Chickpeas vs Chicken: Protein and Nutrition


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 300 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.

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.

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.

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.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.