This Chickpea Tuna Salad features canned tuna combined with chickpeas, cucumbers, red pepper, and capers tossed in a lemon-dijon vinaigrette. Delicious, healthy, and perfect for make-ahead lunches!
I am always on the lookout for healthy lunches I can make in advance. I don’t know about you, but somehow my mornings fly by, and it’s suddenly 1pm and I’m STARVING. And at that point, I’m ready to shove that slice of leftover cold pizza in my mouth rather than make myself anything that will take more than 5 minutes. Those days I'm thrilled to have a container of Chickpea Tuna Salad in the fridge.
This chickpea salad is very easy to make, and keeps well for at least 3 days in the refrigerator. I start by making a lemon-dijon vinaigrette, then stirring together drained chickpeas, chopped red bell pepper and cucumber, some minced red onion, capers, and some high-quality jarred tuna. Sometimes I serve it on crostini toasts, but more often I try for a gluten-free lunch and serve it on lettuce cups. Either way, I’m super happy with myself for eating a healthy meal that also happens to be filling and delicious.
How to Make Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette
To start, whisk together 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon dijon mustard in a small bowl.
Then whisk in 6 tablespoons olive oil. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
How to Make Chickpea Tuna Salad
Rinse 2 cans of chickpeas well in a strainer, then let sit to drain well. Wash 1 large red bell pepper and 1 English cucumber, then chop into small, bite-sized chunks. Peel half of a red onion, then chop finely.
Combine chickpeas, pepper, cucumber, and red onion in a large bowl.
Drain 2 jars of tuna fillets, and use a fork to pull the fillets out of the jar and flake into the bowl with the vegetables.
Drain 2.5 tablespoons capers well, then add to bowl.
Stir gently, leaving some small chunks of tuna intact.
Stir in about half of the dressing. Taste, and add kosher salt and freshly ground pepper if needed.
Rinse salad greens, separate into leaves, and pat dry.
Serve spoonfuls of tuna salad into the salad green cups, or on top of greens if you are using loose salad greens. Drizzle with remaining dressing to serve.
This salad is extremely flexible. You can leave out the tuna entirely for a vegan version of this recipe—the chickpeas and veggies tossed with vinaigrette alone are delicious. You might also add some avocado on top. Here are some specific ideas for ingredient substitutions:
- Chickpeas: if you don’t have chickpeas, this recipe also works great with canned white beans or even black-eyed peas
- Red Bell Pepper: feel free to use a green or yellow bell pepper instead. You can also replace this with cherry tomatoes—that will give you that same bright red color that makes this dish so beautiful.
- English Cucumber: I prefer English cucumbers because they have fewer seeds and are less watery (and don't need to be peeled). If you want to use a regular cucumber, I'd recommend peeling off strips of the skin, and then cutting out the seeds before chopping the cucumber. This will help prevent the salad from becoming soggy. If you don't have cucumber at all, feel free to leave it out or replace with a little bit of chopped celery or green bell pepper.
- Red Onion: replace with shallots if you like, or a few chopped scallions
- Capers: if you don’t have capers, you could add some Kalamata olives instead to give you that salty, briny flavor. Or, leave them out and perhaps add some salty feta cheese on top.
- Salad Greens: baby spinach, baby kale, or arugula would also be lovely with this chickpea salad.
Can I use canned tuna for this recipe?
Yes, of course! I am a bit of a tuna snob in that the minute I tasted the delicious tuna fillets packed in jars that I found on the shelves of my local Whole Foods, I was hooked. I love them in dishes like my Classic Nicoise Salad. But regular canned tuna will work just fine—just keep in mind that you can really taste the tuna in this recipe, so you want to pick something that you like. I recommend oil-packed because oil helps seal in the flavor of the tuna better than water.
How long will this chickpea tuna salad last?
This chickpea salad lasts well in the refrigerator when packed in an airtight container. Eat it within 3-5 days. I don't recommend freezing this salad, as the vegetables will become soggy when defrosted again.
How do I know what kind of tuna is the most sustainable to buy?
Overfishing is a problem for tuna right now, so looking for the words “pole-and-line-caught” on your packaging can help you find sustainably-caught tuna. Or, look for brands that you know are doing the right thing. My favorite Tonnino brand is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. You can find lots of information about what they are doing for sustainability on their website.
