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Chickpea Tuna Salad

Chickpea Tuna Salad

Sara Pinkham


  • 1-15.5 oz. can chickpeas* (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

  • ¼ C carrots, finely chopped or shredded (1 medium or 5 baby)

  • ¼-½ C celery, finely chopped (1-2 stalks)

  • 2 Tbsp. sweet relish, or to taste

  • 2 Tbsp. vegan mayonnaise

  • ½ tsp. Dijon mustard, or to taste

  • 2½ tsp. dried dill weed

  • Pinch black pepper

  • Pinch salt


In a mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas with a fork or potato masher, leaving some whole, if desired.

Chop the carrots and celery. Add to the chickpeas.

Combine the sweet relish, vegan mayonnaise, dill weed, pepper and salt. Stir into the chickpea mixture. Ingredients can be adjusted to taste.

Refrigerate for an hour before serving. (Optional but recommended.)

*While it is not necessary to cook canned chickpeas, I sometimes like to heat them before using in this recipe. It makes them softer and easier to mash. If you do choose to heat them, be sure to rinse with cold water before mixing with the other ingredients.

More from the Author:

An American classic, the tuna salad sandwich has an origin story as humble as one might imagine.

Wasting food was uncommon in the 19th century. In the days before processed foods were mainstream, meals were typically homemade. Ingredients were precious, and every last crumb arrived at the table. Yesterday’s dinner scraps might become today’s lunch. Leftover meat and vegetables might find their way into a mélange with mayonnaise, which was most often made at home until it became commercialized in the early 20th century.

The end of the 19th century saw middle-class women spending more time in public, and over the next few decades women began to work more outside the home. Convenient comfort food arrived on the scene at lunch counters across the country, sometimes in the form of salad sandwiches.

Favorite familiar flavors of the home kitchen were met with economy and the ease of takeaway afforded by bread as a means of salad conveyance. Before bread, salads were often served on lettuce. Restaurateurs began using freshly prepared fish, a departure from the traditional scrap ingredients, and tuna became a popular option after it caught on in the early 20th century.

Many of us may feel a sense of nostalgia when thinking back to family tuna salad recipes. My grandma Alice was a champion of the Midwestern relish tray, and undoubtedly incorporated leftover sweet pickles into her tuna salads.

Behind the wholesome exterior of this much-loved sandwich, however, there is a more disturbing story. The demand for tuna emerged from a desperate situation.

The overfishing of sardines led the fishing industry to seek out a more viable option. In the early 20th century, tuna was successfully marketed as the everyday fish of choice. It became so overwhelmingly popular that generations of tuna fishing have resulted in reduced wild tuna populations.

This upsets the balance of the marine environment. Fishing overall has many unintended casualties in addition to killing millions of targeted fish per day. Sharks, turtles, whales, seals and dolphins are often unintentionally captured and killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whales can become fatally entangled in abandoned nets and lines. This happens worldwide.

The best way to honor our traditions while making responsible choices is to adopt modern revisions. Replacing tuna with chickpeas, for example, is one way to do the least harm to animals and the environment while still enjoying a historic American staple.

When it comes to another key salad component, using a plant-based mayonnaise instead of an egg-based product eliminates cholesterol. Choosing an egg-free mayo also benefits chickens.

Hens, particularly those in large-scale industrial operations, spend their lives laying eggs for human use at an unnatural rate due to generations of selective breeding and genetic modification. They are killed when they begin to lay fewer eggs, and many never leave their cages. The “cage-free” label on egg cartons does not necessarily mean hens are allowed outdoors.

My personal chickpea “tuna” salad recipe is the result of experimentation and a desire to keep things simple with ingredients I usually have on hand. It is an easy yet filling lunch that stores well in the refrigerator during the work week. It can be used in sandwiches, spread on toast, folded into wraps, or served the traditional way: on a bed of salad greens or lettuce.

With the recipe in this article, I encourage you to do your own experimentation. Maybe you prefer more dill or relish, or less mayo. Maybe you love crunch and want to add more celery. If you like onions, add 1-2 sliced scallions.

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