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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mock Tuna Salad

As of this moment, I'm not a vegetarian. Though at times I really would like to be. Everything that I have read or watched about the way we eat in this country says that eating meat=bad while eating a plant-based diet=good. So, I guess you can say I'm dabbling in the vegetarian genre as often as I can (or, more accurately, as often as I think my husband will tolerate it).

So today, I was trying to figure out what to serve my family for lunch. And, I must admit, weekend lunches are my culinary weak spot. During the week, I pack leftovers for my lunches and for the kids. But come Saturday and Sunday my leftover reserves are typically gone, and I'm due for a trip to the grocery store. If there are times that my family is most likely to succumb and eat out, it would be Friday night and Saturday/Sunday lunch. And if I do manage to pull something together, it's usually soup and grilled cheese sandwiches (aka The Lunch of Champions).

Today, however, I had a recipe I really wanted to try out: Mock Tuna Salad. I'd had this dish once before during a rare mother-daughter lunch at an eclectic little shop, The Shangri-La Tea Room and Vegetarian Cafe in Boise, Idaho. Served as both an appetizer (with crackers and fresh veggies) and as a sandwich, the "Mock Toona" salad at the Shangri-La is 100% raw, which I have come to find out means that it is made of a combination of soaked nuts and seeds. And while I wouldn't say that it has exactly the same taste as tuna, you definitely can understand why people call it this.

However, seed-based mock tuna is not the only type out there. There is also a vegetarian recipe using one of the most versatile beans in the vegetarian's arsenal--the garbanzo bean (or chickpea). One advantage to this recipe, as far as I can tell, is that the beans do a decent job of emulating the texture of tuna. Pulsing it in the food processor--not to the point of creating hummus, but breaking it up into "flakes"--helps to make the finished product look more like tuna salad, something that is missing in the raw version.

There are a ton of recipes for mock tuna out there. But while I was reading through the many recipes, I saw one piece of advice that really made sense to me: if you don't usually put x-ingredient into regular tuna salad, don't put it into your mock tuna. So as I looked through the recipes online, I ruled out those that included dijon mustard and other odd-sounding inclusions and created one that had the ingredients that I consider essential to a good tuna salad or chicken salad sandwich.

The recipe that I used I adapted from a posting on Chez Bettay: The Vegan Gourmet.  My modified recipe follows, but feel free to made modifications to suit your own taste. I served mine as part of an open-faced sandwich, nestled on top of fresh-sliced tomatoes, baby spinach, and a slice of homemade 100% whole wheat bread. It was also good on crackers, and (as pictured) as an actual "salad"

Mock Tuna Salad

1 cup finely diced organic celery
2 15-ounce cans organic garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
4 green onions, finely sliced (both white and green parts)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon dried dill weed

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup Vegenaise or organic mayonaise
1/4 cup organic dill pickle relish or finely diced dill pickles
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste


1. Put the drained garbanzo beans into a food processor and pulse 5-6 times until roughly ground. Scrape into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

2. Add the celery and green onions to the bean mixture and stir to combine.

3. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the bowl's contents and mix together until creamy and combined.

*While the recipe is better after 24 hours in the fridge (to let the flavors mingle), it was also great freshly made as well.


  1. If it makes any difference, I am no longer a vegetarian due to the advice of our Naturopathic Doctor, who says it is nearly impossible to get the proper amount of protein from a meat free diet. There is good, healthy meat at Sheridan's Fruit Company on SE Stark and MLK in downtown PDX - Silvie Valley or Pleasant Hills for beef and Draper Valley for chicken (though no boneless - knife welding class!). I definitely notice a taste difference and both farms are free range 100% organic, vegetarian feed.

  2. We are not completely meat free here either, but I'm not "buying" meat from the grocery store. We have home-grown pork (that Corey's parents raised and that we butchered ourselves) and beef (that was grass-fed and finished by friends of ours--locally butchered as well). And as far as chicken goes, I buy pastured whole chickens locally. We are really looking at building a chicken coop and raising our own laying hens this year too. Otherwise, nothing else. I would say that I eat meat 3-4 meals per week, and try to make sure I have beans, quinoa, and other "protein" sources when meat isn't on the table. It is amazing the difference between "real" meat and the rest. And I know that some complain about the cost--but if you are eating it truly in moderation, it's not too bad.