Here in France, I now mostly buy Ortiz brand, which sells tuna caught in European waters using pole-and-line technique. They sell their tuna in cans as well as jars, so feel free to use those as well. Keep in mind that Greenpeace has called out big brands like Bumble Bee for using destructive fishing methods and human rights abuses. A few years ago, Greenpeace put together a ranking of the most sustainable and ethical tuna brands on the market—the big guys of Bumble Bee, StarKist, and Walmart all ranked at the very bottom.
Chickpeas vs Garbanzo Beans: What’s the Difference?
Trick question! Chickpeas and garbanzo beans are names for the same legume, which is one of the oldest cultivated legumes in the world. In the Middle East, archeologists have found remains of chickpea cultivation dating back 7500 years! Chickpeas are used in all sorts of dishes including hummus, falafel, and chana masala, and are a staple of Middle East and Indian cuisine. They are extremely versatile and can also be used in many different soups, salads, pasta, and curry dishes. You can also roast them with spices for a tasty and healthy snack.
Chickpeas are sold dried or already cooked. If you buy dried chickpeas, they will need to be boiled and then simmered for 1-2 hours until tender. Cook time can be shortened by soaking them overnight before using. And, chickpeas are quite inexpensive and available in most grocery stores.
Where Do Chickpeas Come From?
There are several varieties of chickpeas that take slightly different forms. The variety known as garbanzo beans are light colored and larger than the desi chana, which are grown mostly in India. Mediterranean countries, Northern Africa, the Indian subcontinent, South America, and Southern Europe grow most of the world’s garbanzo beans, with India producing 67% in 2017.
What are the Nutritional Benefits of Chickpeas?
Chickpeas are rich with vitamins and minerals, and are high in fiber and protein. They are relatively low in calories but contain folate, phosphorus, manganese, copper, and iron. Eating chickpeas can help with weight management, as the combination of protein and fiber slows digestion so you feel full for longer. In addition, the protein content can be extremely beneficial for vegetarians and vegans who aren’t getting protein from animal products. For example, they are fantastic in my Vegan Chickpea Curry with Spinach recipe and my Quinoa Chickpea Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette.
Other Delicious Lunch Ideas
Interested in other delicious ideas for lunch? Some of my favorite lunch options are grain bowls like this Vegan Buddha Bowl with Lemon Tahini Dressing, this Ramen Egg Rice Bowl, or this Quinoa Grain Bowl with Sesame Ginger Dressing. If you love the make-ahead salad option, try my Orzo Pasta Salad with Black Beans and Corn—this is in my fridge quite frequently. Or, if you’re looking for another recipe for sustainable seafood that also features chickpeas, check out my Sardines on Toast with Chickpea Salad.
For the Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette
- 3 T. lemon juice
- 1 T. dijon mustard
- 6 T. olive oil
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
For the Chickpea Tuna Salad
- 2 15 oz. cans of chickpeas
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 English cucumber
- 1/2 small red onion
- 2 6.7 oz. jars tuna fillets in oil
- 2.5 T. capers
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Salad greens, for serving
- To start, whisk together lemon juice and dijon mustard in a small bowl.
- Then whisk in olive oil.
- Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Next, prepare the ingredients for the salad. Rinse chickpeas well in a strainer, then let sit to drain well.
- Wash bell pepper and cucumber, then chop into small, bite-sized chunks.
- Peel red onion half, then chop finely.
- Combine chickpeas, pepper, cucumber, and red onion in a large bowl.
- Drain tuna, and use a fork to pull out of the jar and flake into the bowl with the vegetables.
- Drain capers well, then add to bowl.
- Stir gently, leaving some small chunks of tuna intact.
- Stir in about half of the dressing. Taste, and add kosher salt and freshly ground pepper if needed.
- Rinse salad greens, separate into leaves, and pat dry.
- Serve spoonfuls of tuna salad into the salad green cups, or on top of greens if you are using loose salad greens.
- Drizzle with remaining dressing to serve.
This chickpea salad lasts well in the refrigerator when packed in an airtight container. Eat it within 3-5 days. Freezing is not recommended, as the vegetables will become soggy when defrosted again.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 538Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 23mgSodium: 465mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 14gSugar: 10gProtein: 31g
Nutrition information is provided as a general reference for users courtesy of the online nutrition calculator Nutritionix.