Old Fashioned (Tofu) Chicken Salad

by on June 6, 2012
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Baking the tofu gives this vegan update of the classic chicken salad great flavor and chewy texture. Make it with my low-fat mayo! Jump to the recipe.

Old Fashioned Vegan Chicken Salad

It’s chicken salad the way my mom used to make it–but with no chicken, mayo, or hard-boiled eggs. So maybe it’s not exactly my mom’s chicken salad, but it’s close enough to satisfy my craving for something savory and crunchy to put between two slices of bread.

There are a lot of vegan chickenย salad recipes on the internet, and while I’m sure they’re great, none of them approach the 50’s-style simplicity of my mother’s chicken salad, seasoned mostly with sweet relish and copious amounts of mayonnaise. I love a mouth-burning spicy meal just as much as the next Louisianian, but when it comes to my tofu “chicken” salad, I go old-school. Sure, you can spice this up with smoked paprika or chipotle pepper, but I like it mild and slightly sweet. Just like my mother makes–or would, if she were a vegan.
Old Fashioned Vegan Chicken Salad

Old Fashioned Vegan Chicken Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Baking the tofu in the marinade is the secret to infusing the tofu with flavor, without having to wait for it to marinate.
Serves: 4
  • 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth or โ€œno-chickenโ€ broth
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons tofu-cashew mayo or other vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sweet relish
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced or slivered almonds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chives (optional)
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the tofu into about 8 equal slices, and then cut those slices in half. Place two paper towels (one on top of the other) or a clean tea towel on the counter and place the tofu slices on top. Cover with two more paper towels or tea towel. Gently press each slice of tofu until the towels are saturated with water. Replace the towels on top with another layer and press until most of the water is pressed out of the tofu. Place the tofu on the prepared baking sheet.
  2. Mix the broth, soy sauce or tamari, thyme, sage, and pepper. Pour half of it over each slice of tofu. Turn the tofu over and pour the remaining liquid over it. Place it in the preheated oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, until tofu is beginning to brown on the edges. Remove from the oven and let it cool on the baking sheet.
  3. Once the tofu is cool, tear each piece into small, irregular pieces. (You can also cut it, but it looks more natural if you tear it and somehow tastes better, too.) Place it in a medium mixing bowl and add all remaining ingredients. Mix well, and add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until completely chilled. Serve in sandwiches, on top of salad, or rolled into lettuce leaves or tortillas.
Nutritional information includes optional ingredients.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/4 of recipe Calories: 150 Fat: 8.1g Carbohydrates: 8.3g Sugar: 3.6g Sodium: 400.5mg Fiber: 2.1g Protein: 12.4g


Old Fashioned Vegan Chicken Salad

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{ 69 comments… read them below or add one }

1 erica June 6, 2012 at 12:52 pm

i partial to a steamed tempeh, mayo, onion & celery, S&P “chicken salad” myself, i’ll have to try it with relish ๐Ÿ™‚


2 Holly W June 6, 2012 at 12:52 pm

This looks delicious. I’ve always been really skeptical when it comes to making a “chicken” salad sandwich with tofu. I’ll put tofu in stir-fries, desserts, and on the grill, but for some reason, I just haven’t been able to trust it in a sammy. I might just have to take that leap and try it out soon though!


3 Diane June 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Looks like a tasty recipe. I can’t wait to try it. I am sure it will be delish.


4 Kalliope June 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm

This sounds wonderful! About the tofu, though, I long ago gave up on the pressing routine with the paper towels and weights and bought a tofu press from TofuXpress. It works great and saves paper towels. (No, I don’t sell them.) Will try your mayo recipe too. And thanks for all the other great recipes.


5 Natalie April 30, 2014 at 2:43 pm

LOVE my tofu press. Gets out more water, much faster. Then you can just drain and pour in your marinade. I think, all the time, about buying another one to tackle larger recipes/servings.
I don’t sell them either. ๐Ÿ˜›


6 Natalie April 30, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Also, wanted to add that, if you’re pressed for time (or you have an old fiery oven and your house is already too hot!), Trader Joe’s baked savory tofu is also excellent in this recipe. No need to marinate or bake.

