A healthy twist on a classic, these Easy Vegan Tuna Melt Sandwiches might become your new favorite lunch. Made from wholesome, plant-based ingredients and ready in 15 minutes or less, they're a delicious protein-packed upgrade to grilled cheese.
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Hey Internet, I am so excited to share one of my new favorite lunches with you today: Easy Vegan Tuna Melt Sandwiches! These ridiculously yummy sandwiches can be thrown together in less than 15 minutes.
I love vegan sandwiches so much. My favorites are my vegan Philly cheesesteaks, vegan bacon grilled cheese, vegan BLT wraps, vegan lobster rolls, vegan honey mustard chicken wraps, and reubens made with my vegan corned beef.
It's funny that I wasn't the biggest tuna fan before I went vegan. I liked fish but not the canned tuna stuff—too strong for my palate.
But I've mentioned on the blog before that my tastes really changed when I went vegan. Part of it may be that I learned to cook things according to my tastes, but many people explain it as a tastebuds reset.
Whatever the case, one day for some reason I was craving a tuna sandwich.
I've seen and tried a lot of recipes out there for chickpea tuna. Chickpeas are the perfect texture for this and they're easy, however, none of the recipes I tried out there really tasted like seafood.
So naturally I created my own chickpea tuna sandwich. I decided to melt some vegan cheese on there for Paul, and he loved it. Shocker, I loved it too, lol.
This vegan tuna melt recipe is delicious, fast, and easy—I love it and I hope you will too. Let's get into it!
P.S. They're also super kid-friendly, making them a great addition (with or without the cheese) to a lunchbox or a meal for the family. Check out my list of vegan kid-friendly recipes or my list of 50+ vegan snacks for kids!
Why This Recipe Works
The tuna part of the vegan tuna melt is easier than you think. It's just some smashed chickpeas (open a can of chickpeas, drain the liquid (save it to make aquafaba whipped cream or roasted veggies if you like), smash them with the back of a fork or a potato masher), some veggies, and some seasonings in a bowl.
For the melt part of the vegan tuna melt, that's also pretty easy. You have a few choices here, though.
Option 1: You can use a slice or two of your favorite vegan cheese, and I'll provide you tips on getting them to melt (it can be a little tough since they all have different chemical makeups than cow's milk cheese).
Option 2: Use one of my homemade stretchy melty vegan cheese recipes like my melty vegan cheddar or my melty vegan mozzarella. These cheeses are whipped up in 5 minutes and are somewhere between a liquid and solid cheese. Spread or spoon them onto your bread, smash the sandwich together, and cook it in a pan or press and enjoy. This is also a good option for people who like to eat more whole food plant based.
And then you just serve it up! See, it's not that hard. I told you it only takes about 15 minutes! Even less if you prep the chickpea tuna ahead of time!
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Ingredients and Substitutions
- 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (15-ounce can): This vegan tuna is chickpea based like many. Other beans will work but won't have the exact same texture.
- ⅓ cup vegan mayo or tahini: I really like tahini in this dish, but vegan mayo is also a great option. I also recommend my homemade vegan tofu mayo which is a bit healthier than either of these options (lower in fat).
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- ½ teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)
- 1 tablespoon dulse flakes, optional: This gives our vegan tuna melt an actual tuna flavor. You can omit them or you can use kelp granules, torn up nori sheets, capers (I'd mash them up), or white miso paste. You could also use a teaspoon of ume plum vinegar to add a bit of seafood flavor.
- You can add vegetables to the vegan tuna mixture if you like (I'd recommend onion, carrots, and/or celery), but I liked the simplicity of this.
- Bread: Depending on the size of your bread, this recipe will make between two and four vegan tuna melt sandwiches. For larger bread (like a sourdough loaf), plan on getting two sandwiches out of it. You can easily double the batch of vegan tuna if you want, and it will last in the refrigerator for a few days.
- Vegan cheese: As mentioned above, you can either use store bought vegan cheese slices or you can use one of my homemade options. The two recipes I'd recommend each take 5 minutes to make and are really easy and a bit healthier than storebought vegan cheese, but of course it's an extra step so it's your choice. I'd recommend either my melty vegan cheddar or my melty vegan mozzarella.
- Other sandwich elements: You can add anything else you like, such as tomato or sliced onion. I added some tomato slices in my vegan tuna melt, and served it with a dill pickle spear on the side. It'd be great with chips too, but I often eat these with fresh fruit or a salad. Sometimes tuna melts are served open-face, but I like this as a closed sandwich.
