Kitchn Love Letters

My Easy Summer Supper Is a Can of Tuna Plus This Deli-Counter Find

published Jul 1, 2022
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tabbouleh in a bowl with drinks nearby
Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling Duncan Fitzpatrick

I love cooking, but I love being outside when the weather is nice even more. (Honestly, I’m inclined to be outside even when the weather isn’t that nice — I’m a bit dog-like in that regard.) If you’re wondering why I don’t just take up grilling for the best of both worlds, I’m a New York City apartment-dweller with no patio. So when summer rolls around, I ditch the roasted veggies and slow-cooked stews and start making quick meals that allow me to prep dinner, eat it, and then get back outside as quickly as possible. 

One of my favorite almost-instant summer meals is the combination of a can of oil-packed tuna mixed with store-bought tabbouleh. I discovered this tasty and easy no-cook combo about 15 years ago when I lived near NYC’s legendary spice shop and food store Kalustyan’s. (I could write 6,000 words about the wonderful smell in Kalustyan’s, thanks to the hundreds of spices and other fragrant foods; going there is a form of aromatherapy for me.) 

I’d pass by Kalustyan’s on my walk home from work and pick up a container of their lemony tabbouleh. Then when I’d get home I’d crack open a can of oil-packed tuna, dump it on top, flake it into the tabbouleh, and dig in. I don’t get to Kalustyan’s as often as I used to, but this has remained a go-to meal for me whenever I need something fast and satisfying. I can make it with any store-bought tabbouleh or even homemade tabbouleh if I’m feeling fancy.

Credit: Megan O. Steintrager

It’s a light and balanced meal with carbs from the bulgur in the tabbouleh, plenty of veggies, and protein from the tuna. Even better than being balanced, this meal is delicious, with a nice contrast of bright, sharp flavors from the lemon and parsley and richness from the oily tuna. It also packs up easily for picnics in the park, for those of us who can’t stand to be inside on a sunny summer day. 

 Try it yourself, and check out my ideas for mixing things up below.

Credit: Megan O. Steintrager

Tuna + Tabbouleh Variations 

  • Add some freshly squeezed lemon juice and flaky sea salt.
  • Sprinkle the mixture with toasted nuts or seeds (I like pepitas). 
  • Swap the tuna for other canned fish, such as sardines or mackerel.
  • Add some chopped hard-boiled eggs.
  • Use rotisserie chicken in place of the tuna.
  • Toast some bread, rip it up, douse it in olive oil, put it on top for instant croutons. 
  • Add a side of store-bought hummus, babaganoush, or another dip and some pita.
  • Add some avocado.
  • Toss in extra veggies, like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, or leftover corn cut from the cob.
  • Swap tabbouleh for another deli salad.

What’s your favorite thing to make with a can of tuna? Tell us in the comments below.