Vegetarian Tuna Salad

Vegetarian Tuna Salad

Vegetarian Tuna Salad — what’s that all about? Well, there’s no actual tuna in this recipe, but we’ve got a reminiscent tuna-flavored salad using chickpeas in place of the tuna!

We love replacing meat with plant-based options in some of our favorite recipes — like replacing meat for chickpeas in these vegetarian gyros or replacing meat with black beans & corn in these healthy tacos.

Image of the vegetarian tuna sandwich on a plate cut in half

Image of the vegetarian tuna sandwich on a plate cut in half

Vegetarian Tuna Salad

A good tuna salad has always been one of my favorite go-to lunches (with this avocado tuna salad mixed in for variety). I’m sure my adult addiction to tuna salad came from my mom making it so frequently growing up. The other day, when chatting with my sisters, somehow tuna salad came up. Truly, our conversations are very exciting 😉

With a few vegetarian sisters, I asked if they missed tuna salad sandwiches and instantly this idea was born — tuna salad without tuna!

So, inspired by this recent chickpea salad sandwich creation, I decided to use chickpeas as the tuna replacement and add in all my other favorite tuna salad additions. The result? The absolute best vegetarian “tuna” salad — so much flavor, texture, and tang! Plus, it couldn’t be easier to make. We’re obsessed with this plant-based, vegetarian alternative!

Quickest Possible Prep

I wanted this recipe to be as simple as possible, so instead of finely chopping a bunch of veggies, we throw everything in the food processor to do the work for us!

Check out the photo collage below to see how simple this recipe is to make — we add the veggies first and pulse to chop those, then add the chickpeas, pulse to chop, and finally add in the dressing which we pulse to integrate. Such simple prep!

  • Pulsing the veggies and chickpeas in a food processor takes mere seconds! If you don’t have a food processor, the veggies will need to be finely chopped and then a potato masher or even a fork can break and crush the chickpeas for this vegetarian tuna salad.
  • Use a microplane and a citrus reamer or this citrus juicer to make getting lemon zest and juice quick and easy.

Process shots-- images of all the ingredients being added to the food processer

Process shots-- images of all the ingredients being added to the food processer

Let’s chat chickpeas

Chickpeas are the “secret” ingredient replacing tuna, and it’s pretty incredible how meaty this vegetarian tuna salad ends up tasting. It’s hard to believe the filling is basically just veggies and chickpeas. And while it may seem like we’re missing out on protein, chickpeas are actually loaded with plant-based protein which ensures this “tuna” salad is very satiating. A few chickpea tips:

  • Thoroughly rinse and drain the chickpeas. Wet or watery chickpeas will water down the mixture and make it less flavorful. 
  • I love using a salad spinner to completely dry the chickpeas before adding to the food processor.
  • Don’t over-pulse the chickpeas, we still want some coarse texture and for the chickpeas to be fairly chunky.
  • Seasoning. Add additional salt and pepper until the flavors sing. Canned chickpeas contain different amounts of salt, so you may want less or more than what I’ve indicated in the recipe card.

The other ingredients in Vegetarian Tuna Salad

There aren’t too many other ingredients in this recipe, but below are a few notes about some of the other ingredients.

  • Use a flavorful mayo. The mayonnaise adds a nice creaminess and holds everything together nicely. We love Hellman’s/Best Foods® in this recipe. Since this recipe is so naturally nutritious, I like using their light mayo to keep things lighter.
  • Not just any type of pickles, but using bread and butter pickles makes a huge difference in this recipe. This particular variety of pickles has the best balance between sweet and tangy. They’re also very crisp!
  • Flat-leaf Italian parsley. Typically there is flat-leaf Italian parsley and curly parsley in the produce section of the store. Avoid curly parsley– it’s usually used as a garnish and won’t contribute much flavor to this vegetarian tuna salad.

QUICK TIP

Adjust flavorings to personal preference. We love the strong complementary flavors of lemon and Dijon in this recipe. If you don’t love either flavor, simply leave them out. This recipe is very forgiving, so as long as quantities remain somewhat consistent, feel free to switch out herbs, spices, or other additions for ones you like more.

Image of all the ingredients pulsated in the food processor showing the consistency

Image of all the ingredients pulsated in the food processor showing the consistency

Vegetarian Tuna Salad Serving Suggestions

  • We like this “tuna” salad filling best on hearty toasted wholegrain bread. We love adding fresh, ripe tomatoes, red onion, and lettuce
  • Eat the tuna salad as is — straight from the food processor!
  • For a low-carb meal, layer this sandwich filling on butter lettuce leaves and enjoy it as a lettuce wrap.
  • Add the vegetarian tuna salad filling to warmed pita bread or naan with fresh veggies of your choice. Fold it up and eat it like a taco. 
  • Serve with chips or veggie sticks like carrot sticks, celery sticks, or bell pepper sticks.

Overhead image of two of the vegetarian tuna sandwiches on a plate with crackers on the side

Overhead image of two of the vegetarian tuna sandwiches on a plate with crackers on the side

More delicious vegetarian options

Vegetarian “Tuna” Salad

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Vegetarian tuna salad — what’s that all about? Well, there’s no actual tuna in this recipe, but we’ve got a reminiscent tuna-flavored salad using chickpeas in place of the tuna!

Vegetarian “Tuna” Salad

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Vegetarian tuna salad — what’s that all about? Well, there’s no actual tuna in this recipe, but we’ve got a reminiscent tuna-flavored salad using chickpeas in place of the tuna!

Ingredients

  • 1 can (15.5; 439g) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained & rinsed
  • 1/3 cup EACH: celery (40g; ~1 stalk) and parsley (6g)
  • 1/4 cup EACH: bread and butter pickles (7 pickles; 39g) and red onion (30g)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus 1/2 teaspoon zest
  • 1/3 cup (80g) light mayonnaise (we love Best Food’s/Hellmans mayo)
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: Dijon mustard, olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: garlic powder, onion powder
  • Fine sea salt & pepper

Instructions

  • CHICKPEAS PREP: Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas. Thoroughly dry; I do this by adding them to a salad spinner — quick and easy!

  • CHOP VEGGIES: Coarsely chop celery (2-inch pieces), rip off parsley from the bunch, coarsely chop red onion. Now measure all these ingredients to get correct quantities as listed in the recipe card and add everything to the food processor along with the drained bread and butter pickles (Note 1). Pulse to chop until finely chopped, about 20-30 seconds. Use a spoon to scrape down edges if needed and pulse again.

  • ADD CHICKPEAS: Add dried-off chickpeas. Pulse to coarsely chop, 10-20 seconds. Again use a spoon to scrape down edges as needed. Add in remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper (I add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.) Pulse until just combined. Taste and adjust any seasonings to personal preference.

  • SERVE: Serve on toasted bread with your favorite sandwich toppings (we like lettuce & tomatoes) or in butter lettuce leaves. Or on crackers or with veggie sticks — whatever you’d like!

  • STORAGE: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Give it a quick stir before serving up leftovers.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: This is a very tangy tuna salad which is how we love it. If you’d like less tang, reduce or leave out the pickles and dijon mustard.
Note 2: Calories do not include the bread or other toppings as those will vary.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 161kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 5.7g | Fat: 7.8g | Cholesterol: 3.2mg | Sodium: 485.4mg | Fiber: 5.2g | Sugar: 3.8g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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