Chickpea is the most important pulse crop globally after dry beans. Climate change and increased cropping intensity are forcing chickpea cultivation to relatively higher temperature environments. To assess the genetic variability and identify heat responsive traits, a set of 296 F8–9 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) of the cross ICC 4567 (heat sensitive) × ICC 15614 (heat tolerant) was evaluated under field conditions at ICRISAT, Patancheru, India. The experiment was conducted in an alpha lattice design with three replications during the summer seasons of 2013 and 2014 (heat stress environments, average temperature 35 °C and above), and post-rainy season of 2013 (non-stress environment, max. temperature below 30 °C). A two-fold variation for number of filled pods (FPod), total number of seeds (TS), harvest index (HI), percent pod setting (%PodSet) and grain yield (GY) was observed in the RILs under stress environments compared to non-stress environment. A yield penalty ranging from 22.26% (summer 2013) to 33.30% (summer 2014) was recorded in stress environments. Seed mass measured as 100-seed weight (HSW) was the least affected (6 and 7% reduction) trait, while %PodSet was the most affected (45.86 and 44.31% reduction) trait by high temperatures. Mixed model analysis of variance revealed a high genotypic coefficient of variation (GCV) (23.29–30.22%), phenotypic coefficient of variation (PCV) (25.69–32.44%) along with high heritability (80.89–86.89%) for FPod, TS, %PodSet and GY across the heat stress environments. Correlation studies (r = 0.61–0.97) and principal component analysis (PCA) revealed a strong positive association among the traits GY, FPod, VS and %PodSet under stress environments. Path analysis results showed that TS was the major direct and FPod was the major indirect contributors to GY under heat stress environments. Therefore, the traits that are good indicators of high grain yield under heat stress can be used in indirect selection for developing heat tolerant chickpea cultivars. Moreover, the presence of large genetic variation for heat tolerance in the population may provide an opportunity to use the RILs in future-heat tolerance breeding programme in chickpea.