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. Michael Trinh

    Started trying to eat healthier and this mostly ticks the boxes for me. Thanks! Any tips to help reduce sodium?5 stars

  2. Steve

    Loved it with extra honey mustard5 stars

  3. Theo

    This tuna salad is the bomb!5 stars

  4. Asia

    I will be trying this recipe!!5 stars

    1. Trent L.

      I just finished making and eating this one with my mom and oh my god. It was amazing.5 stars

  5. Evelyn Flores

    I added capers and skipped the salt. But what a delicious recipe thanks for sharing such a delicious treat. I’m making tuna melt sandwiches tonight. But I’m also doing a tuna wrap for myself. YUMMY 😍5 stars

  6. 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

  7. Tara

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

  8. Stan

    The minced garlic clove was overpowering. I’d leave that out unless you really like garlic.5 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

  9. Brittney Mack

    Its good stuff.5 stars

  10. Anne

    Great Tuna salad. Wonderful.5 stars

  11. 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!

  12. Nancy

    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.5 stars

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. Michele

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

  16. 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

  17. 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

      Great recipe, I love this so much!5 stars

    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

  18. 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 you5 stars

    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

  19. 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

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

    1. Meggan

      You’re so welcome! :D

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