Like another reviewer, I like things saucier, so I added a few more tbsp of Susan’s tasty tofu-cashew mayo. Also chopped up some red grapes and threw them in. Yum.


7 Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy June 6, 2012 at 1:30 pm

oh yum! that looks delicious! especially wrapped up in a lettuce leaf! thanks for sharing!


8 Love June 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Looks wonderful! Do you think this would be good with chickpeas instead of tofu ?


9 Sharon June 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Well shoot…I was going to pick up tofu this morning at the market and forgot it. Otherwise, I had everything else – so I will have to wait for tomorrow to pick up some and try this recipe! Looks amazing!


10 Kathy Hester June 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm

This is going to be my lunch tomorrow wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla!


11 Jody Cline June 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Looks so yummy. Thanks so much for posting and for all the effort you put into your blog.
And thanks for being vegan. ๐Ÿ™‚


12 Somer June 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm

That looks gorgeous! I haven’t made a chickenless tofu salad yet this summer. Now I have to!


13 Stephanie Mathers June 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Wow – Great idea! Looks awesome. I love The Happy Herbevoire’s “tuna salad” – but I’m ready for some variety and this looks just perfect.


14 Jaime June 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I can’t wait to make your vegan chicken salad- It looks amazing!


15 Dreena Burton June 6, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Susan, this looks so perfectly comforting I want to stick a fork right in! Dang this screen!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I like your approach, keeping it old-school with seasonings, and I think that’s how most of us want to eat a vegan version of a chicken, tuna, or egg salad. Thanks for sharing, I will pin and tweet!


16 val June 7, 2012 at 9:34 am

Me and tofu …..???? to be honest i dont really like it , but your recipe looks delish . I also love the look of it because no garlic is used in the flavouring , so
i will give it a go (im one of those rare people who dislike anything with garlic ) !
Thanks Susan , keep up the good work !


17 Martha June 7, 2012 at 10:00 am

This looks delicious! I’m anxious to try it. One question, it looks in the picture like there is celery in it, but it’s not listed in the recipe. Do you normally use celery, and if so how much?


18 Susan Voisin June 7, 2012 at 11:10 am

Oh no, I must have left the celery off the ingredients list! I used two ribs of celery, chopped. I’ll have to edit the recipe. Thanks for asking!


19 Claire June 7, 2012 at 2:20 pm

I’m making tofu salad for sandwiches right now. My Texas grandmother put a smidge of curry powder in her chicken salad, so that’s how I make my tofu salad. It’s funny how it always tastes best the way it did when we were kids, even though it’s not chicken salad anymore.


20 fbruehl June 7, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I wondered about the celery, too. I have it made and in the fridge. I think I’ll add the celery before we eat it though. I did sneak a taste and it is really good! Love the idea of baking the tofu in the oven.


21 luminousvegans June 8, 2012 at 9:08 am

This looks delicious and is the perfect summer picnic food. I love to eat salads like this just like how you show in your photo…on big lettuce leaves.


22 Susan June 9, 2012 at 12:55 am

Hi, can you recommend a brand of good tasting vegetable broth or โ€œno-chickenโ€ broth? ‘Cause I haven’t found one yet. Thanks so much!


23 Susan Voisin June 9, 2012 at 2:01 am

The two I use are Imagine’s No-Chicken broth (in a carton) and Edward and Sons Not-Chick’n bouillon, in cube form.


24 Marie January 13, 2014 at 10:48 am

The Happy Herbivore has a recipe for a powder bouillion, salt-free! ๐Ÿ™‚


25 Jan Krouwer June 9, 2012 at 6:50 am

I’ve bought chicken like tofu in the store and it’s good but it has a lot of oil. I tried your recipe – but the tofu tasted like tofu and not chicken. Maybe I did something wrong. I’ve tried and like many of your recipes – Javanese-Inspired โ€œChickenโ€ Soup is a favorite.


