Chickpeas vs Chicken: Protein and Nutrition Comparison


Chickpeas, Chicken….

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.

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:

  Chickpeas Chicken
Serving size 100g 100g
Calories 164 239
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.

  RDA RDA Chickpeas Chicken Breast
  mg per kg for 70 kg person 1 cup 300 grams
Calories     269 237
Tryptophan (mg) 4 280 139 549
Threonine (mg) 15 1050 540 2,058
Isoleucine (mg) 20 1400 623 2,436
Leucine (mg) 39 2730 1035 3,603
Lysine (mg) 30 2100 973 4,005
Methionine (mg) 15 1050 190 1,311
Phenylalanine (mg) 25 1750 779 1,935
Valine (mg) 26 1820 610 2,418
Histidine (mg) 10 700 400 1,434

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 (%DV) Chicken
Fiber 50% 0%
Niacin 4% 51%
Vitamin B6 11% 24%
Folate 71% 0%
Iron 26% 6%
Magnesium 20% 6%
Phosphorus 28% 18%
Potassium 14% 6%
Zinc 17% 6%
Copper 29% 6%
Manganese 87% 6%
Selenium 9% 33%

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.

emissions per protein source

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.

land use per 100 grams of proteinPoultry 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.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. I've spent over 6 years as a freelance nutrition writer and researcher. During this time, I've tested over 50 vegan protein powders, and over 100 other types of vegan supplements.


  • Let’s also talk about the plethora of chemicals and junk that chickens are shot up with and modified with.. including the way the majority of them are raised before being fed to people. Overtime, it causes mucus and clogged arteries to form in your body. So, chickpeas should always be considered first regarding health.

  • Thank you Dale, this page very helpful and also easily readable and pleasingly concise. I am not even vegetarian yet, but I am pushing myself that way: for sure I eat 80% less meat than a year ago. Information presented like this in a balanced way without trying to ‘convince’ me, or trick me into buying something is both rare and valuable.

    I live in NE Scotland in the UK: it is very cool to me that my ‘neighbourhood’ now stretches to Toronto, at least in terms of people I can trust for information on my dinner 😉 Thank you for your help as I educate myself and hopefully make the same sort of changes to my diet that you have, in a sustainable way.

    Cheers mate, Andy