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.

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 113 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 6 sandwiches
Calories: 264kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

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 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Serve immediately or cover and chill until serving.

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: 0.66cup | Calories: 264kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 280mg | Potassium: 7mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 85IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 1mg
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  1. George Chandler

    Hi, I love tuna salad sammiches,but I usually only use mayo and relish. I’m going to try it with the other ingredients you listed, especially the lemon juice (fresh squeezed, of course) and garlic.Also, I love to cook salmon on the grill, with a little bit of butter and dill weed, over hickory chips. I always cook a big fillet, and use the leftover salmon and to make this salad with salmon instead of tun. Delicious!!!

    1. Meggan

      That sounds simple and delicious! YUM! I hope you enjoy the tuna! – Meggan

  2. celeste roberts

    I love tuna but I’ve always found it difficult to make just right at home. This recipe is amazing! I use it all of the time! Definite winner!!!5 stars

  3. Janice

    I like to substitute avocado for the some of the mayo. I’ll also add sun dried tomatoes, finely diced up into the tuna mix. I do not like red onion as much as white onion (which is a little sweeter in my opinion). I also do not add extra salt. There really is no need. It’s one of my go-to meals!

  4. Daphne

    Excellent comprehensive coverage of one of my favorite sandwiches.

  5. Annette

    This really is the BEST tuna salad recipe! I usually just throw a little of this and that I to my tuna when I make it and sometimes it just isn’t quite “right”. But this recipe takes all the guesswork out and the result is the perfect tuna salad. It’s worth putting in the fresh ingredients rather than dried— so take the few extra minutes and do the chopping!5 stars

  6. Rosemarie Kidd

    Great taste. Made with dry onion and garlic salt. Loved the relish in the recipe!!5 stars

  7. ELIZABETH SCHNOLL

    I love this recipe and added a little mustard.
    Does albacore make a difference?
    Thank you.
    Lizzy5 stars

    1. Hi Lizzy! I have honestly never made this with albacore. I tend to stay away from it because of the higher mercury levels, I just love tuna and I’m always eating my limit. So if I eat albacore, that just means less. So I’m not sure! I imagine it’s just personal preference. I love the idea of mustard. I might try some Dijon next time. Thank you! -Meggan

  8. Jennifer Calin

    It’s how I usually make it so good recipe.
    I add fresh dill .5 stars

  9. Kathy

    I also add sautéed onions in butter to the melt and sliced tomatoes! Killer☺️. Only problem is turning over😋5 stars

  10. Henry Solomon Faber

    Wonderful Recipe! I like more relish and more salt and pepper.
    thank you

  11. Susan

    To make it even healthier, add a tin of sardines. Even better is a tin of sardine and small can of salmon.

  12. Dave

    We make ours a tiny little bit differently than this but the most important thing to remember is: buy quality, wild caught albacore. In a side by side taste comparison, salad made with the cheap stuff tasted like it washed up on shore and laid in the sun for awhile before processing. The good stuff does not have that off-putting “hey I’m a fish” odor. 😊5 stars

    1. Anthony

      A word of caution on Albacore. It has the highest mercury content. Best choice is Skipjack, also labeled as chunk light. Even Yellowfin is safer but it’s larger than Skipjack. It’s best to go for smaller varieties.

  13. Angelina

    I’m SOOO glad to see that you didn’t add mustard (gaaag)! I make my tuna almost the same way, except that I add a bit of fresh minced dill when I have some. Also, try using “Duke’s” mayo. It’s absolutely delicious.5 stars

  14. shan

    This is excellent! I made a tuna melt with a toasted pita, melted sharp white cheddar, tomato and sprouts. the sprouts give it a fresh nutty flavor. I work on a yacht and will be making this for my crew!5 stars

    1. Monica

      Sounds amazing Shan! -Meggan

  15. Mike Gainer

    The Nutrition Facts per serving seems way off. I have 167 cal per serving, not 400.

    1. Hi Mike, agreed. Sometimes the nutrition calculators have values that are totally wacky. I recalculated it within the recipe card and got 264 calories per serving without bread. That’s assuming about 2/3 cup tuna salad, so if your portion is smaller, your calorie count might be smaller. I’m assuming 6 servings per batch. Thanks for pointing that out! So sorry about that. -Meggan

  16. James

    Best over leafy green lettuce with tomato slices. I put it on lightly toasted Oro wheat with buttermilk ranch dressing for lunches. The addition of garlic & lemon put the right touch on this recipe.5 stars

  17. Amy

    I just made this yesterday and it is so easy and so good! I can’t wait to try it as a tuna melt. Thanks!5 stars

  18. John G. Anderson

    You can also substitute avocado instead of mayo or mix reduced amount of mayo with avocado (using a food processor to mix the avocado with the mayo–or just use all avocado. Another option is to use the mayo that’s made with avocado oil.

  19. Lucy

    So easy and yes, it is really the BEST!5 stars

  20. Courtney Goodwin

    I used kalamata olives instead of pickle relish. I don’t want my tuna salad to be sweet. I also added water chestnuts for extra crunch. And I added some Italian seasoning. It was very good! I think the mayo amount is a bit too much so I added an extra can of tuna. Next time I will just use a little less mayo. Maybe 3/4 cup.5 stars

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