26 Tonya June 9, 2012 at 8:13 am

I made this yesterday and it was fantastic! I wasn’t sure how I would like the tofu because I usually cook the heck out of it to get a dryer texture, but once it got cold, the texture was good. I had it on home made pita with some broccoli sprouts. Thanks so much for sharing.


27 Bonnie June 9, 2012 at 8:18 pm

This was the best tofu salad I have ever had. Put it in a wrap with some lettuce and tomato – delicious…


28 Mandy June 10, 2012 at 9:05 am

I love this recipe! I made the tofu-cashew mayo to use with it! I am making another batch of the salad right now! What a wonderful salad! Thank you for all the great recipes you post!


29 sandra jayne June 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Oh my gosh. This was delicious. Thank you!


30 Vegan June 12, 2012 at 3:48 am

The tofu really tastes better when you tear them into pieces instead of slicing them. I love the idea of wrapping it with lettuce leaves. This recipe is perfect for summer. Do you think this could be made into a curried version?


31 Aida June 12, 2012 at 9:36 am

I forgot the almonds on mine ๐Ÿ™ But its such a good and basic recipe, I will have to try it again and double it!.


32 Julie June 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I’m with you on the doubling Aida!


33 Katie Flores June 13, 2012 at 9:49 am

I love chicken salad. Can’t wait to try this version! Thanks for sharing.


34 Julie June 16, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I made this last night and had it for lunch today. Hubby and I agree it was an excellent sandwich.

There are very few things that I miss from my omnivore days, but mayo is definitely one. The tofu cashew rendition wasn’t bad and when mixed with the marinated tofu and jazzed up a bit the whole “chicken” salad was excellent.

I found the mayo to be too lemony, but I use lemons from my tree and they are potent. I will cut lemon juice back to 2 to 2.5T next time. I did add a dash more mustard and maybe 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of olive oil to try to cut the lemon zing. I think this will become a mainstay in my refrigerator (and freezer).

By jazzed up I mean I added minced garlic, a couple of shakes of flaked red pepper, a 1/4 Granny Smith apple diced small and I tripled the mayo. Over night the 2.5 T called for in the recipe just wasn’t enough. I served it in a whole wheat pita with spring greens.

I rarely like the results of tofu/marinade but I keep on trying. Your seasoning mixture was fantastic and you are right, ripping the tofu makes it look like the “real” thing. I let the tofu absorb the liquid completely before baking. By doing so I didn’t bake the liquid onto the pan instead of into the tofu or loose the liquid under the Silpat.

You’re my shero!


35 Julie June 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Oh, I didn’t see your note about non-chicken broth, I just used homemade vegetable broth. And I too forgot the Almonds. Still a great recipe.


36 Sherrie June 17, 2012 at 10:36 am

Your recipe was my first attempt at making tofu “chicken” salad. It turned out great and I really liked it. I used veganaise mayo and a little chopped onion. This recipe is a keeper and I will definitely make it again.


37 Kendra June 19, 2012 at 12:20 pm

I just had this for lunch and it was delicious. It is so simple, but I never would have thought of it on my own. I recommended it, along with your blog, to friends and family ๐Ÿ™‚


38 Todd June 19, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Susan….this was delicious! I need to work on getting more moisture out of my tofu (turned out more like a really wonderful egg salad for me) but the flavor was just really simple and wonderfully familiar! Thanks so much!


39 Esther J June 21, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I made this for myself, and my mother, who loves chicken salad, had a bite. So very impressed by it, she demanded that I make her a batch and when I forgot, she pressed me until I got it done (today, finally).

I made it exactly as is, with optional ingredients included, and it is great! Folded in romaine, accompanied by some cold cubed watermelon, it has been such a relief on these warmer, almost-summer nights we’ve been having.

Way to go, Mrs. V!


40 Trish June 30, 2012 at 9:57 pm

I LOVED this, I too have been hesitant to make tofu into a salad as a substitute and this was absolutely LIKE chicken salad.. was it the spices baked in? I think so. I will be making this regularly, it’s the best. Thanks!!! and thanks to Mom for the inspiration!


