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.

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.

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.

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.

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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 butter lettuce leaves (and obviously go back in time and use paleo mayonnaise).
  • 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.

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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.
4.86 from 21 votes
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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 532 kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 (5 ounce) cans tuna packed in water drained
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery about 1 rib
  • 2 tablespoons red onion minced, about 2 small slices
  • 2 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 slices Sandwich bread

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine tuna, mayonnaise, celery, onion, relish, lemon juice, and garlic. 

  2. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Serve immediately on bread or chill until serving.

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38 comments

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

  2. 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.

    • 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! ;)

    • I’m with you on that, Meggan!

  3. Yes, a standard and a favourite for me!

  4. You’ve just made me to start thinking lunch now. And it’s only 10:30 in the morning… :P

  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.

  6. 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 :)

  7. 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!

    • 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. :)

  8. I love a good tuna sandwich, and this one looks perfect! And your tuna melt sounds amazing too!

  9. 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. ;)

    • 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. :)

  10. 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.

    • 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!

  11. Thanks for the recipe by any chance do you have a recipe foe these Mina melts

  12. I used dill pickle  
    Relish and not sweet relish very good also do you have a melt recipe

    • Hi Joe! I like both kinds of relish, glad you made it to your taste. To make a melt, spread butter on two pieces of bread (1 side of the bread). Take 1 piece of bread and place it butter-side down on a pan over medium-high heat. Add a piece of cheese and 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup of tuna salad. Top with a second piece of buttered bread (butter side out). When the bottom piece is golden brown, flip it over and cook the other side. I hope this helps, please let me know if you have any other questions! Take care.

  13. Hello Meggan,
    I’m old, like really old.  Growing up and until I think like the 80’s all tuna was packed in oil.  Then someone figured out packing it in water.  Now you can buy either way.  I prefer the oil packed as I grew up with it.  I just take the tuna out of the can in my hands (well washed) and squeeze the heck out of the tuna over the sink.  Then I make whatever I want with it.  Like your yummy tuna salad recipe. I think the oil gives the tuna more flavor.  But everyone can decide for themselves.  My grandchildren swear they only like water packed tuna.  But they gobble down my oil packed tuna every time.   I think I’ll wait a few years to tell them.  

    • Hilarious, Nora! And actually, I’m obsessed with oil-packed tuna now. I finally tried it. And it makes sense because more fat, and fat is DELICIOUS. So yes. I’m a changed woman. :) I appreciate your comment!

  14. Hi Meggan,
    . I Love a good Tuna Salad but I lost my receipe over the years. I came across yours online and decided to give it a try. I did make a few modifications though. I pretty much followed your receipe as you have it. What I did change, was I finely chopped sweet pickles in the processor instead of Sweet pickle relish. I used the same amount as your receipe called for. I also added 2 Hard Boiled Eggs, finely chopped. I used 1/2 cup of Miracle Whip and 1/3 cup Kraft Mayo, instead of 1 cup of Mayo.
    I’ve been told that this is THE best Tuna Salad I’ve ever made. Thank you very much for getting me back on track with Tuna Salad. Very Sincerely, Teddy

  15. Wonderful recipe! I am a bit finicky when it comes to tuna salad but the ratios and flavours in your recipe were PERFECT!

  16. Hmm. Thanks for the advice as I never thought of adding pickle relish
    or lemon juice
    & garlic. It taste Great already…

    Now for the tuna, are there not more omega 3’s in oil pack tuna?

    Well I grabbed my cans of whitefish & tuna as only had that lying around, but just before adding I finally realized that its Friskies tuna n whitefish :-O
    A close call but at least the cat is happy. I’ll have to wait till I get to the store tomorrow so I can be happy :-(

  17. Just made your tuna salad recipe. Wasn’t in the mood for bread so used butter lettuce to wrap. May never eat it any other way! Thank you!

  18. Great great recipe! I usually add dash or 2 of curry powder…..try it!

    • Such a great idea! I make curried chicken salad on a weekly basis, I’ve never tried adding it to tuna salad. I’m sure I will love it. I can’t wait to try it! Thanks Barbara. :D -Meggan

  19. I am probably really late to the party but I love a good tuna sandwich. I am on board with most of this but the sodium content is a bit high for me. I also meal prep my lunches for the week and had to think of ways to keep my tuna from becoming too watery over the course of a couple of days. I borrowed an idea from subway. I use tuna in water but take the draining of the water a bit further than most so that I get the tuna very dry and very well mixed. Their technique is on youtube & it works very well for the water I always seemed to have at the bottom of my mixing bowl.. I also add only lemon or lime, celery and mayo. However, i am experimenting with using both greek yogurt and mayo for the extra nutrient boost. For the yogurt I will try to drain it of whey so that it does not become watery over the couple of days it takes for me to consume the tuna salad. I also add the veggies to the sandwich as toppings. I typically add spinach, lettuce, bell pepper, red onion, shredded carrot & mushroom. For the meal prepped sandwiches for lunch I add a slice of cheese (preferably a cheese with a lower so sodium content and as few additives as possible) & little Dijon to the bread and pack that separate from the tuna. The veggies are also packed separately in either a baggie or reusable container.

    This is a little extra work when I am ready to eat at lunch  but allows me to get a serving of veggies in a D.C. Meal prep my lunches for a couple of days at the same time.

    FOr the grilled sandwich I recently read that using mayo instead of butter works very well. Ive not tried that yet but I’d like to try mayo made with olive oil for this’d technique as it would be  slightly be lower in saturated fat.

    Will definitely add minced garlic to this. 

    One last thing finely chopped dried fruit like tart cherries or cranberries are also great additions.

    I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I love your recipes. However, I do have to modify them for sodium & fat as I am on a weight loss journey. I like the flavor profiles of your recipes. 🙂

    Thank you so much for your wonderful posts.

  20. Yum! Gotta have that pickle on the side when having a tuna sandwich! I used a dill pickle instead of sweet for the relish (personal preference), but it was delicious! What kind of pickles do you usually prefer? I like Bubbies because they don’t use vinegar in their brine. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Sam! I’m super delinquent in replying to your comment. I ADORE Bubbies products, I always have the kraut in my fridge. A spoonful a day for gut health at minimum, or it’s the easiest way to add a side of vegetables to my plate without any prep at all. I love the pickles too! So much better than the shelf-stable ones (gross). Do you ever work with bloggers? I love you guys. Have a great day! :D -Meggan

  21. Girl, tuna never gets old! This recipe is really good. I make my own mayo to keep the sodium down. I had NO idea Hellman’s was so salty! Keep the recipes flowing, thanks for this classic! 

  22. Hi,

    This was great. It taste like a deli-style tuna sandwich with rye. It taste fresher and better. Instead, I used a quarter of squeezed lemon to replace of the lemon juice. Also, Albacore. Thank You for this fresh receipe.

  23. FOUNDATION TO A GREAT RECIPE. I’m admittedly a bit obsessive about following a recipe to the letter the first time I try it (to be as objective as possible in my review), but it’s rare that I have all ingredients on hand to do so. This time I did. and went for it. One cup of mayo sounded like too much, but given all the positive reviews, I just threw it in. I should have gone with my gut and started with half that amount and added more if necessary–with the full cup, it looked like a mayo soup. Fortunately I had a six-ounce can of tuna on hand to mix in. With that, the consistency was just right for my taste.

    With extra tuna salad, I split the batch into two before seasoning. One I seasoned with salt & pepper per the recipe, the other I used Old Bay seasoning (and also added two diced hard-boiled eggs). Both were excellent, but will go with less mayo, Old Bay and eggs as my permanent go-to. Thanks for sharing this!

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