Recipe Review

I Tried Making Julia Child’s Go-To Work Lunch (It’s Surprisingly Easy)

published Dec 4, 2020
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Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

For many of us, finding a make-ahead work lunch that’s satisfying, fresh, and doesn’t require reheating can be a challenge. Sure, salads are great, but sometimes you want something a bit more substantial. That’s why I’m always on the hunt for new lunch ideas, because just like everyone else, I could use a bit of inspiration.

Recently I came across a recipe on The New York Times for “Tuna Salad Sandwich, Julia Child-Style.” The moment I saw the recipe (which the headnote dubs one of “Julia Child’s favorite dishes for a working lunch”) I knew I needed to try it. The recipe is from Julia Child but adapted by Dorie Greenspan. It looked like a super-simple tuna sandwich with a few clever upgrades, like capers and gherkins, served on a toasted english muffin. As a huge fan of Julia Child (and in desperate need of lunch ideas), I couldn’t wait to give it a go.

Get the recipe: Tuna-Salad Sandwich, Julia Child Style

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make Julia Child’s Tuna-Salad Sandwich

Julia Child’s sandwich uses a bunch of fresh ingredients to elevate classic tuna salad. You’ll start by mashing canned, oil-packed tuna with mayonnaise. To that you’ll add chopped celery, cornichons, capers, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and chives. (The recipe calls for chives or parsley, but I went chives.) At this point the salad is ready to be enjoyed, but gets “even better” after resting in the fridge for a few hours.

To build the sandwich, spread a toasted english muffin (or untoasted white bread) with mayonnaise. Place a leaf of lettuce on top, fill with the prepared tuna salad, and top with tomato and onion slices. If using bread, top with another piece of bread; leave open-faced if using English muffins. And that’s it! It’s an easy make-ahead lunch that requires zero cooking.

According to Dorie, Julia was particular about her ingredients, so if you really want to make this sandwich just like Julia, be sure to use oil-packed tuna, Hellmann’s mayo, Vidalia onion, white pepper, and Bays English muffins (or Pepperidge Farm white bread).

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of Julia Child’s Tuna-Salad Sandwich

This sandwich was good, but not amazing. It’s a solid tuna salad sandwich, but nothing special. I liked how salty and bright the filling was, and the addition of capers helped bring a pop of acidity to the sandwich. The gherkins, while delicious, could have easily been replaced by any other type of pickle and achieved the same result. I loved the texture and flavor that the onion, tomato, and lettuce added, and it made the sandwich taste fresh, but it was overall pretty forgettable.

The only thing I didn’t care for in this recipe was the amount of chopped onion in the filling. The recipe calls for two to three tablespoons, which ended up being a bit overpowering for the amount of tuna in the recipe. The next time I make it I’ll add about half of that, or omit it altogether. (The sandwich already has slices of onions on it, so I don’t think it even needs it.)

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

4 Tips for Making Julia Child’s Tuna Salad Sandwich

Before you head into the kitchen to make your own tuna salad sandwich, a few tips.

1. Double the recipe if you want leftovers. The recipe yields barely enough tuna salad to make two sandwiches, so if you want to meal prep for several days’ worth of lunches, feel free to double (or even triple) the recipe.

2. Make sure to use oil-packed tuna. There are two main types of canned tuna sold: water-packed and oil-packed. The latter is what’s used in this recipe. It gives the salad richness and heft, so make sure to double check the label when grocery shopping.

3. Feel free to improvise. The recipe as written makes a classic tuna salad, but feel free to amp it up with additional herbs or spices for even more flavor. Tarragon, paprika, and a dash of hot sauce would all be delicious.

4. Don’t skimp on the toppings. My favorite part of this sandwich was the fresh toppings. I loved the texture and flavor of the tomato, lettuce, and onion and definitely recommend piling them on high. I splurged on a nice head of butter lettuce and don’t regret it.

Have you ever made Julia Child’s tuna salad sandwich? Tell us in the comments below.