Our Favorite Tuna Salad

This is how we make our favorite tuna salad at home. The recipe is quick, simple and tastes great. You don’t need lots of ingredients to make amazing tuna salad. Let us show you how. Jump to the Tuna Salad Recipe

Tuna Salad Sandwich

How to Make the Best Tuna Salad

When I was little, my two favorite foods were macaroni and cheese and tuna salad and now that I’m adult, things haven’t changed all that much. When it comes to making tuna salad, we do our best to keep things really simple. Let me walk you through how we make it.

Tuna Salad Sandwich

Canned tuna: We buy canned albacore tuna that’s been caught with hand-operated pole-and-lines. We also prefer the cans with tuna that’s been cooked in the can. This tuna tends to be more succulent and retains all of its natural juices and fats. Brands that don’t can tuna this way, cook the tuna first and then can it, which means that much of the natural juices and fats get lost. That’s why you will often see tuna canned in water or oil. When the tuna is cooked right in the can, there is no need for the extra water or oil. On that same token, when you buy tuna that’s been cooked in the can, there is no need to drain it before making tuna salad.

A note about buying tuna and other seafood: There are lots of options when it comes to canned tuna and to be honest, there are some pretty unfortunate choices available. We try our best to eat as sustainably as possible and find that the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch is helpful in figuring out which species are endangered as well as the best fishing practices to look for when buying seafood.

We look for the little blue logo with MSC on it (Marine Stewardship Council Certified) as well as key terms like “hand-operated pole-and-lines” or “pole and line caught.” Albacore tuna caught with trolling lines can also be a good option (be careful not to confuse trolling lines with trawling, which is very different).

Tuna alternatives: If you cannot find sustainably-caught canned tuna, our recipe can still be used with flaked salmon or mashed chickpeas. I make vegan chickpea “tuna” salad often and love it! Use canned or home-cooked chickpeas. Here’s our method for cooking dried chickpeas.

More simple salads: I love this simple chicken salad, our easy egg salad and when I have avocados in the house, I make this avocado egg salad.

Tuna salad ingredients

In addition to tuna (or one of the suggested tuna alternatives), we need a few more ingredients:

Mayonnaise: This can be regular store-bought mayo, vegan mayo or a homemade mayonnaise. We add a few tablespoons. If you’d like to reduce the mayonnaise in the recipe, swap it for a generous drizzle of good-quality olive oil. The salad won’t be as creamy, but we still enjoy it.

Dijon mustard (optional): Now that I’m an adult, I love the addition of Dijon mustard to my tuna salad. It adds an extra zesty bite. We left this ingredient as optional since not everyone loves it. If you are on the fence, make the salad without it and then add a little mustard and see what you think.

Fresh lemon juice: If you’ve been following Inspired Taste for any amount of time, you probably already know that we add fresh lemon juice to anything and everything. I especially love it for how it balances out the mayonnaise.

Salt and pepper: These should be added to taste. I usually don’t find myself adding much salt (if any) to my tuna salad, but I always add a generous pinch of fresh ground black pepper.

Crunchy things: The salad is delicious without these extras, but if you have them in the kitchen, you won’t regret adding them. I love added crunch from celery, pickles and scallions. For the pickles, we use dill pickles and love adding an extra splash of pickle juice to the mix. You can see me do this in the recipe video.

Tuna Salad Ingredients

How to serve tuna salad

Tuna salad is so simple to make and can be served a variety of ways. Here are some of my favorites:

Frequently asked questions

What can I use instead of mayonnaise for tuna salad? I touched on this above, but you can use a vegan mayo instead of regular mayo or get rid of the mayonnaise all together and use a good-quality olive oil. The salad won’t be as creamy, but it will still be delicious.

Do I need to drain tuna cans? The answer to this depends on the brand of tuna you have in your kitchen. If you have purchased tuna that was cooked directly in the can, then no, you definitely do not want to drain the tuna. If you did drain it, you would be draining all the natural juices and fats (like the omega 3 fats). Alternatively, if the can of tuna you have says something like packed in water or packed in oil, then yes, we prefer to drain it. That tuna was most likely cooked before being canned, which means all those delicious natural juices have been lost. Most brands that do cook the tuna in the can say it on the packaging or mention that there is no need to drain.

