Vegetarian Tuna Salad

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Vegetarian Tuna Salad — what’s that all about? Well, there’s no actual tuna in this recipe, but we’ve got a reminiscent tuna-flavored salad using chickpeas in place of the tuna!

We love replacing meat with plant-based options in some of our favorite recipes — like replacing meat for chickpeas in these vegetarian gyros or replacing meat with black beans & corn in these healthy tacos.

Image of the vegetarian tuna sandwich on a plate cut in half

Vegetarian Tuna Salad

A good tuna salad has always been one of my favorite go-to lunches (with this avocado tuna salad mixed in for variety). I’m sure my adult addiction to tuna salad came from my mom making it so frequently growing up. The other day, when chatting with my sisters, somehow tuna salad came up. Truly, our conversations are very exciting 😉

With a few vegetarian sisters, I asked if they missed tuna salad sandwiches and instantly this idea was born — tuna salad without tuna!

So, inspired by this recent chickpea salad sandwich creation, I decided to use chickpeas as the tuna replacement and add in all my other favorite tuna salad additions. The result? The absolute best vegetarian “tuna” salad — so much flavor, texture, and tang! Plus, it couldn’t be easier to make. We’re obsessed with this plant-based, vegetarian alternative!

Quickest Possible Prep

I wanted this recipe to be as simple as possible, so instead of finely chopping a bunch of veggies, we throw everything in the food processor to do the work for us!

Check out the photo collage below to see how simple this recipe is to make — we add the veggies first and pulse to chop those, then add the chickpeas, pulse to chop, and finally add in the dressing which we pulse to integrate. Such simple prep!

  • Pulsing the veggies and chickpeas in a food processor takes mere seconds! If you don’t have a food processor, the veggies will need to be finely chopped and then a potato masher or even a fork can break and crush the chickpeas for this vegetarian tuna salad.
  • Use a microplane and a citrus reamer or this citrus juicer to make getting lemon zest and juice quick and easy.

Process shots-- images of all the ingredients being added to the food processer


  • Chickpeas: Chickpeas replace tuna, providing a meaty texture and plant-based protein, making sure the dish will keep you full. Rinse, drain, and dry chickpeas thoroughly to prevent a watery salad. Use a salad spinner for effective drying, and pulse to a chunky texture to mimic tuna.
  • Crunchy vegetables: Celery and red onion add necessary crunch and freshness.
  • Herbs and seasonings: Parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper are essential for flavor depth. Season gradually, tasting as you go, especially since canned chickpeas’ salt content can vary. Avoid curly parsley– it’s usually used as a garnish and won’t contribute much flavor to this vegetarian tuna salad.
  • Lemons & pickles: Lemon juice, zest, and bread & butter pickles offer a delicious tanginess. Use bread & butter pickles because they are the right mix of sweet and sour. Add more or less lemon and pickles depending on how tangy you like it.
  • Mayo & olive oil: Light mayonnaise and olive oil create a creamy texture and bind the ingredients. You can use light mayonnaise or full-fat whatever you prefer. 


Obsessed with chickpeas? We can’t get enough! Try some of our other favorite chickpea recipes like this chickpea curry, General Tso chickpeas, chickpea salad, or this sweet potato coconut curry soup.

Image of all the ingredients pulsated in the food processor showing the consistency

Vegetarian Tuna Salad Serving Suggestions

  • We like this “tuna” salad filling best on hearty toasted wholegrain bread. We love adding fresh, ripe tomatoes, red onion, and lettuce
  • Eat the tuna salad as is — straight from the food processor!
  • For a low-carb meal, layer this sandwich filling on butter lettuce leaves and enjoy it as a lettuce wrap.
  • Add the vegetarian tuna salad filling to warmed pita bread or naan with fresh veggies of your choice. Fold it up and eat it like a taco. 
  • Serve with chips or veggie sticks like carrot sticks, celery sticks, or bell pepper sticks.

