The Best Tuna Salad Recipe

I never get tired of an excellent tuna salad recipe, and of the hundreds of versions I’ve made, this is the version I make when I want the best. Served on a bed of greens or slathered between slices of your favorite bread, this is the classic recipe that works perfectly for tuna melts, too.

For more deli salad favorites, try my easy egg salad or ham salad! If you're craving something hot, my Sloppy Joes are a reader favorite. See all my sandwich recipes here.

I never get tired of an excellent tuna salad recipe, and of the hundreds of versions I’ve made, this is the version I make when I want the best. Served on a bed of greens or slathered between slices of your favorite bread, this is the classic recipe that works perfectly for tuna melts, too.

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No matter how you mix it, making tuna salad at home is one of the easiest, most satisfying meals you can whip up from pantry ingredients

Start with my recipe and enjoy it just as it is, or throw in your own favorite must-haves. It’s ready in minutes and always handy to have when hunger strikes.

Need tuna sandwiches for twenty? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.

How to Make Tuna Salad

  1. Once you've opened the can of tuna, drain the brine away. I like to do this by removing the lid and holding it over the sink to drain.
  2. Next, add the tuna to a bowl.
  3. Stir in the rest of your ingredients : Mayo, celery, onion, pickle relish, garlic, and lemon juice.
  4. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

It tastes even better if you let it chill for a couple hours, but I usually just eat it immediately, straight out of the bowl. I can’t help it!

I never get tired of an excellent tuna salad recipe, and of the hundreds of versions I’ve made, this is the version I make when I want the best. Served on a bed of greens or slathered between slices of your favorite bread, this is the classic recipe that works perfectly for tuna melts, too.

What kind of tuna do I use for Tuna Salad?

I like to use solid-pack tuna in water for this recipe with a dolphin-safe label.

Tuna in oil vs. Tuna in water?

Tuna packed in oil is rich and delicious and perfect for things like Niçoise salads or platters. All you really need is a squeeze of lemon to brighten it up and make it a meal.

However, you'll be adding mayonnaise to this tuna salad, so look for water-packed tuna for this recipe.

If all you have is oil-packed, you can always add it to a fine-mesh sieve, rinse vigorously with cold water, and press with a spatula to extract all of the liquid out of the fish.

How to Make a Tuna Sandwich

Once you have your tuna fish salad, spread it thickly on bread: sandwich bread, seeded rye, a baguette, ciabatta, anything. Add some lettuce, tomato, sprouts, or a pickle. It's also great on crackers!

I never get tired of an excellent tuna salad recipe, and of the hundreds of versions I’ve made, this is the version I make when I want the best. Served on a bed of greens or slathered between slices of your favorite bread, this is the classic recipe that works perfectly for tuna melts, too.

How to Make a Tuna Melt

Ready to take your tuna fish recipe to the next level? Make it a melt!

A tuna melt is basically a grilled cheese sandwich with tuna in it (and tomato, or even BACON).

  1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, butter one each side of two slices of bread. I like a white or wheat bread with lots of toast-able surface area.
  2. Lay one piece of bread in the skillet and top with a thick layer of your tuna fish salad.
  3. Top with a piece of cheese (preferably American) and a second piece of buttered bread (butter-side up).
  4. When the bottom bread is golden brown, carefully flip the entire tuna melt.
  5. Continue cooking until the second side is browned. Remove and devour!

How do you make Tuna Salad healthy?

To make tuna salad healthy (but still delicious) cut back on the mayo, or use plain yogurt in place of mayo. Then load up on fresh crunchy veggies and chopped herbs. Don’t skimp on the lemon juice, either!

What are some Tuna Salad ideas?

What goes in Tuna Salad, anyways? The short answer is: almost anything you want. The longer answer is, well, there’s no wrong way to make tuna salad. High or low, this is a food that pleases almost anyone with the right tweaks.

