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.
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
- 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.
- Next, 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!
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!
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).
- 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.
- Lay one piece of bread in the skillet and top with a thick layer of your tuna fish salad.
- Top with a piece of cheese (preferably American) and a second piece of buttered bread (butter-side up).
- When the bottom bread is golden brown, carefully flip the entire tuna melt.
- 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.
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.
The Best Tuna Salad Recipe
- 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.