Vegan tuna is a chickpea salad recipe with no mayo or nuts, that's a delightfully savory, tangy, and sweet plant-based tuna salad that takes minutes to make with pantry ingredients and no added oil.
We have a few mashed chickpea salads we love, like walnut and cranberry, creamy chickpea salad with herbs, or curried chickpea salad. But this recipe is a standout. It has been served to vegans and non-vegans alike over the years – all to rave reviews. Best of all, it's easy and quick to make.
Table of Contents
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Unlike traditional tuna salad or other vegan tuna salad recipes, this one doesn’t rely on nuts, vegan mayo, or other ingredients. Simple ingredients, delicious results.
- This super simple recipe makes yummy sandwiches, baked potato toppers, or lettuce wraps.
Ingredients and Substitutions
There are 7 main ingredients with an option of adding nori for a little vegan fish flavor.
Chickpeas. Mashed chickpeas (garbanzo beans) mash to a similar texture to tuna fish and are a great source of vegan protein. Besides, a can of chickpeas is a staple in any vegan pantry.
Soy sauce. Unlike sea salt, soy sauce or tamari (gluten-free) adds a salty, umami flavor.
Maple syrup. A sweet taste balances out the sour pickles and soy sauce. Date paste makes a great substitute.
Mustard. This entirely depends on the taste you prefer. Use a standard American-style mustard, Dijon mustard, for extra tang or a combination.
Pickles. Dill pickles are as good in a vegan version of tuna salad as in the real thing. If you use sweet pickles, cut back on the maple syrup. No pickles? Use 1 cup of diced cucumbers tossed in lemon juice with a pinch of garlic powder and celery seeds.
Celery. A celery stalk (or two) adds flavor and a crispy texture.
Red onion. Red onions are on the sweeter side, so shallots are your best substitute.
Adding a sea flavor
Vegan chefs consider the 'sea trinity' as a combination of Old Bay seasoning, seaweed, and lemon juice for making vegan seafood, like tuna steaks, or for recipes that typically include a can of tuna. You can add fishy flavor using kelp powder, nori flakes, ground nori sheets, seaweed flakes, or finely chopped capers. Play with that if you want a fishier taste, or leave it all out if fish isn’t your jam.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
We love this vegan tuna salad recipe with or without sea flavors. And the good news is that slight changes can make it a whole new experience once you learn the basics. Here are a few to consider:
- Seeds – sunflower seeds, pepitas, or sesame seeds give the salad a light crunch and can enhance the flavor with a few tablespoons.
- Olives – Reduce the soy sauce and add chopped or sliced black olives.
- Pickles – There how many different pickles? You can also add a few chopped capers.
- Seasonings – Try a pinch of lemon pepper or old bay seasoning.
Step 1: Add the chickpeas to a large bowl and smash them using a potato masher or a food processor. Leave a few whole chickpeas for texture, or mash them smoothly.
Step 2: Mix the soy sauce, mustard, and maple syrup with the mashed chickpeas.
Step 3: Add the onions, celery, red onions, and vegan fish flavoring, like kelp powder or equivalent, if using.
Step 4: Mix all the ingredients and adjust the flavorings. Add a little salt and black pepper if desired.
There are different ways to enjoy chickpea tuna salad, beginning with the best vegan tuna salad sandwich ever! Seriously toast a slice of bread, add a lettuce leaf and tomato slice – heaven!
Make a cozy vegan tuna melt by adding a slice of vegan cheese over toasted bread or chunky French bread and grill it.
Make a meal by topping tuna over baked potatoes and adding a quick salad. Dinner’s on!
It's terrific for slipping on crackers or stuffing celery sticks for a late-night snack or as an appetizer.
Some something a little fancier, slice a cucumber lengthwise, clean out the seeds, and fill the void with vegan tuna salad. Or hollow out tomatoes for a lovely lunch.
Frequently asked questions
Chickpeas are sturdy and neutral pulses which is why they are used in vegan tuna; however, you can also use hearts of palm or jackfruit. Other beans, such as haricot, cannelloni, or great northern, could be too mushy after mashing, so I don't recommend them.
If you want to bulk out vegan tuna with veggies, consider adding diced cucumber, grated or finely chopped carrots, or fresh yellow or red bell pepper. Diced celeriac can substitute or replace celery.
Minced dill is the most logical fresh herb if you are using a mild dill pickle. As a garnish, chopped arugula, flat-leaf parsley, or celery leaves would make a beautiful presentation. Avoid more potent tasting herbs like basil, cilantro, or tarragon – they will overpower the tuna salad flavor.
Store vegan tuna (chickpea tuna salad) in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Stir it before serving.
More chickpea recipes
Do you have a question or recipe request or need a cooking tip? Leave a comment below or contact Denise. I’m here to help! If you want more healthy vegan recipes, please subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on Facebook or Pinterest for the latest updates.
If you make this recipe, please leave a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ rating. It’s much appreciated!
Rate this Recipe:
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans) - 2 cans, rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons prepared mustard - standard yellow or Dijon
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 medium red onion - chopped (1 cup)
- 2 stalks celery - chopped (1 cup)
- 1 cup chopped dill pickles
- 1 teaspoon kelp powder - nori flakes, or ground nori sheets (optional)
- Add the chickpeas to a large mixing bowl and smash them using a potato masher. Alternatively, you can pulse them a few times in a food processor.
- Mix in the mustard, maple syrup, and soy sauce, then add the onions, celery, pickles, kelp powder, or other sea flavorings.
- Taste, adjust the flavorings, and add a pinch of salt or black pepper if desired.
- Refer to the post for ideas for adding sea flavoring to this vegan chickpea tuna salad recipe.
- As an alternative to pickles, add 1 cup of diced cucumber tossed in lemon juice with a pinch of garlic powder and celery seeds.
- Vegan tuna lasts 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Stir before reserving.
Nutritional information is an estimation only.