No-tuna "tuna" salad sandwich, cut and stacked on top of one another.

Last fall my friend Diane emailed me this recipe for vegan “no-tuna” salad from the Minimalist Baker’s cookbook, Everyday Cooking. “Everyone who tries it,” she said, “asks for the recipe.”

I only just got around to making it a few weeks ago, and while I wish this salad had entered my life sooner, I’m especially grateful for having it now, with the holidays behind us, as I find myself craving all things fresh and light.

The first time I made it, I was astounded by the resemblance to tuna salad, something about the texture of the partially crushed chickpeas in combination with the dressing, a creamy mix of tahini, mustard, and vegan mayonnaise (or Greek yogurt, not vegan obviously, but healthy and delicious nonetheless). The addition of a few briny bites — capers and pickles — along with a few classic tuna-salad players — diced celery and onion — add to the almost-tuna effect.

You likely won’t fool any tuna-salad lovers here, but no one you serve this to will be disappointed. I’ve been sandwiching it between un-toasted three-seed bread, and my husband and I have been gobbling it up. Diane serves it in Boston lettuce cups as a wrap with shredded carrots, which is a great option for anyone looking to lighten it up further.

No-Tuna “Tuna” Salad Notes

  • Dressing. As noted above, to keep this vegan, use vegan mayonnaise. Dana Shultz, author of Everyday Cooking, also says you can use 2-3 tablespoons of additional tahini in place of the mayonnaise. If you are not vegan, Greek yogurt or mayonnaise or a combination of the two work well.
  • Make it ahead. This keeps well in the fridge, so don’t be afraid to make it ahead of time. With that in mind, you may also consider doubling the recipe — a single batch never lasts long in our house.
  • Canned chickpeas. Friends, you know I can be such a stinker (snob) about cooking beans from scratch, but I’m trying to get over it — New Year, New Beans! — and guess what? Not once have I used from-scratch chickpeas here. It doesn’t matter. Because you mash the chickpeas up and mix them with so many big-flavor ingredients, the chickpea flavor is mostly overpowered.

PS: Encouraged by my soon-to-be sister-in-law, I made these Curried Chickpeas with Cauliflower and Coconut Milk with 2 cans of chickpeas, and it was delicious. 2020 is looking bright!

A board with the ingredients to make no-tuna "tuna" salad.

Here’s the play-by-play: Gather your ingredients.

A bowl filled with chickpeas and pastry cutter to mash them up.

You can make this in one bowl, but in essence, there are two components: 1. A can of chickpeas, which you drain, rinse, and mostly mash up, and …

A bowl filled with the sauce for the no-tuna tuna salad sandwiches.

… 2. a flavorful dressing made with vegan mayonnaise (or Greek yogurt), tahini, mustard, capers, pickles, red onion, and celery. I love adding scallions and a squeeze of lemon, too.

A bowl of no-tuna "tuna" salad made with chickpeas in a bowl.
A quart container filled with no-tuna "tuna" salad.

This keeps really well in the fridge; you may want to consider doubling the recipe. These deli quart containers (BPA-free!) are so handy for storing these types of salads.

Sliced three-seed bread on a board.

I’ve been serving the salad on the three-seed bread from Bread Toast Crumbs. (Incidentally, I baked the loaves in two old 1-qt Corningware bowls … funny shape, but I kind of like.)

No-tuna tuna salad on a halved slice of three seed bread.
A halved, no-tuna "tuna" salad sandwich made with chickpeas.