How to Make Vegan Tuna Melt Sandwiches
- Mash your chickpeas with the back of a fork. If you find them hard to mash, microwave them for a minute or two to soften them. I mash them so that there are no whole chickpeas but they're not completely puréed. Mash to the consistency you like.
- Mix in the rest of the ingredients for the vegan tuna including spices and vegan mayo or tahini.
- For the bread, coat one side of each slice with either some of the vegan mayo or some vegan butter or margarine.
- Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Alternatively you can use a panini press/griddler and that also works well for this recipe.
- Place one slice of bread coated side down. Now place the cheese (note that if you are using store bought cheese, the closer it is to the heat source, the more likely it is to melt. One trick is to add an ice cube or two into the pan next to the sandwich, then add the pan's lid on top. This helps the cheese melt better. If you're using my homemade cheese, it doesn't matter what order you do this in) on the bread.
- Add a generous amount of vegan tuna on top, flattening it gently. Add on any other sandwich elements like thinly sliced tomato, and finally top it with the other slice of bread, coated side facing up (facing away from the sandwich).
- I like to use a very thin nonstick spatula for this next step: gently compress the sandwich, then you can quickly but gently slide the spatula underneath the sandwich and then carefully using the other hand flip the sandwich over to cook the other side (like a grilled cheese). Don't stress if it falls apart a little. Use tongs to put it back together or wait and do that once the bottom of the sandwich is cooked. Repeat with any other sandwiches you wish to make.
- Serve your vegan tuna melt immediately and enjoy.
- For storing, I'd store the vegan tuna separately in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Make your vegan tuna melt sandwiches immediately before consuming.
Frequently Asked Questions
These ones are! No, I'm not trying to be cheeky, these vegan tuna melts are packed with protein, iron, healthy fats, and tons of micro-nutrients. If you'd like it to be even healthier, I recommend using a whole grain or even sprouted grain bread and my homemade melty cheddar cheese sauce since it is oil-free and lower fat/lower sodium than most store bought options.
You could use white beans but they would have a somewhat different texture (softer). Other options include crumbed firm tofu, TVP, young green jackfruit (canned), or a prepared vegan meat substitute (like vegan chicken that you purchase from the store, then add the same seasonings as in the recipe).
It's YOUR sandwich, so do what you like! After you smash the chickpeas and add the vegan mayo or tahini and the spices and dulse flakes in, you can really do whatever you want with it. Place it on toasted (or not toasted if you prefer) bread with some lettuce, tomato, and anything else you like and enjoy as refreshing vegan tuna sandwich.
For the best flavor and texture, eat the prepared sandwich right away. If you're cooking for one, I'd store half the vegan tuna mixture for another day and just make one vegan tuna melt. The mixture itself will last for about 5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Pro Tips for Success
- While you don't need to mash your chickpeas to the point of being hummus (and I wouldn't for texture reasons), you don't want any whole chickpeas in there either. This helps the vegan tuna mixture stay together.
- If you're finding the chickpeas hard to mash, either use a potato masher or try microwaving the chickpeas for 30 seconds at a time until it feels easier.
- If you don't like seafood flavors, skip the dulse flakes. This will still taste really good as just a chickpea sandwich melt!
- Similarly, if you don't want to use vegan cheese (homemade or store bought), you don't need to. Just put the chickpea mixture on bread (toasted or not toasted) and add any other sandwich elements you like such as tomato or lettuce and enjoy.
- Tips for melting store bought vegan cheese slices include adding an ice cube or two into the pan near your sandwich and then adding a lid to trap the steam. I recommend cooking for longer at a lower temperature as well.
- If you can't find a vegan cheese you like at the store, I suggest you try one of my homemade ones. You can alter the flavor to your liking, and they're already melted so you don't need to fuss. I'd recommend either my melty vegan cheddar or my melty vegan mozzarella. They each only take around 5 minutes to make!
More Recipes Like This
- Vegan Philly Cheesesteak
- Vegan BLT Wraps
- Vegan Honey Mustard Chicken Wraps
- Reubens with my Vegan Corned Beef and Vegan Russian Dressing
- Vegan Pinwheels (kind of a sandwich?)
- Sandwich with my Vegan Chicken Salad
- BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich
- Sandwich with Vegan BBQ Chicken (featuring soy curls)
Vegan Seafood Recipes
- Vegan Lobster Roll
- Vegan Scallops
- Vegan Tuna Casserole
- Watermelon Tuna
- Vegan Fish Tacos
- Vegan Salmon
- Vegan Ceviche