Lunch Two Ways: Thalheimer’s Chicken Salad and Chickpea Salad

There are so many reasons to love today’s recipe: something about the coolness of a cold salad, along with the green, crunchy celery just screams “spring!” to me. Paired with lettuce and tomato, this is a very filling lunch option.

Chicken salad in the bowl, ready to serve.

It also takes me back a little bit: I grew up near Richmond, Virginia – #RVA because it’s a cool place now – and we had a few stores that aren’t open anymore, including Ukrops Supermarket and Thalheimer’s. So about a year ago when a class assignment on food perspectives required me to delve into foods of my childhood, I went searching online for recipes from Richmond of the bygone era. #clutchmypearls

Once I found the chicken salad recipe, I realized it was amazingly simple to sub in other kinds of protein for a meatless recipe. I’ve tried “chicken-less” mock chicken strips, which made for the closest replica of true chicken salad. But by far, my favorite substitution is just the simple chickpea (also known as the garbanzo bean.) I often keep chickpea/garbanzos in the pantry, both canned and dried, so this was a natural, easy substitution. I wanted to stay as true to the original recipe as I could, so stay tuned after the recipe for a few tips and substitutions.

Another one of our bloggers, Rachel, has also written about chickpeas because they’re seriously amazing. Bonus: you can use what you drain out of the can in recipes as well: it’s called aquafaba and is worth it’s own post.

[Due to a camera memory card malfunction, I only have a few cell phone images of chicken salad to share, and none of the chickpeas. Next time I make this recipe I promise to update with better photos!]


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cups celery
  • 1/2 tablespoon white pepper*
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt*
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh is preferred, but prepackaged works too).
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (the original recipe calls for rotisserie chicken) OR  2 cans chickpeas
  • optional: diced tomatoes, lettuce, and onions for garnish. (not on the original recipe, but I enjoy the additional flavor.)

*the original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of both salt and white pepper, but I find that to be too much. I recommend starting with 1/2 and adjusting according to taste.


  1. Dice the celery very finely.
  2. If using chickpeas, drain them and mash them with a potato masher. I like mine fairly well-mashed, but some people prefer them more whole. Totally up to you, and delicious either way. I wouldn’t recommend leaving them completely whole though.
  3. Combine the mayo, celery, salt and pepper in a large bowl and stir until combined, then add in your chicken or chickpeas.
  4. Chill for two hours, and if garnishing, add toppings just before serving. Isn’t that easy?

I call this lunch two ways because I can make chickpea salad for myself and chicken salad for others, and both are equally easy. Either one is amazing on some hearty sourdough or a spinach and herb wrap.

Although the ratio of celery to chicken or chickpea seems high, it’s integral for the crunchy goodness that is this salad.

A couple of tips:

  1. If you’re vegan or avoiding mayo, try substituting mashed avocado. I do this sometimes just for the taste and healthy fat.
  2. If the chickpeas are too hard for your taste, add them to a pan, cover them with water and bring to a light boil for about 20 minutes.

So that’s a quick foray into my childhood, and how I’ve learned to adapt a favorite recipe for my adult eating habits. Do you have a favorite recipe that takes you back?

(And if you’re here because you are a Richmonder: glad you’re here! Meet me at the rivah?)

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