Thursday, October 1, 2009

Classic (Not) Tuna Salad

Happy Vegan MoFo, everybody! I am kicking off this year's month-long celebration of exhaustive blogging by veganizing a childhood favorite. When I was growing up, tuna sandwiches made frequent appearances at lunch-time, and I daresay this was (and probably remains) true for many North American families. Of course, the differences between my mother's version and yours could be many, and my mom's take was pretty old school: lots of celery, a generous amount of mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and maybe a dash of dill or parsley if the mood struck her. This combination, on toasted white bread with potato chips on the side, was ambrosial to my notoriously picky childhood palate, duking it out over a number of years with grilled cheese for the position of favorite sandwich.

These days, I don't eat many sandwiches because there are usually leftovers, or I'm out at lunchtime, but sometimes you just want one. One of my early vegan epiphanies was that cravings for longstanding comfort foods can generally be satisfied with a little thought. If we just take a step back and think about what we liked so much about a given food,  it usually the now "off limits" elements, but rather a combination of textures, aromas, and flavorings. Once I realized this, a nearly limitless horizon of veganization opened before me: "creamy" textures can be recreated without dairy, "eggy" ones without eggs, smoky flavors can hit that sweet spot where "bacon" used to be, and the humble chickpea can recreate a tuna salad sandwich.

Of course, there's no shortage of chickpea salad recipes out there, so it's hardly rocket science; this just happens to be the way we like it. This is also one of those relatively infrequent times when I'm going to recommend a processed, packaged foodstuff because I can't be bothered to make my own vegan mayonnaise, and there are several really good ones out there now. That said, if you have a favorite recipe, by all means go for it and whip some up! Now let's make some sandwiches.

Classic (Not) Tuna Salad
~ 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained
~ 2 ribs celery, finely minced
~ 1 small carrot, grated
~ ½-¾  cup vegan mayonnaise; more or less to taste
~ 1 tsp. prepared mustard
~ 2 tbsp. chopped dill pickle or prepared relish such as (Heinz)
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, dill, parsley, paprika
~ Fresh black pepper to taste
~ 1 tsp. crumbled, dried seaweed (f you want a somewhat "fishy taste; I usually can't be arsed)
~ Dash of hot sauce ( I like Frank's)

~ Place the drained chickpeas in a largeish bowl. With a potato masher, mash them until they are crushed but not totally pulpy; you want some texture, but nothing that screams "Oi, I'm a chickpea!"
~ Add the celery, carrot, mayo, mustard, chopped pickle/relish, and spices. Stir to combine thoroughly, and taste for seasoning and texture.
~ Cover and chill for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve in a sandwich on some good toasted bread, maybe with some lettuce and a slice of tomato; potato chips are de rigueur.


  1. This sounds good, I'm always looking for ways to use chickpeas that disguise them a bit. In that pursuit I think I'd be tempted to add in my mum's favourite ingredient which was mashed up dill pickle (Russian - thought it went in everything). I'll have to get the food processor out and make mayo tho, the only vegan mayo I've found in Scotland tastes like thinned out white PVC glue.

  2. Meant to add, thanks for some really great recipes :)

  3. YAY! So glad to see you Mofo'ing. Tuna sandwiches are one of my faves BUT they MUST have diced Pickles in - they just gotta!

  4. I remember how my dad thought I was crazy because I used to make my tuna salad with ranch dressing and dill pickles. Sweet relish=blech. A sammich does sound good right now.

  5. Chopped pickles are probably pretty good, but not part of the canonical sandwiches of my childhood. I'd just like to add that I do an 8 or 9 hour drive pretty frequently, and these things are THE perfect road food!

  6. Your prose and your attitude toward cooking are inspiring. Excellent advice on how to veganize old non-vegan favorites.