41 Martha July 17, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Made this recipe the other day. It is delicious! I made it today substituting 15 oz. mashed home-cooked chickpeas for the tofu and added the rest of the ingredients. It is equally tasty but I like the texture using the tofu much better. The tofu version has become one of my new favorites. Thanks for another terrific recipe, Susan!


42 Rayca July 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Tried this weekend. It’s absolutely yummy. So is the tc-mayo.


43 Karen August 3, 2012 at 12:18 am

I made this today — it was DELICIOUS! I made it after we had already had a meal so it is sitting in the fridge overnight awaiting lettuce cups for tomorrow! (I must confess, however, I keep going to the fridge with a fork just to taste test!). I didn’t really measure anything and ended up putting a little to much relish in so it turned out sweet at first, but I just ended adding more mustard and it corrected itself.

It’s just a lovely recipe — thank you so much for sharing. I wish it were tomorrow already.


44 kimia August 6, 2012 at 6:29 pm

I am having geusts to my house and i didnt know what to cook now i know thanks alot.kiss kiss:)


45 Real Noni August 15, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I have been wanting to try a tofu dish for a while, and this sounds great! I’ll have to give it a try and see what the family thinks. Thanks for sharing!


46 Go Vegans September 22, 2012 at 6:30 pm

This recipe is just awesome.
Nice tip on tearing the tofu with our hands, didn’t know that.
Thank you !


47 Leah White September 23, 2012 at 8:01 pm

We make this recipe constantly, at least every other week. It’s a big hit in our house. Thank you so much!!


48 GraciaKai September 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Delicious! This really hit the spot for me. I’ve never been a chicken salad fan. But this was just perfect over crispy greens as a salad. I added some celery salt and green olives. And I used Twin Oaks organic tofu. It is really firm and has a lot less water to be squeezed out than the kind that come swimming in water. The result was perfect pieces of dense chewy tofu chicken.


49 Viola October 8, 2012 at 10:37 am

Tried it last night (for today’s lunch) and YUM.
I, too, am a skeptic of tofu-based chicken salads (also tofu scrambles) and was fully prepared to like this fine, but not really love it… and I was wrong! The powerfully flavored herbs and baking really make this different, especially the sage.

I will confess to having used light mayo instead of vegan mayo and added an extra splash of soy sauce to the final product, but I really don’t think that would make or break the recipe.

Charge forward and give it a shot, it’ll change your mind about tofu chicken salad!


50 Esther J December 19, 2012 at 4:16 pm

I want to make note that this very delicious salad, with a green salad, will be my dinner tonight.

I also want to note that it’s December 19 and 70 degrees (!) outside (Thus, the dish is making an encore appearance at my table long before expected.).


51 Esther J December 19, 2012 at 4:17 pm

And, as always, thanks, Susan. ๐Ÿ™‚


52 Rebecca January 29, 2013 at 9:24 am

Made this last night so I could have a packed lunch for some long appointments today. DELICIOUS! I was a little nervous about the tofu since it wasn’t very chicken-y and didn’t have much bite, but in the salad it’s fantastic. Also, I left out the relish. Next time i make it, I’ll keep the relish out and add some blueberries. Yum!


53 Becky March 12, 2013 at 1:57 am

I made this tonight and it was really excellent! I served it open-face style on banana bread. Crazy, but good! ๐Ÿ™‚ My non-veg husband loved it too!


54 Kenzie April 25, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Wow, tofu salad on banana bread? Haha now I am very curious!


55 Sherrie April 22, 2013 at 10:16 pm

I have made this recipe MANY times and it is so good. Those of you out there wondering if you should try it, please do. You will not be disappointed.


56 Kenzie April 25, 2013 at 4:47 pm

This was sooooooo delicious! I doubled it and served it with lettuce and tomato rolled up in a flatbread! I also didn’t have any relish, but chopped up pickles worked great!


57 Ryn S. May 7, 2013 at 7:33 pm

I just made this for my family and they loved it! It was delicious!


