Healthy Mayo-Free Salads to Make for Lunch

Mayonnaise is a polarizing condiment. Some love it, and others hate it. You can’t deny that mayonnaise lends a certain creaminess and richness to dishes, but it’s also known for its high saturated fat content. Luckily, there are many substitutes to mayo that you can enlist so you don’t have to give up your favorite dishes if you go mayo-free. Salads especially are known for their employment of mayonnaise, and we’re highlighting recipes that prove you can make substitutions to make your lunches or dinner healthier and less heavy, mayo free. Check out these 6 food formulas and put the thick, creamy condiment in the trash.

1. No Mayo Tuna Salad

Tuna salad

Tuna salad | Source: iStock

Canned tuna can taste good even without the mayo, and this first recipe from Simply Whisked proves it. The right flavoring goes a long away, and when you add soy sauce, mustard, and lemon juice to your no mayo tuna salad, you’re good to go. This easy and protein-packed lunch or snack is filling and delicious, and it can be enjoyed on greens, a sandwich, or with crackers.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans tuna, drained
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • ¼ cup diced onion
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ⅓ to ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: In a large bowl, flake the tuna with a fork. Add celery, carrot, onion and bell pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, and mustard. Pour dressing into salad and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Italian Chicken Salad Sandwiches

chicken salad sandwich

Chicken salad sandwich | Source: iStock

If you want a midday meal that tastes a lot more gourmet than it is, go the Italian chicken salad sandwich route. This recipe from The Kitchn takes your normal chicken salad formula up a notch and adds bacon and a savory vinaigrette to the mix. No mayonnaise is found in this recipe, but you won’t even notice the absence of the fat, as you’ll be too busy enjoying your crunchy and protein-packed sandwich that is made with chicken breasts, veggies, bacon, and a sauce. This recipe serves 6.

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium (or 2 large) bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion (from about a quarter of a medium onion)
  • ½ cup chopped celery (from 2 medium stalks)
  • ½ cup thinly sliced roasted red pepper
  • ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • Handful of chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 12 slices cooked bacon
  • 12 slices hearty Italian or peasant bread

For the vinaigrette:

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub some olive oil over the chicken breasts and season them with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, depending on how thick the breasts are. The skin does not need to brown; you just want the meat to cook through. Let cool slightly, then peel away the skin and shred the meat. You should have about 3½ to 4 cups of shredded chicken. Drizzle the chicken with a bit of the juices from the pan, just to keep it moist.

Combine the onion, celery, red pepper, almonds, parsley, and shredded chicken in a large bowl.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and sugar. Stream in the olive oil, whisking vigorously, until combined. Pour the vinaigrette over the chicken salad and toss to coat.

Make the sandwiches, putting two slices of bacon on each, topped with one-sixth of the chicken salad.

3. Smoked Salmon Salad Sandwich

fresh Salmon in a white tray with lemon in the background

Smoked salmon | Source: iStock

When healthy home chefs make mayo substitutions, many of them swap out the mayo and swap in Greek yogurt, as the dairy product can lend the same creaminess and richness to dishes that mayo can, sans the saturated fat. Take this recipe for a smoked salmon salad sandwich from Julie’s Jazz as an example. Instead of combining her salmon with mayonnaise, she mixes it with 2% Greek yogurt, onions, capers, cucumbers, lemon juice, and dill. This formula yields a creamy, crunchy, and delicious smoked salmon salad that you can enjoy with whole wheat bread as a satisfying and wholesome lunch.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans (170 g each) skinless, boneless smoked salmon
  • 7 ounces plain Greek yogurt (2%)
  • ¼ cup sliced green onions
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons capers
  • ½ of an English cucumber (peeled, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced crosswise)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • Bread
  • Lettuce

Directions: In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the bread and lettuce. Mix well. Toast two slices of bread. Mound one slice of bread with salmon salad. Top with lettuce and another slice of toasted bread.

4. Greek Pasta Salad

Greek pasta salad

Pasta salad | Source: iStock

Another salad to which you can add Greek yogurt is pasta salad. Running to the Kitchen has a recipe for Greek pasta salad that is heavy on veggies, making it a guilt-free side dish you can enjoy eating. This salad has great flavor and crunch on account of the cucumber, onions, tomatoes, olives, and lemons on its ingredients list, and it’s also all about the cheese. Pasta salad won’t put you into a carb coma when you lay off the saturated fat, and this nutritious and delicious recipe from Running to the Kitchen proves it.

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound pasta
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • ⅓ cup pitted kalamata olive, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
Garnishes
  • dill
  • chopped green onions
  • feta crumbles

Directions: Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and let cool. Combine cooled pasta in a large bowl with remaining ingredients and toss together until well mixed. Garnish the pasta with dill, green onions and/or feta cheese crumbles. Serve room temperature.

5. Herbed Red Potato Salad

cooking baby red potatoes

Baby red potations | Source: iStock

Potato salads can also be associated with aforementioned carb comas, but you can save yourself on fat and calories if you prepare your salad with mustard, seasonings, and herbs, rather than mayonnaise. Cookie and Kate’s recipe for Herbed Red Potato Salad is not only full of fresh flavor, it’s also vegan and gluten-free, meaning any and all of your lunch or dinner guests can enjoy it. Prepare your potatoes with parsley, onions, fresh lemon juice, garlic, and mustard, and you won’t even miss the heavy, creamy potato salad that is offered at far too many get-togethers.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds small new potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup lightly packed fresh parsley, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
  • ⅓ cup roughly chopped green onions, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped

Directions: In a large saucepan or Dutch oven combine sliced potatoes and salt. Cover with water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook until potatoes are easily pierced by a paring knife and pulled out with little resistance, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Reserve ¼ cup cooking water, then drain. Transfer potatoes to a large mixing bowl.

In a small food processor or blender, combine the olive oil, ⅓ cup parsley, ⅓ cup green onions, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic and freshly ground black pepper. Process until the herbs and garlic have been chopped into little pieces, then drizzle in the reserved cooking water and blend until emulsified.

Drizzle the potatoes with the herbed olive oil mixture and mix well. Let the potatoes rest for ten minutes, tossing every few minutes.

Add the celery to the bowl, along with a couple tablespoons each chopped parsley and green onions. Toss again. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. This salad is best served within a few hours, but will keep well in the refrigerator for about two days.

6. Avocado Egg Salad

egg salad sandwich

Egg salad | Source: iStock

Ditch the saturated fats, and go the healthy fat route instead with this recipe for avocado egg salad from The Roasted Root. Eggs are already rich with omega-3s, so when you pair them with avocados and sea salt, you quickly have a nutrient-packed lunch or dinner on your hands. You can serve your egg salad on its own or atop greens or toast, and then you’ll have nothing to feel guilty about. Thanks to the fiber and protein in avocado egg salad, you’ll feel light and satisfied after eating the dish, rather than weighed down by the mayo.

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs, hard boiled
  • 1-½ ripe avocados, peeled and mashed
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or lime juice)
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
Directions: Add the eggs to a medium-sized pot and cover with a few inches of water. Cover and place on high heat. Bring water to a full (but gentle) boil and cook for 10 to 12 minutes.

Drain the water and immediately run cold water over the eggs. Transfer eggs to an ice bath and allow eggs to chill for 10 minutes. Refrigerate eggs until ready to use.

Peel and roughly chop the hard boiled eggs.

Add the avocado to a mixing bowl with the lemon juice and sea salt. Mash the avocado, leaving it slightly chunky if desired. Add the chopped hard boiled eggs and stir well to combine. Eat on toasted bread with watercress or greens of choice.

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