This 10-minute creamy vegan tuna salad is packed with flavor and will have you shocked that it's not actually tuna! It's good for hot or cold lunches, and perfect for meal prep.
When I think of tuna, I think of being a kid.
Of school-time lunches: cold sandwiches packed by my mom or hot open-face tuna melts broiled with cheese.
Of the multitude of casseroles my mom used to make (so many casseroles!). There are two in particular that I remember: a creamy one with peas and toast, and a crispy one topped with potato chips and brown sugar (they really did taste so much better than they sound).
I think of summertime, picnics and parties, and cold tuna pasta salad.
I love tuna, and for me, it’s just one of those foods that has a million memories attached to it.
The Inspiration For This Vegan Tuna Salad
Greenpeace emailed me not long ago to tell me about a recipe contest they launched, called Think Outside the Can, to raise awareness regarding the destructive and irresponsible tuna fishing practices that many major companies engage in.
From the contest website:
Canned tuna is an affordable source of protein that many families depend on. But if companies like Chicken of the Sea don’t change the way they’re fishing for tuna today, we will lose the ocean ecosystems they depend on, and scarcity will cause the price to skyrocket tomorrow. The industry’s push for unsustainable canned tuna has left many species on the brink of extinction. Overfishing runs rampant across the globe, and countless animals such as sharks, turtles, rays, and many kinds of juvenile fish are killed every year by the global tuna industry. Until the industry changes its ways, we have to look to sustainable tuna options, and tuna-free versions of our favorites.Tuna Secrets by Greenpeace
Not only do I love tuna, but I love being able to help spread the word about such an important goal. I immediately knew I wanted to participate.
They’re looking for tuna-free alternatives to classic tuna recipes. I spent some time thinking about my favorite tuna dishes, but in the end I chose to make a vegan friendly version of the simplest, most basic tuna recipe I can think of: tuna salad!
It’s the most versatile tuna recipe. You can eat it on a sandwich, as a melt with cheese, on top of salad greens, tossed with cooked pasta, or as a spread for crackers. But what I love most about it is how unpretentious it is. It reminds me of my long-standing tuna-loving days dating back to my childhood.
The Best Easy Vegan Tuna Salad
For this plant-based salad, instead of using tuna as the base, I used crumbed 5-grain tempeh.
The 5-grain aspect of the tempeh caused some slight color variations (some of the grains were darker than others), which mimicked tuna’s natural look and gave the salad a very realistic tuna appearance.
The salad really did taste like some kind of seafood salad, and it was family-friendly (read: a huge hit all around!). I know it will become a favorite tuna salad replacement in my house, and hopefully in your house as well.
Bump Up the Seafood Flavor
Add 1 tablespoon of crushed nori (dried seaweed) for the ultimate fishy flavor!
Mock Tuna Salad Ingredients
In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas. For the full recipe (including ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.
- 5-grain tempeh - or you can use any type of tempeh you like; if it doesn't crumble well, chop it up and pulse it a few times in a food processor
- Celery - this classic tuna salad ingredient adds flavor and crunch
- Scallion - for mild onion flavor; you can use about 3 tablespoons of minced red onion if you prefer
- Parsley - this is optional, but adds flavor and pretty green flecks
- Onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and black pepper - these spices are traditional components in tunafish, and they lend savory flavor to our vegan tuna salad
- Lemon juice - just a touch of fresh lemon juice brightens the flavor
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce - this adds depth of flavor; make sure to use vegan Worcestershire sauce, and if you can't find it, you can use tamari sauce instead
- Vegan mayo - you can find vegan mayo on Amazon or in health food stores
- Stir together all ingredients until well combined.
- Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as desired.
- Refrigerate until serving.
Store mock tuna salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
How to Eat Vegan Tuna Salad
You can eat this any way you’d eat regular tuna salad! Here are a few ideas:
- As a sandwich or wrap
- Made into a vegan tuna melt with cheese
- On top of a bed of salad greens
- Tossed with cooked and cooled pasta
- As a spread for crackers
- As a dip to scoop up with fresh vegetables, such as bell pepper slices
Can I Use Chickpeas to Make Vegan Tuna Salad?
Yes, if tempeh isn't your thing, canned chickpeas are also perfect in this salad! To make vegan tuna salad with chickpeas, rinse and drain 1 (14-ounce) can of chickpeas, mash them until they look like tuna, and keep everything else in the recipe the same.
More Vegan Classics to Try
- Vegan Big Mac with Lentil Burgers and Special Sauce
- Raspberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies
- Mushroom Masala
Vegan Tuna Salad Recipe
- 4 ounces 5-grain tempeh crumbled
- 1 medium stalk celery finely diced
- 2 scallions green and white parts, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ¾ teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 5 tablespoons vegan mayo
- Stir together all ingredients until well combined. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as desired.
- Refrigerate until serving.
- Storage: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Recipe Yield and Serving Size: This recipe makes about 1 cup of vegan tuna salad, which is enough for 3 (⅓-cup) servings.
- Serving Suggestions: Eat vegan tuna salad any way you’d eat regular tuna salad – as a sandwich, as a melt with cheese, on top of salad greens, tossed with cooked pasta, or as a spread for crackers.
- 5-Grain Tempeh: If you can't find 5-grain, you can use any type of tempeh you like. If it doesn't crumble well, chop it up and pulse it a few times in a food processor
- Chickpea Version: To make vegan tuna salad with chickpeas instead of tempeh, omit the tempeh. Rinse and drain 1 (14-ounce) can of chickpeas, mash them until they look like tuna, and keep everything else in the recipe the same.