Baking the tofu gives this vegan chicken salad great flavor and a chewy texture. Make it with my low-fat mayo!
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 chicken 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.
The secret to making a delicious vegan chicken salad is in pressing the tofu lightly so that it soaks up the seasoned broth as it bakes. Tearing it into bite-sized pieces after it has cooled gives it the perfect size and chewy texture. I love it in sandwiches with lettuce and ripe tomatoes, but it’s also perfect in a wrap or to top your favorite salad.
More Vegan Sandwich Fillings
If tofu is not your thing, try some of these bean-based sandwich fillings:
Old Fashioned Vegan Chicken Salad
- 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth or “no-chicken” 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 info is approximate.
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GraciaKaiSeptember 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.
ViolaOctober 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!
Esther JDecember 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.).
Esther JDecember 19, 2012 at 4:17 pm
And, as always, thanks, Susan. 🙂
RebeccaJanuary 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!
BeckyMarch 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! 🙂 My non-veg husband loved it too!
KenzieApril 25, 2013 at 4:45 pm
Wow, tofu salad on banana bread? Haha now I am very curious!
SherrieApril 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.
KenzieApril 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!
Ryn S.May 7, 2013 at 7:33 pm
I just made this for my family and they loved it! It was delicious!
TracyJune 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.
CindyJuly 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!
DianeJuly 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….
ElizaNovember 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.
TeresaJanuary 2, 2014 at 11:31 pm
I made this vegan chicken salad and LOVED it! Definitely a recipe I will make often.
MarieJanuary 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 🙂
KristaJuly 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.
PJ CannonJuly 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.
ElyseSeptember 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!!
ElyseSeptember 16, 2014 at 6:32 pm
And I used pickles that I cut instead of relish (and less celeri).
SusanAugust 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.
NancyFebruary 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 🙂 🙂 🙂
Bet mansfieldJuly 9, 2017 at 2:05 pm
This is as good as “chicken” salad for a carnivore!! Absolutely delicious!!!
lena pfefferOctober 10, 2017 at 7:25 am
i’ve made this more than a dozen times. before i became a vegan – 30 years ago!!! – lived on tuna salad. nothing ever came close to the comfort food for me. Until now!!! i LOVE this recipe. i omit the relish and add chopped onion.
soooooo good. thanks for another great recipe!!!!
LizNovember 3, 2017 at 3:26 pm
I wanted to let you know that I love this recipe! The main food that I have missed since eating plant based is “old fashioned chicken salad”! This recipe has been a great alternative and has helped me miss the chicken less. I also make it with your “mayo” recipe which is great! After making this recipe a few times I have played around with it and thought you might like a variation that I’ve tried. I had a lot of your “chicken salad” recipe (left out the relish) made up and felt like a Waldorf type salad. I just added apples (chopped), currants/ or raisins, onions (chopped), walnuts, and mix. My husband and I have enjoyed it on picnics. It’s very filling but light. No need for bread or crackers. It’s great by itself. I’m sure there are other variations that could be interesting…maybe grapes or cranberries? Thanks for the great “old fashioned chicken salad” recipe!
Susan VoisinNovember 3, 2017 at 3:31 pm
That sounds delicious! Thanks for letting me know. I may “steal” your idea someday, so don’t be surprised if you see your name in a future blog post. 😀
Janice RudyMarch 28, 2023 at 7:40 pm
How many weight watchers points for this recipe?
TrishFebruary 28, 2018 at 9:05 am
I like this recipe very much, but I have to use rubbed sage because I can’t find dried sage so it probable doesn’t taste exactly the same. It is possible to use tarragon instead of thyme? I wanted to try it but wasn’t sure that tarragon and soy went well together.
Susan VoisinFebruary 28, 2018 at 11:49 am
If you like tarragon, I think you’ll like it in this recipe. I use dried and rubbed sage interchangeably, though I think the dried is probably stronger.
SamMay 17, 2020 at 12:22 pm
I’ve always semi liked tofu but this is really amazing! I think this recipe is also verstile and you can add your own flair and add whatever you like. I added a little bit of apple for a summer salad. I LOVE this recipe and am excited to see what other stuff you have cookin here! Thank you for an absolutely delicious recipe.
BeckyApril 5, 2021 at 5:47 pm
One of my absolute favorite recipes! It’s a favorite among some non-vegan family members as well. It is simple to make and is great for picnics or any time I want to have something ready ahead of time.
BarbaraJune 10, 2022 at 8:25 pm
Delicious. Will definitely be making again.