The Perfect Tuna Salad

updated Aug 15, 2022
Tuna Salad

Tuna salad is lunchtime comfort food. This basic recipe is the perfect mix of creamy and crunchy, with a mix of tuna, mayo, pickle relish, celery, shallot, and lemon juice.

Serves4

Makesabout 2 cups salad

Prep5 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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tuna salad sandwich on plate
Credit: Emma Christensen

No matter how creative or spontaneous or inventive I aim to be with my easy weekday lunch idea, at some point I always end up craving just a simple tuna salad sandwich. It’s lunchtime comfort food. Has it been a while since you last had tuna salad? Here’s my favorite, most basic recipe. I think it’s just about perfect.

There’s not much to making tuna salad, really. My husband often just mixes the tuna with mayo and a few cracks of black pepper and calls it good! I like to add some crunch to balance out the cream, and so I mix in some chopped celery and shallots when I make it.

A spoonful of pickle relish might not be the way you grew up with it, but try it — the sweet-and-sour pickles add just a little something extra to each bite. I also like water-packed tuna, partly because I think it has a cleaner tuna flavor. But if you’re a fan of oil-packed tuna, by all means use that!

How Do I Keep Tuna Salad from Being Dry?

To prevent your tuna salad from being dry, you’ll need to stir in at least one tablespoon mayo per one (5-ounce) can of tuna. After mixing in the rest of your ingredients, taste the salad. If you want it creamier, stir in another tablespoon or two of mayo. A squeeze of lemon juice also adds moisture.

For a lighter salad, replace the mayo with yogurt. Or, for a looser, salad, opt for olive oil.

How Long Does Tuna Salad Last in the Fridge?

Tuna salad can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week. And of course, sandwiches are just one of many dishes you can make with tuna salad.

Mix in some macaroni for an easy pasta salad side dish, or pack it into avocado halves or scooped-out tomatoes for a gluten-free lunch. A few spoonfuls of tuna salad with crackers is also one of my favorite afternoon snacks.

Tuna Salad

Tuna salad is lunchtime comfort food. This basic recipe is the perfect mix of creamy and crunchy, with a mix of tuna, mayo, pickle relish, celery, shallot, and lemon juice.

Prep time 5 minutes

Makes about 2 cups salad

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 (5-ounce) cans

    water-packed tuna fish

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons

    mayonnaise

  • 1 stalk

    celery, diced small

  • 1

    small shallot or 1/4 red onion, diced small

  • 1 tablespoon

    freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)

  • 1 tablespoon

    pickle relish (optional)

  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Use a can opener to cut open the cans of tuna fish, but leave the lid in place. Holding the cans over the sink or a bowl, press the lid into the tuna fish and tilt the can to drain all the liquid. Remove the lids and transfer the tuna fish to a medium bowl.

  2. Add 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, the celery, shallot, lemon juice, pickle relish (if using), a sprinkle of salt, and a few cracks of fresh black pepper to the tuna fish. Stir with a fork to combine, breaking up any large chunks of tuna fish as you go. Add more mayo if you'd like smoother, creamier tuna salad. Taste and add more of any of the ingredients to taste. Use immediately or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Recipe Notes

Tuna Salad Variations

  • Use yogurt instead of mayo for a lighter salad.
  • Use extra-virgin olive oil instead of mayo for a looser salad.
  • Use canned salmon, smoked trout, or leftover chicken in place of the tuna.
  • Add diced apples, raisins, or dried fruit to the basic recipe.
  • Add diced fennel, shredded cabbage, diced cucumbers, or any other crunchy vegetable.
  • Add a dash of curry powder, dukkah, harissa, chopped fresh herbs, or any other spice mix in your cupboard.
  • Tuna and mayo — it's as simple as you can get, and a perfectly acceptable lunch.