Overhead image of two of the vegetarian tuna sandwiches on a plate with crackers on the side


Adjust flavorings to personal preference. We love the strong complementary flavors of lemon and Dijon in this recipe. If you don’t love either flavor, simply leave them out. This recipe is very forgiving, so as long as quantities remain somewhat consistent, feel free to switch out herbs, spices, or other additions for ones you like more.

More delicious vegetarian options

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Vegetarian "Tuna" Salad

5 from 5 votes
Vegetarian tuna salad -- what's that all about? Well, there's no actual tuna in this recipe, but we've got a reminiscent tuna-flavored salad using chickpeas in place of the tuna!
Print Recipe

Vegetarian "Tuna" Salad

5 from 5 votes
Vegetarian tuna salad -- what's that all about? Well, there's no actual tuna in this recipe, but we've got a reminiscent tuna-flavored salad using chickpeas in place of the tuna!
Course Dinner, lunch, Main Course, Salad, Sandwich
Cuisine American, Vegetarian
Keyword vegetarian tuna salad
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Chelsea Lords
Calories 161kcal
Cost $6.12


  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained & rinsed
  • 1/3 cup EACH: celery, parsley
  • 1/4 cup EACH: bread & butter pickles, red onion
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus 1/2 teaspoon zest
  • 1/3 cup light mayonnaise (we love Best Food's/Hellmans)
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: Dijon mustard, olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: garlic powder, onion powder
  • Fine sea salt & pepper


  • CHICKPEAS PREP: Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas. Thoroughly dry; I do this by adding them to a salad spinner -- quick and easy!
  • CHOP VEGGIES: Coarsely chop celery (2-inch pieces), rip off parsley from the bunch, coarsely chop red onion. Now measure all these ingredients to get correct quantities as listed in the recipe card and add everything to the food processor along with the drained bread and butter pickles (Note 1). Pulse to chop until finely chopped, about 20-30 seconds. Use a spoon to scrape down edges if needed and pulse again.
  • ADD CHICKPEAS: Add dried-off chickpeas. Pulse to coarsely chop, 10-20 seconds. Again use a spoon to scrape down edges as needed. Add in remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper (I add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.) Pulse until just combined. Taste and adjust any seasonings to personal preference.
  • SERVE: Serve on toasted bread with your favorite sandwich toppings (we like lettuce & tomatoes) or in butter lettuce leaves. Or on crackers or with veggie sticks -- whatever you'd like!
  • STORAGE: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Give it a quick stir before serving up leftovers.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: This is a very tangy tuna salad which is how we love it. If you'd like less tang, reduce or leave out the pickles and dijon mustard.
Note 2: Calories do not include the bread or other toppings as those will vary.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 161kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 5.7g | Fat: 7.8g | Cholesterol: 3.2mg | Sodium: 485.4mg | Fiber: 5.2g | Sugar: 3.8g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.


I love hearing from you when you've made one of my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @ChelseasMessyApron or leave me a comment below.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Awesome! I have been vegetarian for almost nine years and tuna sandwiches/tuna melts and hamburgers are the only things I have missed. Well this recipe has answered my tuna cravings.

  2. sorry just saw this now will be making this soon can i use vegan mayo as am a vegan i never had salad before perfect for my after office meals will dm you if i make this and let you know how it goes Thanks Ramya

  3. 5 stars
    This is my favorite thing to make for packed lunch. Try adding flakes of seaweed/kelp, old bay seasoning, and lemon juice. All the seafoody flavors adds a lot to this!

  4. 5 stars
    I’ve been making variations of chickpea tuna since I became plant based 4 years ago but I think I like this one especially. I’d add a little old bay. I’d like to try a tuna melt with this recipe or even tuna mac using chickpea elbow macaroni. I love the idea of adding the ground flax seeds. They won’t change the flavor but they will add those all important omegas. Thank you for this!

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