Kitchn Love Letters

This 3-Ingredient Salad Is All My Family Wants to Eat Every Day

published Aug 10, 2020
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Credit: Amelia Rampe

2020 was supposed to be the year we made it to Spain. We’ve long been promising my husband’s Spanish mom an extended visit, but thanks to coronavirus, we likely won’t make it there this year. The one silver lining? We discovered a salad that transports us there momentarily — and now my family can’t stop eating it.

It all started a few months ago when, during a hangry fit, I threw together a mix of romaine hearts, jarred tuna in olive oil, and piparra peppers. After just one bite, my husband said he felt like he was back in Spain — his mom used to serve something similar when he lived there. I was thrilled to have found a win-win: a way to bring a taste of Spain into our home, and a five-minute meal everyone agreed on. It’s fast, it’s crunchy, and it packs an impressive amount of flavor, making it the perfect last-minute lunch. Did I mention it dresses itself?

Credit: Amelia Rampe
3-Ingredient Tuna Salad

How to Make My Family’s Favorite 3-Ingredient Salad

This salad comes together in minutes. To create a single serving, you’ll chop half a head of romaine hearts (about 2 cups lettuce), add most of a (6.7-ounce) jar olive oil tuna (or the whole thing if your appetite allows!), and drizzle some of the oil on top. Then, toss in about six or seven piparra peppers along with some of their pickling liquid.

If you’ve never had a pippara pepper, it’s similar to a pepperoncini pepper (fun fact: when I was in grade school, I used to put pepperoncini peppers in a sandwich bag and eat them for breakfast on my way to school. Kinda gross, but also likely why I love this salad so much.) The pickled long green peppers, from the Basque region in Spain, are usually served alongside snacks like olives, anchovies, and boquerones, but they’re perfect in simple salads, where they add a big punch of pickly flavor (they’re more pickly than spicy).

Depending on what you have in your pantry or fridge, you can upgrade the salad how you please. I usually top mine off with flaky salt and a couple pinches of Urfa biber, a sweet and smoky Turkish chile flake that I always keep in stock. Sometimes, I give it a hit of my good finishing olive oil, or add a handful of microgreens. But most often, I’m satisfied with just lettuce, tuna, piparra peppers, and some seasoning.

A Salad Worthy of My High-Quality Tuna Stash

We’re a family that enjoys canned tuna fish, so in my home, we always keep a half dozen cans in our cupboard. But in recent years, I’ve upped the ante by keeping a secret stash of good jarred tuna in olive oil. It’s a tiny upgrade that greatly enhances any canned tuna dish, and a mom treat I feel I’ve earned after raising children for over 20 years. The kids have full access to the cans, which they use to make sandwiches and tuna melts. But the jarred tuna is reserved for three things: eating straight from the jar, making tonnato, and this 3-ingredient salad. If that doesn’t show you how much I love this salad, I’m not sure what will.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.