How long does tuna salad last in the fridge? Store tuna salad in airtight food-safe containers in the fridge. It will last this way up to 5 days. We do not recommend freezing tuna salad.

Our Favorite Tuna Salad

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We buy canned Albacore tuna that’s been caught with hand-operated pole-and-lines. We also prefer the cans with tuna that’s been cooked in the can. This tuna tends to be more succulent and retains all of its natural juices and fats. (We share more details in the article.)

Tuna alternatives: If you cannot find sustainably-caught canned tuna, our recipe can still be used with flaked salmon or mashed chickpeas — use about 2 cups.

Makes 4 servings

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

2 (5-ounce cans) sustainably-caught tuna, see tips

3 to 4 tablespoons mayonnaise, try our homemade mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, optional

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped

1 scallion, finely chopped or use 1 tablespoon chopped onion

1 to 2 dill pickles, finely chopped

1 tablespoon dill pickle juice, optional

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

    If you have tuna packed in water or oil, drain it. If you have tuna that has been cooked in the can, there is no need to drain it. See tips for an explanation.

    Place tuna in a bowl and break it up with a fork. Add three tablespoons of mayonnaise, the mustard, lemon juice, celery, scallion, pickles, pickle juice and a generous pinch of fresh ground black pepper. Mix well.

    Taste, and then adjust with salt or another tablespoon of mayonnaise. Store in airtight food-safe containers in the fridge for up to 5 days. We do not recommend freezing the salad.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Best tuna to buy: We buy canned Albacore tuna that’s been caught with hand-operated pole-and-lines. We look for the little blue logo with MSC on it (Marine Stewardship Council Certified) as well as key terms like “hand-operated pole-and-lines” or “pole and line caught.” Albacore tuna caught with trolling lines can also be a good option (be careful not to confuse trolling lines with trawling, which is very different).
  • Do I need to drain tuna cans? The answer to this depends on the brand of tuna you have in your kitchen. If you have purchased tuna that was cooked directly in the can, then no, you definitely do not want to drain the tuna. If you did drain it, you would be draining all the natural juices and fats (like the omega 3 fats). Alternatively, if the can of tuna you have says something like packed in water or packed in oil, then yes, we prefer to drain it. That tuna was most likely cooked before being canned, which means all those delicious natural juices have been lost. Most brands that do cook the tuna in the can say it on the packaging or mention that there is no need to drain.
  • Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

Nutrition Per Serving: Serving Size 1/4 of the recipe / Calories 188 / Total Fat 10.4g / Saturated Fat 1.9g / Cholesterol 40.5mg / Sodium 577.3mg / Carbohydrate 1.4g / Dietary Fiber 0.5g / Total Sugars 0.7g / Protein 20.7g
AUTHOR: Adam and Joanne Gallagher

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6 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Edith September 9, 2021, 11:39 pm

    We loved your tuna salad! We had it for dinner last night as a sandwich with slices of juicy fresh tomotoes-yummy. We also had some potato-egg salad from my daughter and it made a filling and delicious summer dinner.

    Reply
  • Geneviève Roy September 5, 2021, 9:26 am

    I just saw your Bran muffin recipe and this nice Tuna Salad. It would be great if I could put them in my Pinterest folder for later use. Adding a link to share your recipes on Pinterest (or other) would be a great addition to your website. I rarely print anymore. Online is way more practical. 😉

    Reply
  • Mark July 29, 2021, 4:04 pm

    Sounds good except for the celery. Why does everyone always include celery in tuna salad recipes? A good way to ruin everything.

    Reply
  • Deborah Sullivan July 15, 2021, 4:37 pm

    I like to add a teaspoon of tartar sauce to tuna salad. It gives it added flavor because of dill and other spices. Try it. I love it.

    Reply
  • KAREN PILLER July 12, 2021, 9:35 pm

    How can I tell if the tuna is cooked in the tin? Does it say on tin? Sorry ? sounds pathetic, but I didn’t know there was a choice!

    Reply
    • Adam July 13, 2021, 11:23 am

      It should say on the tin. If it doesn’t a good indicator is to check if the can says the tuna was packed in oil or water. That usually means it was cooked outside of the can then the water or oil was added later.

      Reply

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