.
In general, vegan protein has a much lower impact than meat, both in terms of emissions and land use.
In the case of chicken (poultry), it emits 9.87 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents per kilogram of meat. While chickpeas are not in the data below specifically, other legumes like soybeans (3.16 kg) and peas (0.98 kg) are.
So while poultry may produce fewer gas emissions than other meats, chickpeas still produce far fewer emissions to cultivate.
When it comes to land use per 100 grams of protein, it’s about even.
Poultry meat takes 7.1 square meters per 100 grams of protein, while chickpeas fit best under “other pulses” at 7.3 square meters.
Chicken is among the most environmentally friendly meat products, but legumes like chickpeas are still better for the environment by a significant margin.
The Difference Between Chicken and Chickpeas
For vegans, chickpeas and other legumes are solid protein sources that also give you a ton of nutritional value.
If you eat a mixed diet, chickpeas are better when it comes to vitamins and minerals, but chicken will give you more protein. Seitan vs chicken is a lot closer when it comes to protein.
Realistically, if you’re not a vegan, you probably want to have both in your diet to provide a balance in most cases, but it depends on what your diet looks like, and what the other foods you’re eating are.
Finally, if you’re concerned with your environmentally impact, you should stick to chickpeas as much as possible (and plant proteins as much as possible over meat alternatives).
Are Chickpeas Healthier Than Chicken?
In most contexts, chickpeas are healthier than chicken.
However, keep in mind that no food is healthy by itself, it depends on the rest of the diet. For example, chicken could be considered healthier for someone who lacks protein or niacin in there diet.
But in most cases, chickpeas are the clearly healthier option since they have a good amount of fiber and several vitamins and minerals, which people often lack in a typical diet.