Fra Diavolo (literally “among the devil”) is a spicy sauce made with a generous portion of red pepper. While it’s typically served with seafood, this vegan chickpeas fra diavolo recipe hits all of those spicy, tomatoey notes.
“Shut up about tomatoes already, Shannon!”, they said while shaking their heads. But you can’t stop me! It’s summer and I’m gonna ‘mato all I want.
The backbone of this vegetarian fra diavolo dish is the tomato-based sauce, which is made by sauteing a little bit of onion, quite a lot of garlic, and as many red pepper flakes as you can tolerate. Deglazing with white wine brings a bit of elegance to the equation, and from there you work in some crushed tomatoes and simmer until thick.
I stirred in chickpeas this time around, resulting in a rich and spicy tomato chickpea stew that I have deemed chickpeas fra diavolo, but you could use whatever protein or veggies suit your fancy. I’d stay away from tempeh, the bitterness will leave the dish out of balance. But tofu is a great candidate, or roasted cauliflower.
I’m partial to chickpeas because they’re a more traditional Italian ingredient and because they fit in a spoon! That means instead of being beholden to noodles, you can get creative and serve any bite-sized starch. Pictured, I’ve dished up these chickpeas fra diavolo with whole wheat orzo and some sauteed spinach with pine nuts. This dish would pair wonderfully with polenta too.
This recipe works well with canned tomatoes, but my one big caution is to avoid the diced kind that are preserved with an acid. They don’t soften as well in sauce type applications. Use crushed, pureed, or even whole canned tomatoes (crush them up yourself) and it’ll be smooth sailing.
Chickpeas Fra Diavolo
I have fond memories of eating seafood fra diavolo as a kid and this vegan chickpeas fra diavolo is a meatless version that's just as good! Tender chickpeas are simmered in a fiery tomato sauce to create a flavorful stew. Versatile and works well with rice, orzo, polenta, or even toast.
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 white onion thinly sliced
- 6 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- 28 oz crushed tomatoes (or 3 cups fresh, strained tomato puree)
- 1 sprig fresh basil (optional)
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (equal to 2 14-oz cans) rinsed, drained, and patted dry
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Ideally, use a wide and deep skillet - it needs to hold over 6 cups in volume. You can use a soup pot if needed. Heat the olive oil over medium heat, and when hot, add the onion with a pinch of salt. Cook for 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until softened and starting to become translucent (try to avoid browning it; turn down the heat if needed).
Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, black pepper, and salt. Cook for about 90 seconds or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the white wine and stir. Continue cooking until the wine starts to evaporate.
Add the tomatoes and stir well. Reduce the heat to medium-low. If using the fresh basil sprig, add it whole to the pan. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the tomatoes thicken. Remove the basil and discard it.
Make sure your chickpeas are patted dry so that they don't add liquid to the stew. Stir in the chickpeas, and simmer until hot throughout, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped parsley. Season to taste with additional salt (will depend on the type of chickpeas and tomatoes that you use) and red pepper flakes. Serve warm with rice, polenta, or bite-sized pasta like orzo.
VARIATIONS: Spinach or kale can easily be added in, wilting until tender while the mixture simmers. Dish can be used without the chickpeas as a sauce for regular pasta.
HEAT LEVEL: Red pepper flakes can vary. I was using Frontier brand when I tested this recipe and I added extra beyond the original 1 tsp. I also love spicy food. It's best to start with 1 tsp and add from there, to be safe, because some chili flakes can be extra hot. If you don't like spicy food at all, this recipe might not be for you.
Adapted from Serious Eats (non-vegan recipe).
Here are a few more recipes you might enjoy: