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.
Please pin and share!
ericaJune 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 🙂
Holly WJune 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!
DianeJune 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.
KalliopeJune 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.
NatalieApril 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. 😛
NatalieApril 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.
Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummyJune 6, 2012 at 1:30 pm
oh yum! that looks delicious! especially wrapped up in a lettuce leaf! thanks for sharing!
LoveJune 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm
Looks wonderful! Do you think this would be good with chickpeas instead of tofu ?
SharonJune 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!
Kathy HesterJune 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm
This is going to be my lunch tomorrow wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla!
Jody ClineJune 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. 🙂
SomerJune 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm
That looks gorgeous! I haven’t made a chickenless tofu salad yet this summer. Now I have to!
Stephanie MathersJune 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.
JaimeJune 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm
I can’t wait to make your vegan chicken salad- It looks amazing!
Dreena BurtonJune 6, 2012 at 10:34 pm
Susan, this looks so perfectly comforting I want to stick a fork right in! Dang this screen!! 😉 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!
valJune 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 !
MarthaJune 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?
Susan VoisinJune 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!
ClaireJune 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.
fbruehlJune 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.
luminousvegansJune 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.
SusanJune 9, 2012 at 12:55 am
Hi, can you recommend a brand of good tasting vegetable broth or “no-chicken” broth? ‘Cause I haven’t found one yet. Thanks so much!
Susan VoisinJune 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.
MarieJanuary 13, 2014 at 10:48 am
The Happy Herbivore has a recipe for a powder bouillion, salt-free! 🙂
Jan KrouwerJune 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 “Chicken” Soup is a favorite.
TonyaJune 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.
BonnieJune 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…
MandyJune 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!
sandra jayneJune 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm
Oh my gosh. This was delicious. Thank you!
VeganJune 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?
AidaJune 12, 2012 at 9:36 am
I forgot the almonds on mine 🙁 But its such a good and basic recipe, I will have to try it again and double it!.
JulieJune 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm
I’m with you on the doubling Aida!
Katie FloresJune 13, 2012 at 9:49 am
I love chicken salad. Can’t wait to try this version! Thanks for sharing.
JulieJune 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!
JulieJune 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.
SherrieJune 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.
KendraJune 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 🙂
ToddJune 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!
Esther JJune 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!
TrishJune 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!
MarthaJuly 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!
RaycaJuly 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm
Tried this weekend. It’s absolutely yummy. So is the tc-mayo.
KarenAugust 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.
kimiaAugust 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:)
Real NoniAugust 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!
Go VegansSeptember 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 !
Leah WhiteSeptember 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!!