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 116 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. 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

  2. Danielle Steffan

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

  3. 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

  4. Jean

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

  5. 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

  6. Linda

    This is my favorite tuna salad recipe!5 stars

  7. Sue

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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. Heather

    how many calories for one serving?

    1. Adam

      230 calories

  11. Nancy

    Made it, with homemade pickles, thanks.5 stars

  12. Theresa

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

  13. Jess

    DELICIOUS!!!!!5 stars

  14. 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

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. 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

  20. 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

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