Here’s a fresh, tasty lunch idea that will appeal to you meat-free folks: tuna salad minus the tuna, with all the flavor and fixin’s of the original but completely vegan. Instead of tuna, the base is made of nuts and seeds, soaked, chopped and flaked to mimic the texture of tuna salad to a T.
When I excitedly tried to share this recipe with some of my family members, they eyed me dubiously and said, “Why don’t you just use tuna?” A valid point, I suppose.
For me the answer is simple: Because I don’t like tuna, or any other fish. I never have. Plus, I don’t like mayo. That’s two strikes right there, no need to go for a third.
There are, of course, more reasons than this to skip actual tuna and go for an alternative. The obvious one is if you’re vegan and/or morally opposed to eating animals. Many people who live this lifestyle find themselves longing for the comfort foods of days gone by and love recreating an old favorite in a vegan-friendly way.
The main reason for many is that fish and shellfish contain levels of mercury, a heavy metal found in the environment in troubling amounts thanks to industrialized pollution and other sources. Mercury makes its way into the clouds and subsequently into rainwater, which then falls into oceans and other waterways where it is eaten and absorbed by fish. Why is this a problem? “Those of us who eat too much mercury-laden fish can suffer from a range of health maladies including reproductive troubles and nervous system disorders,” reports Scientific American. Infants, children, and women of childbearing age are particularly advised to avoid mercury and the most common mercury-containing fish. Pregnant women in particular are told to skip seafood because, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, human fetuses exposed to mercury before birth “may be at an increased risk of poor performance on neurobehavioral tasks, such as those measuring attention, fine motor function, language skills, visual-spatial abilities and verbal memory.”
The Environmental Defense Fund runs a Seafood Selector website to help consumers make informed choices about the kinds of seafood they choose to purchase and eat. It advises that those concerned about mercury should avoid bluefin tuna, walleye, king mackerel, marlin, bluefish, shark, swordfish, wild sturgeon, opah and bigeye tuna. Also on the list are orange roughy, Chilean sea bass, blue crab, lingcod, Spanish mackerel, spotted seatrout, wahoo, grouper, snapper, halibut, tile fish, rock fish and sable fish, as well as blackfin, albacore and yellowfin tuna.
If I’ve got you thinking twice about reaching for that can of tuna, the good news is, I found several delicious alternatives using almonds rather than tuna fish. Here’s a look at two, plus my recipe (inspired by the second included here) for quick and easy tuna-free salad.
Save The Tuna Salad on Rye from KrisCarr.com
This recipe is chock-full of healthy, fresh ingredients that come together to create a rich, complex dish full of nutrients and flavor. It’s blender- or food-processor-based, but a bit more involved, yet worth the effort if you want a killer mock-tuna salad to convince your skeptical friends to give tuna a break. Find the recipe at KrisCarr.com.
Easy Flaked Almond “Tuna” Salad from OhSheGlows.com
For a quicker, more traditional tuna recipe, check out the vegan cooking blog OhSheGlows.com. She has you flake the almonds in a high-powered blender or food processor, finely chop the other ingredients, and then mix them all together in a bowl with dijon mustard and vegan mayonnaise. Read the full recipe at OhSheGlows.com.
Here’s my recipe, which is actually my favorite (and no, I’m not biased at all!). It takes the best flavors from the previous two recipes but is easier and quicker to put together. If you want that fishy flavor try adding a bit of kelp granules, as the other recipes suggest. But for a quick dish using things you’ve probably already got on hand, try this version.
Hold-the-Tuna Salad from HealthyLittleChanges.com
- 1 cup raw almonds, soaked in water for several hours or overnight
- 2 celery stocks, chopped
- 1 green onion, chopped
- 1 small-medium dill pickle, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp yellow mustard
- 3-4 Tbs creamy dressing (you can use mayo, vegan mayo, sour cream, plain yogurt or plain greek yogurt, ranch dressing, or an alternative — I used the vegan sour cream recipe from OhSheGlows.com)
Drain the almonds, rinse, and drain again. Toss them in the food processor or high-powered blender (cuz you know I’m in love with my Blendtec) and pulse until flaked, resembling a tuna fish-like texture. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and pulse a few more times to combine. Add more or less of the dressing as you like to reach desired consistency. Enjoy as a sandwich, salad, or on crackers for a quick, healthy snack.