Best Tuna Salad

4.79 from 14 votes
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This tuna salad recipe is easy and delicious! A protein-packed dish that’s versatile to add to vegetables, sandwiches, and pasta for a quick lunch or dinner.

Quick and easy tuna salad to use for sandwiches or salads.

Recipe Science

  • Mixing tuna with mayonnaise creates a stable emulsion, ensuring a creamy and cohesive texture throughout the salad.
  • Adding acidic ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar enhances the flavor by balancing the richness of the mayonnaise and tuna.
  • Incorporating crunchy vegetables like celery or onions provides a contrast in texture and adds fresh, crisp elements to the salad.

Why It Works

Every home cook should have a delicious go-to tuna salad recipe. It’s a great quick, affordable, protein-packed meal when you don’t feel like cooking. You only need canned albacore tuna, creamy pantry staples, and fresh mix-ins for a tasty meal.

Tuna salad is versatile and convenient. You can make tuna salad sandwiches for lunch, add it to crisp vegetables, or incorporate it into a hot or cold pasta dish. It’s perfect for meal prepping, as you can transform it into various dishes throughout the week.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Ingredients needed to make this tuna salad recipe.
  • Canned Tuna: Use packed in water for a lighter taste or oil for a bolder fish flavor. Use four 5-ounce cans of tuna in water. Selecting light or white tuna impacts the taste and texture. Tuna in pouches can be used and do not need draining.
  • Mayonaise: The egg and oil emulsified sauce adds characteristic creaminess to the salad. Adds richness to prevent a dry taste from the fish.
  • Vegetables: Chopped celery and red onions for crunch and depth of flavor.
  • Relish: Sweet pickle relish, dill pickle relish, or chopped pickles for tanginess.
  • Herbs: Chopped parsley and green onions for a delicate herbaceous note.
  • Mustard and Citrus: Smooth Dijon mustard and lemon juice for pungency and tartness to balance the creamy mayonnaise.
  • Seasonings: Salt and pepper to enhance the savory taste.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

White Tuna vs. Light Tuna

Visual difference between white tuna and light tuna.

White tuna is solely from albacore and has lighter-colored flesh. It may also be labeled as chunk white or solid white albacore. It has a more firm, steak-like texture, drier, with a mild flavor.

Light or chunk light tuna is darker in color, more flavorful, slightly saltier, lower in protein, and softer in texture. It’s made mainly from Skipjack but can also include Yellowfin tuna, big eye, or tongol.

Flavor Variations

There are endless ways to customize tuna salad. Try these tasty options to make the dish even more flavorful.

  • Eggs: Chopped hardboiled eggs for richness and more protein.
  • Vegetables: Chopped bell peppers, carrots, corn, or cucumber for crunch.
  • Fruit: Add diced red or green apples, cranberries, and golden or regular raisins.
  • Alliums: Minced garlic or dried garlic powder, onion powder, pickled onions.
  • Nuts: Crunchy sliced almonds, pecans, or walnuts.
  • Avocado: Mash or dice avocado and mix it into the salad.
  • Beans: Black beans, pinto, garbanzo, or white beans for fiber and protein.
  • Herbs: Parsley, cilantro, dill, tarragon, basil, chives, green onions, or oregano.
  • Spiciness: Make it spicy with cajun seasoning or diced jalapenos.
  • Cheese: Mozzarella, smoked gouda, cheddar, pepper jack, Monterey Jack, or Gruyere.

How to Make Tuna Salad

Tuna, mayo, mustard, onions, relish, and seasonings in a large mixing bowl.

Step 1: Make the Salad

Combine the tuna, mayonnaise, celery, onion, pickle relish, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Close up of a spoon mixing a bowl of tuna salad.

Stir well to combine, mixing until the desired texture is reached. This makes about three cups of tuna salad.

If using white tuna, use a fork to break it down into smaller flakes. I prefer a more cohesive, scoopable salad with smaller fish pieces. However, leave it chunkier if you like bigger bites.

Pro Tip: A stand mixer can make the tuna salad faster, with a smoother consistency. This method works well for preparing a larger batch.

Tuna salad sandwiches stacked on top of each other and served with potato chips.

Step 2: Ready to Serve

Season with more salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Here are a few ways to use tuna salad:

  • Tuna salad sandwiches with dill pickles
  • Tuna melt
  • Serve in avocado halves or stuff in tomatoes
  • Tuna pasta salad or tuna casserole
  • Serve tuna salad with fresh lettuce and tomatoes for a low-carb option

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I add to tuna instead of mayo?

Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt are suitable creamy substitutes. The flavor will be tangier. If desired, stir in olive oil or chopped hardboiled eggs to add more richness to the tuna salad.

What is the healthiest thing to eat with tuna salad?

Make it low-carb and serve it in lettuce wraps instead of bread. I like to use bibb or butter lettuce leaves. Slice up cucumbers, carrots, and sweet peppers to dip. Serve with avocado or tomatoes—whole grain or gluten-free crackers, or plantain chips.

Should you rinse canned tuna?

You don’t need to rinse the canned tuna before adding it to the salad. However, you can press out the excess moisture so it doesn’t taste soggy. Rinsing and draining can remove some sodium if the product has added salt.

What’s the difference between canned tuna packed in oil vs. water?

Tuna packed in water contains fewer calories since no fat is added. However, it will have a drier texture and a more diluted fish flavor, which some may prefer. Tuna packed in oil is slightly higher in calories. The fat retains more omega-3 fatty acids from the fish and vitamin D, moisture, and flavor. Excess oil can be drained before use.

More Salad Recipes

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Best Tuna Salad

Looking for a delicious and healthy tuna salad recipe? Look no further! This recipe is packed with fresh ingredients and is perfect for a quick and easy lunch or dinner.
4.79 from 14 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Course Salad
Cuisine American


  • 20 ounces canned tuna packed in water, drained
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup diced celery, ⅛" dice
  • ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons dill relish, or sweet
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sliced green onions
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper


  • Make the Salad – In a large bowl, use a fork to break up the tuna into smaller pieces. Add the mayonnaise, celery, onion, pickle relish, mustard, green onions, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine, mixing well until the desired consistency is reached.
  • To Serve – Season with more salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Recipe Video

YouTube video


  • Recipe Yield: About 3 cups
  • Serving Size: About ½ cup
  • Storing: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  • Light Tuna: Flavorful, softer, darker in color, and easier to mix.
  • White Tuna: Albacore is firmer, lighter in color, and milder in taste.
  • Pouched Tuna: Does not require draining.
  • Tuna Packed in Oil: Drain well.
  • Using Freshly Cooked Tuna: Use 2 cups.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 6 servings
Calories 386kcal (19%)Carbohydrates 3g (1%)Protein 23g (46%)Fat 31g (48%)Saturated Fat 5g (25%)Polyunsaturated Fat 18gMonounsaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0.1gCholesterol 55mg (18%)Sodium 876mg (37%)Potassium 276mg (8%)Fiber 0.5g (2%)Sugar 1g (1%)Vitamin A 102IU (2%)Vitamin C 2mg (2%)Calcium 24mg (2%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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Recipe Rating

6 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Andy J says

    Very good tuna salad recipe. I added one boiled egg and served it on Romain lettuce boats. Topped with some chopped fresh parsley. Thanks, Jessica.

  2. Yules says

    I made this salad, added eggs, served on salad leaves. Amazingly delicious , fresh and will stay in our menu for sure!