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.
4.96 from 81 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. Danielle Steffan

    I used dill relish, added some chopped bacon and apples…this was so good! Thank you!5 stars

  2. John Garza

    I used Veganaise instead of Mayo and added avocado, serrano, tomato, cashews, and a little bit of mustard and it was FANTASTIC! Thank you!!5 stars

  3. Jean

    This is one of the best tuna salads I have had in quite some time!!5 stars

  4. Kas

    Just made this for lunch and we both loved it. I didn’t find that it needed any additional salt since the pickle relish is already salty, but that’s just a matter of personal preference. I’ll definitely be making this again. Thanks for a great recipe!5 stars

  5. Linda

    This is my favorite tuna salad recipe!5 stars

  6. Sue

    Won’t use any other recipes from now on! 5 stars

  7. severina villanueva

    Can i add boules eggs

    1. meggan

      Yes! I used to do this all the time, I had a friend from Ukraine and that was his preferred salad. Tuna with eggs. It is literally so good, and I haven’t thought of it in years. Thank you for the reminder! -Meggan

  8. michelle

    I made this tuna recipe for my family. Now this is the only tuna recipe I make. They love it. Thank you.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      What great news! Thanks Michelle! -Meggan

  9. Heather

    how many calories for one serving?

  10. Nancy

    Made it, with homemade pickles, thanks.5 stars

  11. Theresa

    Awesome recipe
    Easy to follow, simple and yet so delicious and nutritious! This will be on top of my favorites now.5 stars

  12. Jess

    DELICIOUS!!!!!5 stars

  13. Marina

    This is soooo good! I added half the mayo and had it with a simple salad on the side & Croûtons. It was delish!5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Thank you so much Marina! I am happy to hear you liked it! -Meggan

  14. Test Kitchen

    It looks so healthy and yummy. My son loves to eat so much and ask me make it for her whenever i have free time. It helps to enrich my recipes for my family. not only this recipe, i also love all your recipes. Thanks for your sharing.5 stars

  15. Mark

    Good tasting – I subbed Sweet Pepper Relish, white onion, and celery salft for the celery and left out the garlic (inadvertently), and it was excellent. Bookmarked.5 stars

  16. 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

  17. 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

      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 😊

      Teena5 stars

  18. 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

  19. 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

  20. Michael Trinh

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

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