Photographs provided by Rebecca Moore
Prep time: 1/2 hour
For your next beach picnic or boat outing -- or any summer meal! -- here is a super quick, super easy, super light and healthy, and super delicious recipe for vegan “tuna” salad. You don’t even need to drag out the Cuisinart (although you can! Pulse all the ingredients together lightly, and you’re done!) But there is something so lovely and rudimentary about just needing one fork, one big bowl...chopping a few things and, voila!, having lunch sandwiches for days, or an amazing chunky dip for a party, or a hearty topping on bowls of chopped salad greens for those summer dinners when you just feel like keeping things light.
This hearty and refreshing salad has been my go-to contribution to summer picnics and potlucks, and I never get tired of hearing vegans AND non-vegans say: “I want that recipe.” There are many versions out there on the web, but I have tweaked measurements over the years and done things, like adding dried cranberries, to make it my own. At the end of this recipe, I suggest other add-in options for you to try that I have enjoyed as well.
This may not taste exactly like the fish version in any literal sense; but, with the ocean’s ecosystem and denizens facing a lot of challenges, and some tuna hovering on the brink of extinction, this is a way for you to enjoy that “hint of the sea” you crave in a way that is yummy and satisfying and the whole family will love -- while those beautiful fish are left to thrive in their ocean home.
As a bonus, if you leave out the chopped Nori seaweed, you have a great substitute for chicken salad that your kids will likely really love. I happen to run a chicken rescue in the Hudson Valley, so it goes without saying that this recipe is a hit with both the human and feathered residents at our place.
(Right to left) Blanche and Almondine about to enjoy some "Hint O' the Sea" Un-Tuna Salad!
(P.S. Vegan Mayo is great to use and not only has a lighter environmental footprint too, but is lower in cholesterol and lower in saturated fat.)
2 15.5 oz cans of Chickpeas, drained
1/2 Red Onion, chopped into small pieces
2/3 cup Bread & Butter Pickles, minced (about 10-15 pickle slices)
(As a substitute, use 1/3 cup of your favorite pickle relish. Add slowly to taste.)
1 cup Shredded Carrot (You can use the bagged, pre-chopped version, but grating them at home makes them a nice, softer texture.)
1 cup Celery, Chopped
1/2 cup Vegan Mayonnaise (I use “Follow Your Heart” Brand, but others work as well.)
1/3 cup Dried “Fruit-sweetened” Cranberries (Available at health food stores...but you can also use raisins which is more traditional.)
Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste
1 small package of Seaweed Sheets*
*This last ingredient is what makes it “un-tuna” salad. You can leave this out for it to be “un-chicken salad! I alternate and make it both ways based on mood. I generally will use “sesame flavored” Nori found in snack-size packs at our local health food store, but you can experiment! You can find many brands of Nori seaweed snacks, generally in the Japanese food section of your favorite local grocery store, but different snack varieties are becoming increasingly popular and available.
- Mash the chickpeas in a big heavy bowl (I just mash one can at a time so it is easier, using a fork).
- Stir in the chopped red onions, pickle slices, celery, and shredded carrots.
- Stir in the vegan mayonnaise. You may want to add a little more, a little less — so add slowly and make it the consistency you like, to taste!
- Stir in the dried cranberries (or raisins) — again, adding to taste. You may want a little more, a little less.
- Before you add the salt and pepper (also to taste), decide if you want to add the seaweed. To be perfectly honest, the salad at this point is absolutely delicious without it, so if you or your kids are not fans of fishy things, then leave it out and just add the salt and pepper. If you are going for oceanic, then take 4 or 5 of the small Nori Sheets and cut them into very small slices with a pair of kitchen scissors. They don’t have to be cut perfectly because they are going to break up and distribute in the salad mixture. Add the chopped Nori a little bit at a time to your salad mixture; you may want to add more or less. Keep stirring and mashing with fork a bit more as you add the Nori, tasting a little bit along the way until it is “just right.” The mashing will help the other flavors (e.g. onion, carrots) all “meld” together, too.
Serve on your favorite sandwich bread, or in endive or romaine leaves. Keep refrigerated until tomorrow’s picnic or Monday’s school lunch — it gets better overnight as all the flavors marinate together. Try these add-in options:
- A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce if you want it to have an extra “kick”
- A dash of your favorite curry powder, to add more exotic flavor
- Toasted walnuts or sunflower seeds mixed in are delicious, too!
- Mash an avocado and mix it in if you are feeling like going that extra mile
- A good teaspoon of your favorite Dijon mustard