58 Tracy June 2, 2013 at 6:37 pm

I just made this dish. Omg amazing thank you for posting. I didn’t bake the tofu, just marinated it, next time I’ll try that.


59 Cindy July 10, 2013 at 10:34 am

Just made this. Yummy, even though I put in too much relish! Definitely make again. I put a pkg of tofu in the freezer to make it chewier next time. I sub’d poultry seasoning for the sage & thyme. This is delicious!


60 Diane July 22, 2013 at 10:23 am

Well I took me a year to make it but I finally did and I must say I was not disappointed. In fact, I am a little embarrassed to say…I ate it for breakfast at 7:30Am atop a single slice of a toasted Orowheat Sandwich Thin (100% whole wheat). It was delicious. I tweaked the recipe a bit…which I most always do. I added 1/2 of a chopped red onion and omitted the chives. I cut the sweet relish down. I added 1 tsp sweet and 1 tsp dill relish and chopped up 2 cornichons as well as I like the dill rather than the sweet taste and I added 6 or 7 chopped black olives. I made the tofu cashew mayo but tweaked that as well and added some parsley to it and a small amount of apple cider vinegar and a 1/2 tsp of sugar. I must say it was delish. So much so that I decided to forgo the usual oatmeal and dove right in this am but I am off to a meeting in a few and I should have been more careful about eating onions……Yikes….


61 Eliza November 11, 2013 at 8:17 pm

I didnt follow the recipe exactly, but this is awesome! I pressed the tofu, then fried it, added a splash of balsamic, then added real mayo, peppers, red onion, mustard, salt and pepper. It was great on a bed of spinach.


62 Teresa January 2, 2014 at 11:31 pm

I made this vegan chicken salad and LOVED it! Definitely a recipe I will make often.


63 Marie January 13, 2014 at 9:58 am

I made this last week. I must say, I was a little leery of so much tofu, but I LOVED it!! It keeps pretty well in the fridge wrapped well. Since I reeaalllyyy don’t like sweet relish , I used something called zucchini relish, which is less sweet and has a tiiiny bit of spice — very good in there. I put less mayo and more mustard and it didn’t suffer at all ๐Ÿ™‚



64 Krista July 5, 2014 at 12:27 am

This recipe is awesome and was super easy to follow! I even doubled it and has no problem with the baking of the tofu. I made it for a July 4th BBQ and it was a huge hit. Most people didn’t even think it was tofu. I’m really looking forward to making this for myself so I have something to snack on throughout the week. only thing I added was shredded carrots for color/texture and instead of relish I sliced some babe kosher dills just for cuteness.


65 PJ Cannon July 13, 2014 at 7:30 am

The tofu was good, however your proportions for the celery are way off. I ended up with a celery salad flavored with tofu. Unless your celery ribs are very small. I would recommend half a celery rib. I will try it again to see how it works with less celery.


66 Elyse September 16, 2014 at 6:30 pm

I changed the sage and thyme with aneth (since that’s what I had) and I used dijon mustard. OMG, it was even better the chicken salad sandwich that I used to eat when I was a child. So good!!


67 Elyse September 16, 2014 at 6:32 pm

And I used pickles that I cut instead of relish (and less celeri).


68 Susan August 16, 2015 at 1:14 am

I did a slight variation in preparation but it came out really good! Squeezed out the tofu, cut it in thin pieces, laid the pieces out in a glass lasagna dish, covered with a towel, squeezed again.

Then covered the tofu with marinade (doubled the amount of marinade). Baked that, in a cold oven that heated up to 400. At that point the marinade was pretty much evaporated. Then prepared the baking sheet with parchment paper, laid on the marinated tofu, and baked for an additional 15 minutes.

Mixed with about 1 1/2 cups of diced celery, carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

I really like the flavor the marinade gave to the tofu.


69 Nancy February 14, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Oh my…..DELICIOUS. Absolutely loved this. I didn’t add any of the optionals and probably used more veganaise. TY so much ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚


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