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 57 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. 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

  2. Tara

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

  3. Stan

    The minced garlic clove was overpowering. I’d leave that out unless you really like garlic.4 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

  4. Brittney Mack

    Its good stuff.5 stars

  5. Anne

    Great Tuna salad. Wonderful.

  6. 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!

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. Michele

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

  11. 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

  12. Amy

    Has anyone made this recipe without onions and celery? I would prefer not to use these ingredients.

    1. Lashonda Hickman

      Yes. I added eggs, honey mustard and extra sweet relish for crunch. I dont like those either. I ommitrd the garlic as well. It was really good on a sandwich and I ate some chips with it.5 stars

    2. Lashonda Hickman

      Yes I have and it was great..just not a heavy crunch. I dont like the onions and celery either. And it was still good to me. Had a light crunch from the sweet relish. I also added a little honey mustard to mine for a little extra flavor.5 stars

    3. Joanne

      sorry, a tuna salad or egg salad has no taste without those ingredients, it also gives it a nice crunch.

    4. meggan

      Hi Joanne, we have no idea why Amy was thinking of leaving those out (she hates them? allergies? who knows). -Meggan

    5. meggan

      Hi Amy, I definitely have. Sometimes I’m just too lazy to chop veggies. I do like the crunch though, and the flavor. If you don’t want to use them, just omit them entirely (you will obviously have less salad overall) or you could replace them with something you DO like, such as carrots? It sounds weird but I’ve tried it, I like it. Or just nothing. You could also add in hard-boiled eggs if you’re feeling crazy. But just leave out whatever you don’t like! Thanks. -Meggan

  13. Kazekage

    Hello,

    How long can the Tuna Salad last in the fridge? I would like to use this for lunch meal prep.

    Please let me know

    Thank you

    1. meggan

      Hi Kazekage, 4 days at the most. That’s the standard CDC amount of time for leftovers. The texture might also change a little bit after a few days. So as far as food safety goes, 4 days yes. But as far as your personal taste, you’ll have to see if you still like it at Day 3 and 4! I have never had a problem but everyone is different. It’s a great meal-prep idea. Thanks! -Meggan

  14. Hi Meggan!

    This tuna salad recipe looks so yummy! My tuna salad usually comes out different each time because I just throw a bit of this and bit of that, each time.

    I’m going to have to actually make THIS recipe because it looks divine!

    I also wanted to let you know that I featured this recipe on my “49 Easy, Healthy and Nut-Free School Lunch Ideas” post round-up, with full credit back to you and your wonderful website.

    Thanks for sharing such a great recipe with us!
    -Cherelle5 stars

  15. Great sandwich for lunch or snack. The recipe is clear. Many thanks.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      You’re so welcome! :D

  16. Bob

    Excellent recipe, still don’t understand why every single recipe online has to jibber jabber for fifteen minutes before getting to the point, list the ingredients and quantities first then put your big ol’ spheel after because I’ll already have my browser closed and be eating by then.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Bob, you should ALWAYS look for a “jump to recipe” button at the top of every recipe website you go to. Most sites (such as mine) have them, so it saves you the trouble of scrolling. It takes you right to the recipe. As for why we jibber-jabber, that’s how we make money. So just look for that button! Sorry for the trouble. -Meggan

  17. I add as much celery as tuna practically as I <3 celery. I use a lot of relish but prefer Cain's Tangy Dill Relish instead of sweet, and use Old Bay Seasoning as it already has paprika in it. I use white onion as that's what is always on hand. I add extra lemon juice and lots of fresh ground pepper, but have never tried adding garlic … hmmm.5 stars

  18. Jennifer Mayfield

    Awesome recipe! I was looking to jazz up my standard tuna,mayo, boiled egg, and relish recipe and this is it. The lemon,red onion and garlic just give it something extra that my go to recipe did not have. I also added celery salt instead of celery I like the flavor of celery just not the celery itself. Does that even make since? LOL Thanks!5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Thanks so much Jennifer! Yes, that makes sense about the celery. Celery can take a lot of effort to eat! :D -Meggan

  19. I usually make tuna salad as side dish in my busy day. That’s great you share tips and a lot recipe for canned tuna, thanks so much.5 stars

  20. Tuna Salad is great! It is a perfect combination, I always love fish, they are always on my menu. added Tuna Salad to the menu for the weekend. Thank you for sharing the recipe to do it5 stars

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