Here are some ideas for what to add to tuna salad to make it speak your language:

  • Tuna Salad with relish: Like me, a lot of people like a little sweetness and crunch with their tuna; sweet pickle relish most certainly pushes both of those buttons. Diced cornichons work, too!
  • Tuna Salad with apples: A small amount of diced crunchy apple (I’m looking at you, Granny Smith!) is wonderful in tuna salad.
  • Tuna Salad with celery: A classic tuna salad ingredient. The more celery you add, the more crunch you get.
  • Tuna salad with pasta noodles: Adding some cooked pasta, like fregola, orzo, or farfallini to the tuna salad adds delightful texture and even extends the salad somewhat to serve more hungry people.
  • Tuna Salad with peas: Fresh or frozen peas add color and texture to tuna salad, so go ahead and add a handful.
  • Tuna Salad with egg: I love chopped hard-boiled egg added to tuna salad for a little extra protein on busy days.
  • Tuna salad with capers: Salty, briny capers add another delicious dimension to tuna salad. Try a little spoonful mixed in to the bowl and get ready for compliments.
  • Tuna Salad without mayo: If you’re looking for a mayo-free tuna salad recipe, try making the dressing with plain yogurt or whipped silken tofu instead. I also make a super simple vinaigrette with a squeeze of lemon, a glug of olive oil, and a dollop of dijon mustard and it tastes great. Some chopped herbs (dill, parsley, from the garden seal the deal.
  • Ahi Tuna Salad: Is the Ahi tuna looking fabulous at the fish market, or have you got an extra bit of tuna steak from last night’s dinner? Splurge and make tuna salad with it. Cook it through then flake it up in this recipe.

I never get tired of an excellent tuna salad recipe, and of the hundreds of versions I’ve made, this is the version I make when I want the best. Served on a bed of greens or slathered between slices of your favorite bread, this is the classic recipe that works perfectly for tuna melts, too.

What are some healthy ways to eat tuna salad?

It doesn’t have to be all about the bread! You can enjoy tuna salad and up your daily veg, too.

  • Tuna salad wrap: Tuna salad is naturally low in carbs and is modern diet friendly, too. Wrap it up in some sturdy Romaine lettuce or kale leaves for a wrap that will keep your energy up throughout the day.
  • If you're having a paleo moment, make a paleo tuna wrap with lettuce leaves (and obviously go back in time and use paleo mayonnaise. I like the one from Primal Kitchen).
  • Tomatoes stuffed with Tuna Salad: Summer’s best tomatoes can be hollowed out and filled with tuna salad for an old-fashioned, and super-delicious lunch entrée.
  • Tuna Salad niçoise: You don’t have to be in France to enjoy this South-of-France-style recipe. Make a composed salad with oil-packed flaked tuna, then add tender boiled potatoes, soft butter lettuce, strips of roasted red pepper, blanched green beans, capers, Niçoise olives, a hard boiled egg, and then drizzle your plate with olive oil and lemon juice.
4.92 from 60 votes

The Best Tuna Salad Recipe

I never get tired of an excellent tuna salad recipe, and of the hundreds of versions I’ve made, this is the version I make when I want the best. Served on a bed of greens or slathered between slices of your favorite bread, this is the classic recipe that works perfectly for tuna melts, too.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Keyword fish, salad, tuna
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 406kcal
  • 4 (5 ounce) cans tuna packed in water drained
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (or less to taste)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery about 1 rib
  • 2 tablespoons red onion minced, about 2 small slices
  • 2 tablespoon sweet pickle relish or dill relish
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 slices Sandwich bread optional
  • In a medium bowl, combine tuna, mayonnaise, celery, onion, relish, lemon juice, and garlic. 
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Serve immediately or chill until serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 406kcal

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  1. J M Keller

    I agree with all, except the sweet relish..I detest sweet relish in deviled eggs as well. Both always reminding me that as a boy I had to suffer through what seemed to be many endless Presbyterian “after church pot luck lunches” with my family! What I do is add two teaspoons of Wright’s “Liquid Smoke” with two of the large cans of solid white tuna IN OIL, and mix in well at the end. This addition tastes exactly like “smoked” tuna fish salad, and it’s a very pleasant change,. The upshot of my doing this is that I get many compliments on my “Smoked Tuna Salad”! Try it…for a pleasant change!4 stars

  2. Lauren Hutcheson

    I LOVE tuna salad. It’s my comfort food and I’ll order it anywhere as well as make it at home a good bit. I was looking for a new recipe today because my current one just wasn’t hitting the spot.

    This. Is. The. Best. Tuna. Salad. Ever.

    Trust me. I was worried the garlic might be too much but I used a normal size clove and just went for it. I’ll never use another recipe. This one is incredible.5 stars

    1. TEENA MAIDMENT

      Im worried about the relish, but might add some dill, looks yummy 😊 about to make it an put in a soft white roll as that’s all I have !

