I never get tired of an excellent tuna salad recipe, and of the hundreds of versions I’ve made, this version is the best. Serve on toast, crackers, a bed of greens, or grilled as a very delicious tuna melt.

A tuna salad sandwich on toast.

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.

Recipe ingredients:

Tuna salad ingredients in a bowl and labeled.

Ingredient notes:

  • Tuna: I like to use solid-pack tuna in water with a dolphin-safe label. I usually buy cans, but you can use packets instead. 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.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Once you’ve opened the can of tuna, drain the water away. I like to do this by removing the lid and holding it over the sink to drain.
  2. Add the tuna to a bowl. Stir in the rest of your ingredients : Mayo, celery, onion, pickle relish, garlic, and lemon juice. 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!

Make a tuna 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!

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.

Variations and substitutions:

  • Healthy: To lighten up your tuna salad, cut back on the mayo, or use plain yogurt instead. Then load up on fresh crunchy veggies and chopped herbs. Don’t skimp on the lemon juice, either!
  • Apples: A small amount of diced crunchy apple (I’m looking at you, Granny Smith!) is wonderful in tuna salad.
  • Tuna pasta salad: Make a tasty tuna pasta salad by adding cooked macaroni, rotini, or your other favorite small pasta.
  • Stuffed tomatoes: Summer’s best tomatoes can be hollowed out and filled with tuna salad for an old-fashioned, and super-delicious lunch entrée.
  • Peas: Fresh or frozen peas add color and texture to tuna salad, so go ahead and add a handful.
  • Hard-boiled eggs: I love chopped hard-boiled egg added to tuna salad for a little extra protein on busy days..
  • Ahi Tuna Salad: Is the Ahi tuna looking fabulous at the fish market, or have you got an extra bit of ahi tuna from last night’s dinner? Splurge and make tuna salad with it. Cook it through then flake it up in this recipe.

More delicious deli salads:

Did you enjoy this recipe? Please leave a rating and a comment below!

A tuna salad sandwich on toast.

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 version is the best. Serve on toast, crackers, a bed of greens, or grilled as a very delicious tuna melt. Yield: About 4 cups, enough for 6 sandwiches (2/3 cup per sandwich).
4.99 from 172 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Servings 6 sandwiches
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Calories 264

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • In a medium bowl, combine tuna, mayonnaise, celery, onion, relish, lemon juice, and garlic. 
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like ½ teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper). Serve immediately or cover and chill until serving.

Recipe Video

Notes

Make a tuna 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!

Nutrition

Serving: 0.66cupCalories: 264kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 1gFat: 28gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 280mgPotassium: 7mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 85IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 3mgIron: 1mg
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Meggan Hill

I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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Comments

  1. Just surfing through Pinterest this morning & found this recipe. I got right up & made it (I cut it in half) & love it. I did add a little more celery & relish than the recipe calls for.5 stars

    1. Hi Jen, thanks so much for your comment!! You know, sometimes I add more celery and relish too. I think it’s totally a personal preference on how much crunch you want. I’ve also added carrots which I love, especially when I’m feeding it to my kids. My mother-in-law adds green olives. Glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  2. I love tuna salad and tuna casserole. I prefer the water packed also, and found it interesting that you don’t like it warm but you’ll make it into a melt? lol.. to me the oil makes it slimy. ;)5 stars

    1. Patti, my mom shares your opinion. No idea what my deal is. :) I think I like the contrast of hot bread with cold salad? Same reason I like to dip hot pizza in cold ranch. There is probably a technical name for what is wrong with me. :)

  3. Erm … I actually do like tuna in oil, Meggan! I like it because the oil soaks into the bread and makes it yummy. I usually try to choose olive oil, though. ;-)
    I really love that you’ve given me a proper tuna salad recipe here. I usually just open up the tuna and slap it on some bread with some mayo and tomato!5 stars

    1. Well that’s awesome, Helen! I do think it is likely that there is a difference between the tuna in oil you’ve had and the stuff in the US. Not positive but it’s entirely likely! And even if it’s exactly the same, I certainly haven’t given it a fair shake. I only ever make tuna salad with canned tuna and the oil + mayo combo seems like overkill to me. But I trust your foodie judgement. :)

  4. I love a good tuna salad sandwich. I often make them when I want a quick lunch. In fact, I have all of the ingredients – I can have this for lunch today :)5 stars

    1. It is one of the quickest lunches around! I pretty much always have the ingredients on hand too. So convenient. Thank you so much!

  5. I like packed in water as well, it’s too rich for me in oil. This is a very tasty sandwich and I have to say I’m a tuna melt kinda girl.5 stars

    1. Like I said… put “melt” on the end of anything and it sounds better. Hot fudge sundae melt? Check. Oreo melt? Check. ;)

    1. It’s never too early for lunch! I’ve always preferred having lunch for breakfast, anyway. :) Thank you for visiting !

  6. Meggan, I am totally with you on preferring water packed tuna. Once upon a time you could only get oil packed tuna, but since I found water packed, I’ve never looked back. I think people think tuna is more flavorful when packed in oil, but I like the flavor of water packed and certainly don’t need the calories.

    1. Susan, I have heard that about tuna packed in oil. Specifically when I was googling something along the lines of “why would anyone eat tuna packed in oil” that was the general feedback. Perhaps because I’m not a big consumer of fish in general, I don’t necessarily WANT more flavorful tuna! Ha! ;)

    2. Personally I’ve always like tuna in oil. I adore the extra flavor. Tuna in water tastes flat to me. Tuna in oil has the flavor I grew up in with my Italian famly5 stars

  7. I was planning to make something with tuna today, but might as well make a tuna sandwich for myself! Looks so delicious!5 stars