I’ve been doing the vegan thing for a little over a year now, and a question I get pretty often is this: What non-vegan food do you miss most?
Oddly, a lot of the foods I used to LOVE—sour cream, parmesan cheese, beef chili? I lost a taste for them really quickly. It’s true! After a week of daydreaming about loaded baked potatoes, I just stopped wanting all that stuff.
The mysteries of veganism!
What I really miss are different texture and flavor combinations that aren’t easy to replicate in a vegan version.
For example—nachos. I don’t miss the beef or the cheese or the sour cream…I miss the mountain of crunchy, salty, soggy, creamy, gooey STUFF that you experience when you eat nachos. It’s the whole experience. Not the cheese factor.
Or a simple sandwich. You know what I’m talking about: you do what your dad and his mom and your cousin and everyone you grew up with has always done: you get out a paper towel, slap down 2 pieces of bread, slather it with mustard or mayonnaise, and then layer some turkey and cheese on it, or maybe a scoop of some kind of mayonnaise-y “salad,” wiping the knife on the bread.
And even though I was never a big mayonnaise fan, I used to have a real soft spot for things like egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad…anything you could layer onto a sandwich with crisp lettuce and juicy tomatoes, or just scoop onto Saltines.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, I don’t know about all this “flavor combination” talk, Randle. This just sounds like you miss eating animal.
But I disagree! I don’t want a slice of cheese. And I don’t want a slice of turkey. And I really don’t want any tuna fish from a can. I want the sandwich as the sum of all its parts. Something so simple a kid can make it, that still always manages to hit the spot.
(I’m really elevating the humble sandwich here, eh?)
Luckily, I found a way to create a totally vegan version of that simple, satisfying, timeless sandwich experience: it’s got that creamy mayonnaise-y tang, the odd crunchy bit, and even that fishy tuna flavor (really!).
Here’s how I did it:
First, I asked myself what I missed about a simple tuna salad sandwich:
- The creamy but chewy texture
- The contrast of the cold salad with the hot bread
- The crunchy vegetable bits that break it up
- The brine-y ocean flavor
The first three were easy: some cooked chickpeas mash up into the perfect texture—like a cross between a chicken salad and an egg salad. Check.
And it’s easy to chill a chickpea salad before scooping it onto toasted bread. Double check.
As for the crunch? Well that’s vegan anyway. Instead of the typical celery and pickles, I opted for shredded carrots as a nod to the Texan potluck staple: carrot salad. Check, check, check.
But the last one took a little more thought.
How can you get that ocean-in-a-can flavor that’s so unique to fish from the sea?
You know what else lives in the sea? Seaweed!
I found that answer in Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s vegan life-saving, face-palm-inducing book Isa Does It. She suggests using dulse or kelp flakes, but I just crumpled up a leftover sheet of nori, and that gave this salad the ocean brine I was looking for.
This recipe makes enough for about 4 large sandwiches or wraps, or 2 sessions of standing over the bowl with a pack of saltines in one hand and a spoon in the other.
Other vegans out there—do you know what I’m talking about when I say I miss different flavor combinations, but not the ingredients themselves? Or am I crazy vegan splitting hairs? 😛
- 3 carrots, shredded using a box grater or food processor (1 ½ cups)
- 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 sheet nori, crushed
- ¼ cup vegan mayo (if that offends you and/or your name is Anthony Bourdain, use regular homemade mayonnaise with eggs from a chicken named Bernadette)
- 1 Tablespoon whole grain mustard
- 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- Cracked black pepper, to taste
- In the food processor you used for the carrots, pulse chickpeas until they are partly broken up, but with some whole chickpeas remaining.
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.
- Scoop onto sandwiches or serve with Saltine crackers.
- That’s really it!
The Waco Vegan is no longer updated. You can find me over at RandleBrowning.com instead.