One of the most common requests I get from people transitioning to a plant-based diet is how to overcome the loss felt when old comfort foods are no longer part of the menu.  Learning how to make a healthy alternative to your old favorites can help.  In this post, I’m sharing a healthy alternative to tuna salad that you’re going to love!  It’s fast, tasty and kid friendly.  

Before we get to the recipe, let’s look at the main ingredient we’ll be using: 


Chickpeas, otherwise known as garbanzo beans have a ton of health benefits in addition to being easy to prepare and tasting great.  These small, pale-brown beans have been cultivated for the better part of 7,000 years, making them likely the oldest and most popular legumes on the planet. They have a nutty taste and a grainy texture that blends well with every food and ingredient. [1]

Health Benefits

Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein that can help manage diabetes and aid in weight loss. Studies show that these beans have a unique ability to help balance blood sugar (only 1/3 cup daily is needed for this benefit, and the results kick in within a week!) Other proven benefits of chickpeas include their ability to improve digestion, boost heart health, and help maintain optimal blood pressure levels. Bone, skin, and hair health benefits are also on the impressive list!

Nutritional keys of note include being a good source of plant-based protein, folate, iron, manganese and beta-carotene.

Some Caution

While chickpeas have incredible health benefits, they may not be a good choice for you if you advanced renal (kidney) disease because chickpeas are a moderate source of purines which the body breaks down into uric acid.  In people with renal disease, especially, too much uric acid can create kidney stones and/or trigger gout.  If this is you, consider enjoying only a small amount of chickpeas rather than including them in your daily diet. 

How to Cook Chickpeas

1.  Sort, Wash, and Soak:

  • Sort through your dry chickpeas before rinsing and remove all stones and debris.
  • Wash your chickpeas in a bowl of cold water until the water is clear.  You may be surprised by how cloudy or gray the wash water is the first time!  I like to swish the chickpeas around vigorously with my fingers, strain and then wash again.
  • Soak the clean chickpeas in a bowl of fresh, cool water for 3 hours or overnight. This not only reduces cooking time but also removes some of the harmful compounds that can cause bloating or gas.

2.  Cook: 

  • Soaked chickpeas should be placed in a large pot and covered by at least an inch of water. 
  • Simmer them for a couple of hours until tender.
  • Alternatively, if you have an Instant Pot, place your soaked beans in there and use the Bean setting for 15 minutes.  Allow the pot to naturally release or quick release if you prefer beans that have a little more bite!

Note: Canned chickpeas are shelf-stable and can make fast, healthy meals much easier if you don’t have time to prepare your own.  I look for BPA free cans.  Eden Organics is a trusted brand.  I always have a few cans in my pantry. 

For dry chickpeas, I like Palouse because they are non-gmo and grown in the USA. 

Now for the recipe!

A healthy alternative to tuna salad that you’re going to love…

Here’s what you’ll need:
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked in cool water for 10 minutes and drained
  • 1/4 cup celery, minced
  • 1/3 cup red onion, minced
  • 2 bulbs/stalks green onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, minced
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan pink salt
  • 1/4 tsp cracked Black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried dill ( if you have fresh dill, increase to 1 Tbsp)
  • 1/2 Tbsp kelp powder (optional) — this adds the flavor of the sea if you really want a tuna-like salad — this is the brand I have on hand

Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and mash them a bit with a fork or a potato masher.  You want some bigger bits and some mash.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  If the salad seems dry, mash the chickpeas a bit more and add about a teaspoon of water to help things combine.  The flavor is great immediately, but does improve if allowed to chill for about an hour.

Serve as you would tuna salad.  Enjoy as a sandwich filling on your favorite bread, or stuff into the cavity of a scooped out tomato, eat by the spoonful or with seeded crackers.  Whatever your fancy, this is sure to satisfy!

If you make it, drop a picture on facebook or instagram — tag me @yourholistichealthcoach and #yourholistichealthcoach so I can give you some virtual high fives!