Chickpea Tuna Salad
Leave the tuna alone! This chickpea tuna salad is the perfect option for an easy vegan lunch. Vegan tuna salad is the sustainable answer to the original comfort food. I like mine loaded with carrots, celery and almonds and spiced up with lemon juice, Dijon mustard and crushed red pepper. Make it into a sandwich, stuff an avocado or wrap it up in lettuce leaves – it’s great however you choose to serve it!
Are You Vegan-Curious? How Does Vegan Tuna Salad Stack Up?
I don’t know about you, but I used to love a good tuna fish sandwich. White, gummy Wonder Bread®, extra mayonnaise and salty chips stuffed between the slices was my lunch of choice. It was a tough one to give up, so I don’t judge you if you’re waffling. But, let me try to convince you that chickpea tuna salad not only tastes great, but it’s a far better planet-loving option than the original. It will also save you a ton of time not having to scan tuna cans in the grocery store while researching on your phone. (1)
Why Go Vegan with Chickpea Tuna Salad?
If you’re an ethical vegan, this one is obvious. But what about people who choose not to eat animal products for sustainability reasons? Maybe you’re not a vegan, but a vegetarian? Maybe you’re a part-timer just looking to replace a few menu items with less impactful ingredients? Whatever way you slice it, chickpea tuna salad is worth a try!
Is Vegan Tuna Salad More Sustainable?
As I found out, asking the question of whether tuna fish is sustainable will take you on a lot of twists and turns. There is no simple “yes” or “no” answer. Picking up a can from the shelves requires a bit of know-how. For example, what kind of tuna is it? How was it caught? Is it safe to eat? How much of it can you eat?
What Type of Tuna Is It and How Was It Caught?
The type of tuna does matter, as some varieties of tuna are more sustainable than others. For example, skipjack tuna reproduces quickly. Whereas bluefin cannot reproduce fast enough. (2) How tuna is caught also raises sustainability issues … for more than just the tuna. Tuna fish is typically caught using the purse seine method. (3) This method, while not the least sustainable means of fishing (see trawling, blast fishing and cyanide fishing) (4), it certainly isn’t the best. The purse seine method involves catching tuna using a large net which usually leads to a fair amount of by-catch (or the unwanted fish or marine creatures caught in the process).
Is Tuna Fish Safe to Eat? How Much is Too Much?
Then there’s the question of health. Tuna fish is often cited as a type of fish carrying high levels of mercury. (5) According to this article in Healthline, some types of tuna fish have more than the safely recommended weekly exposure to mercury in one serving. So, as you’re standing in the store, should you buy chunk light or chunk white? Chunk white tuna is albacore tuna (higher in mercury), while chunk light tuna is usually skipjack tuna (lower in mercury) but it can also be yellowfin tuna (higher in mercury).
I don’t know about you, but that’s an awful lot of research required in making a decision about lunch.
Let’s Talk Chickpeas
Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are part of a larger food category called pulses. Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. (6)
From a sustainability standpoint, pulses are pretty incredible. Not only do they use less water (43 gallons for 1 lb. of pulses compared to 800-1,800 gallons to produce 1 lb. of animal protein), they produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and promote healthy soil. (7) Healthwise, chickpeas are a crown jewel of the vegan diet for protein consumption. At 10 grams / cup, chickpeas deliver more protein than a cup of milk. (8) Like tuna, however, chickpeas do have some environmental impacts that you need to be aware of when shopping. It is important to buy organic chickpeas, as conventionally grown chickpeas use certain pesticides thought to be possible carcinogens, hormone disruptors and bee toxins. (9)
Chickpea Tuna Salad: Building the Perfect Vegan Tuna Salad Sandwich
Truth be told, I never once opened a can of tuna fish and wanted to eat it as is. What made tuna salad for me was the ingredients added. For my chickpea tuna salad, I simply took what worked for tuna fish and adapted it.
Not only are chickpeas a great source of vegan protein, they’ve also got a meaty texture that matches that of tuna fish well. To prep them for this recipe, I drain and rinse them and then smash them using the back of a fork or (even better) a potato masher. I just prefer not to have larger pieces of chickpeas in my vegan tuna salad.
For me, mayonnaise is a must. If you haven’t tried vegan mayonnaise yet, you’re selling yourself short. It’s really tasty—as good as or better than the original. It’s typically made with a neutral-tasting oil, like grapeseed oil. I’ve also seen recipes using sunflower oil and avocado oil. Recipes also call for a plant-based milk, lemon juice (or vinegar) and some salt. That’s it!
I also like some crunch in my tuna salad, so I add finely chopped carrots, celery, red onion and almonds. For seasoning, I like a dash of Dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper. I mix it all together until it has the consistency of well, tuna salad, and then make it into a sandwich, lettuce wraps, stuffed avocados or tomatoes!
Chickpea Tuna Salad
- 1 14 oz can of organic garbanzo beans drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp red onion finely chopped
- 2 tbsp carrots finely chopped
- 2 tbsp celery finely chopped
- 2 tbsp almonds finely chopped
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
- 1 ripe avocado sliced and pitted for stuffing
- Drain and rinse the chickpeas. [Note: you can save the aquafaba for later use.]
- In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas thoroughly.
- Add the mayonnaise, onions, carrots, celery, almonds, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper (optional). Mix thoroughly.
- Add a large spoonful of the chickpea tuna salad to each avocado.
About Herbivore’s Kitchen
Herbivore’s Kitchen is a blog run by me, a plant-based home chef and aspiring food photographer. I switched my and my family’s diet to a plant-based diet after learning about the health benefits of going vegan. Making this change has prompted a variety of food and holistic-lifestyle related questions that I explore through this blog. I talk about how to pick and prepare the most nutritious foods, to how to reduce waste at home, to how to live a more sustainable lifestyle while on the road.