Recipe Review

Smitten Kitchen’s Tuna Salad Is for Folks Who Love Mix-ins, but Not Mayo

published Mar 2, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

In my hunt to find the internet’s most exciting tuna salad recipe, I obviously had to check in with Deb over at Smitten Kitchen to see what she had on her site. In a confusing series of events, my research uncovered she does have a tuna salad, but it mysteriously lives on the same page as her Silky Cauliflower Soup recipe. The source of the recipe is actually from the New York Times (by Toby Cecchini) in 2004. But once I found the recipe — which definitely veers away from your classic deli version — I was 100% set on trying it.

Get the recipe: Smitten Kitchen’s Dill and Pepperoncini Tuna Salad (scroll down past the cauliflower soup)

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make Smitten Kitchen’s Dill and Pepperoncini Tuna Salad

To make this tuna salad, mix two cans of oil-packed tuna with finely chopped scallions, julienned pepperoncini peppers, fresh dill, roughly chopped roasted/smoked almonds, olive oil (or the reserved oil from the tuna), Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, balsamic vinegar, fresh lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Whew. Definitely a longer ingredient list than your average tuna salad, but nothing too wild as far as the method is concerned.

My Honest Review of Smitten Kitchen’s Dill and Pepperoncini Tuna Salad

I was so excited to try this salad because of the fun ingredient additions. Roasted almonds, pepperoncini peppers, fresh dill, two kinds of mustards, and balsamic vinegar? Sounds like heaven. All of these additions were obviously non-traditional, but they totally worked, and I would happily add any of these ingredients to a tuna salad again. The toasted almonds were delicious and I genuinely felt like the presence of two kinds of mustards did wonders for the flavor and texture of the salad. I loved the subtle hit of spiciness that the pepperoncinis imparted. Why aren’t more tuna salads a little spicy, huh?

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

My biggest grievance with this tuna salad is the absence of mayo. I am all for riffing and opting for non-traditional recipes, but I think every tuna salad needs some mayo. Even though this salad compensated for the lack of mayo by adding olive oil as a substitute fat, I still felt like I was missing the creaminess and full-bodied texture of mayonnaise. Even visually, this tuna salad didn’t look like your classic tuna salad because there was no mayo to lighten up the color and texture. Don’t get me wrong — the ratios of all the ingredients were spot-on. I just can’t help that I was longing for a lil’ bit of mayo.

I know that mayonnaise can be a pretty divisive ingredient, so if you absolutely hate mayo this might be your recipe. However, if you’re a tuna salad purist, then this one might not be for you.

A Couple of Tips If You Make Smitten Kitchen’s Dill and Pepperoncini Tuna Salad

  1. I would definitely make this tuna salad again, except my only edit would be to swap the olive oil with mayonnaise. I much prefer the creaminess of mayo and I simply don’t want a tuna salad without some.
  2. The recipe calls for oil-packed tuna, but Deb mentions that she’s made it two ways: with oil-packed tuna mixed with the oil that’s in the can or jar and using water-packed tuna mixed with olive oil. It all comes down to personal preference (and what you can find at the store), but know that you’ve got options.
  3. Because this recipe relies on canned tuna and olive oil, this is definitely a tuna salad worth splurging on the nicest can of tuna you can find at the store. There are lots of great options in stores these days; one of my favorites is Fishwife.

Rating: 7/10