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Fragrant Tuna & Chickpea Salad

June 10, 2009

Since I started Weight Watchers, I haven’t made much tuna fish, mostly because most of my recipes from the past are chock-full of mayonnaise, oils, and other not-so-healthy ingredients. I saw the original version of this recipe on Serious Eats last week, and it looked so great I had to include it in our menu for the week. “Hey! Wait a minute!”, you say. “All you do is cook with chickpeas!” The fact that I’ve cooked two different recipes this week which both included chickpeas is purely coincidental, though I do love them. This dish also appealed to me because we are trying to use the entirety of the ingredients we purchased. In this case, we got to use the rest of the parsley we bought for the Italian Chicken with Chickpeas.

This is one of the more unique tuna salads I’ve come across, and it gets better with every bite. The sauteed onions take on an incredibly sweet flavor, because of both the caramelizing effect of the slow sweat in addition to the freshly ground fennel seed added with the spices. This dish hits all of the important flavor centers, starting with savory (chickpeas), moving to sweet (roasted bell pepper, onion, fennel seed), then to sour (vinegar), and finishing with spicy (crushed red pepper, paprika). Serve with tortilla chips or some freshly cut vegetables. I used less olive oil than the recipe suggested (3 tbsp. vs. 5 tbsp.) to slightly cut down on the fat content.

Fragrant Tuna & Chickpea Salad (Serves 4)


  • 1 15.4 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 bell peppers (I used red)
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar (sherry, white wine, or red wine)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground fennel seed (I ground it in the coffee grinder)
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp. paprika, divided in half
  • 1 can tuna fish (solid white in water), drained
  • medium handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat broiler, and place bell peppers on a very lightly greased cookie sheet.
  2. Place peppers in broiler for 3 minutes or until the peppers are visibly charred. Flip peppers and broil another 3 minutes. Take peppers out and seal in a zip-top bag and leave to steam for 15 minutes.
  3. While peppers are steaming, heat up oil in a medium frying pan over low-medium heat.
  4. Sauté onions for 8 to 10 minutes, or until onions take on a dark translucency. Add cumin, fennel, crushed pepper, and first teaspoon of paprika and turn heat up to medium. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until oil is soaked up and the pan becomes fragrant.
  5. Dump the onion mixture into a large mixing bowl, and whisk in the vinegar. The mixture should be a bit on the wet side. Let cool.
  6. Take the bell peppers out of the bag, and peel the skin off. Discard the skin, stem, and seeds. Roughly chop the peppers and add to the mixing bowl.
  7. Add the tuna and break it up with a fork. Add the chickpeas, parsley, and remaining paprika and combine thoroughly. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
  8. Eat!

I found this recipe satisfactory, but it could be enhanced if you so desire. Elysabeth was not as much of a fan of this as I was, so next time we make it, we’re going to roast the chickpeas in the oven first, add some freshly diced tomatoes, and add more tuna fish to compete with the large flavors of the dish.

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