      Thanks for the inspiration 😊

      Teena Maidment

  3. Greg Hilliard

    My wife is catholic and since it’s lent we eat fish on Friday. Being that co-vid 19 has shut down all the restaurants, this was awesome! Thanks5 stars

  4. Jenise in Maryland

    Trying to find different things to eat during our national quarantine and this recipe really kicks up the tuna fish sandwiches from days past. I used cajun spice and black pepper and served open face on wheat thins. Awesomeness! How do you keep from eating it out of the bowl before you get it on your plate? Thank you for making day 13 lunch exciting and flavorful!5 stars

  5. Michael Trinh

    Started trying to eat healthier and this mostly ticks the boxes for me. Thanks! Any tips to help reduce sodium?

  6. Steve

    Loved it with extra honey mustard5 stars

  7. Theron Masiello

    I have to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this blog. I am hoping to view the same high-grade content from you in the future as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my very own blog now ;)

  8. Asia

    I will be trying this recipe!!

    1. Trent L.

      I just finished making and eating this one with my mom and oh my god. It was amazing.5 stars

  9. Evelyn Flores

    I added capers and skipped the salt. But what a delicious recipe thanks for sharing such a delicious treat. I’m making tuna melt sandwiches tonight. But I’m also doing a tuna wrap for myself. YUMMY 😍5 stars

  10. Ed Sadowski

    Wow, you’ve covered all the bases on possible variations of tuna salad. Not much more to add, except these two ideas: Sometimes I mix in shredded cabbage (sort of a glorified coleslaw!). Also, for wraps, I use tortillas or raw (veggie) wraps. I like to use vinegar a lot and absolutely don’t use any other kind other than balsamic.5 stars

  11. Tara

    Made this exactly as written, will be our new go-to recipe. Thanks so much for sharing!5 stars

  12. Stan

    The minced garlic clove was overpowering. I’d leave that out unless you really like garlic.5 stars

    1. Christina

      The best tuna salad recipe ever!!! This is the first tuna salad recipe I’ve tried to make. To my surprise, it’s better than then deli!!! I also added it to my regular salad! Now I can save money by making my own sandwiches for lunch!! Score!! Thanks!5 stars

    2. meggan

      Thank you so much Christina! Such high praise. :-) I’m really glad you like it! -Meggan

  13. Brittney Mack

    Its good stuff.5 stars

  14. Anne

    Great Tuna salad. Wonderful.

  15. James Ashley Shea

    Thanks for the tip about lemon juice! I didn’t know that.

    Why not use tuna that’s packed in rice brain oil? You won’t need mayonnaise. I looked up rice bran oil, and it’s very healthy stuff. Tastes good, too. Pour off some of it. I always chop up an onion and stir in some sweet relish.

    This will surprise you: Forget the salad and the bread. Heat the tuna up in the microwave and eat it with a spoon.

    Hot tuna!

    Thanks from Jim Shea in Thailand5 stars

    1. Cj

      Thanks James this sounds amazing. Where do i find tuna with rice brain oil?

    2. Meggan

      Yum! Thank you Jim! I will have to try your hot tuna trick!

  16. Nancy Adelman

    Husband and I tried this tonight. We kept the ingredients as listed except halved the mayo and even then that was way too much and had to add more tuna to compensate. Still, it is an interesting recipe with a crisp, fresh-feeling, fresh-tasting crunch that I think we are going to keep around for a while.4 stars

  17. Dorese Embry

    I have never been able to make good and tasty tuna salad. Never! This recipe is exactly what I’ve been trying to do. It is absolutely delicious. It has all the right taste bud flavors. I seasoned it a little Cajuny, so it lights up and pleases. So tasty!!! Thank you fir this recipe. My search is over.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Wow! I’m glad you like it! Thanks Dorese! -Meggan

  18. Jen

    Great recipe! I had way too much tuna on hand and I love how you even mentioned what to do if you only have oil-packed tuna and your tips of how to adjust the tuna salad recipe to personal tastes. Overall, great recipe and great suggestions! Thanks!!!5 stars

  19. Michele

    Best Tuna Salad I have made in 40 years. This is a keeper.5 stars

  20. Michele Deforge

    Best tuna salad I have made in 40 years. This is a keeper5 stars

    1. mark Coon

      Twas vera good. I added Celery salt and a pinch of white pepper.5 stars

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