Chickpea "Tuna" Salad is Not Tuna, But No One is Mad

February 24, 2016

If you're looking for tuna salad, turn back now.

But if you're looking for more proof of the versatility of chickpeas—if you're looking for a lunch (or dinner, or breakfast?) somewhere between hummus and chickpea salad, somewhere between a spread and a dip, that's adept enough to hold your brine or spice or sesame oilhere it is. And you can call it whatever you like.

Chickpea "tuna" salad, though reminiscent of its namesake in appearance, won't fool you when it comes to taste—but that's not a bad thing. With no allegiance to the sea, chickpea "tuna" can be as fishy or as earthy or as a wacky as you want it to be.

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Take a can of chickpeas and pulse them in a food processor until they're pulverized but still chunky. (You can also use a potato masher or a sturdy fork, but I find the machine does a better, faster job.) Add roughly chopped vegetables and some herbs and spices (go with red onion, celery, and dill if you're inspired by tuna) along with some sort of creamy element (I went with Greek yogurt and tahini, but you could use crème fraîche or sour cream or vegan mayonnaise).

Brighten it with lemon zest; make it briny with capers or dill pickles; add crumbled nori or a dash of ume plum vinegar; or throw in some toasted sunflower seeds (like in this recipe from The Minimalist Baker) for earthiness.

And since this isn't actually tuna salad, feel free to turn it into something that isn't actually chicken salad either: Add curry powder and Sriracha, or walnuts, dried cranberries, and chopped apples.

Scoop it onto toasted rye topped with greens. The next day, spread it on a thick piece of wheat bread, broil some white cheddar over top, and there you have it: a chickpea "tuna" melt (though you can call it whatever you want).

Inspiration for your next tuna-free "tuna" salad:

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Ivonne Hudlet
    Ivonne Hudlet
  • JSCooks
  • PG Tipsy
    PG Tipsy
  • amysarah
  • Gayle Morabito
    Gayle Morabito
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Ivonne H. February 14, 2017
Hello!!! Can you cook your own chickpeas?? For reasons unknown canned chickpeas are super expensive where I live...
Gayle M. February 16, 2017
Yes !! Purchase dried chickpeas - saves money and they taste so much better than canned. I'm trying to get away from purchasing anything canned when I am able. Dried beans are a staple now in my house since I made an effort to really learn how to best use them. So easy. Feel a little silly it took me so long :)
JSCooks February 28, 2016
Your point was clear to me, Sarah. Had you said we're not "mad about" that would be different. (Unless you already changed it, in which case that was a great suggestion, amysarah!). You could always say, "no one is disappointed" and avoid the issue altogether. In any case, the no-tuna salad sounds great, even to this tuna lover!
PG T. February 28, 2016
I am *happy* there is no tuna in my tuna salad.
Vegetarian chopped liver is MY spirit animal.
I am cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.
Nah - I'm just cuckoo.
ps - Love this recipe that's not really a recipe but a sleight-of-hand technique. The tunas thank you.
Sarah J. February 28, 2016
Please share your recipe for vegetarian chopped liver! What is that?
PG T. February 28, 2016
Hi Sarah!
There are many variations of ersatz chopped chicken liver, but a basic & best one belongs to The Food Maven - Arthur Schwartz.
You folks @FOOD52 should hook up with Arthur.
He's a total gas, opinionated as the day is long, and a complete creature of cuisine. LOVE him.
Give Amanda & Merrill a heads up about Arturo (a nice Jewish boy who likes to pretend to be Italian).
amysarah February 24, 2016
Interesting idea...but you might want to rephrase your front page headline. Saying you're not mad about something usually implies it's just so-so, or "we're not crazy about it" - rather than "we're fine/pleased with it not being tuna" (which I think is your intention.)
Sarah J. February 24, 2016
Oh! Not my intention. It was more like: "We're not even angry that this is called 'tuna salad' even though it's far from it." Thank you for the feedback, amysarah!