Best Tuna Salad Recipe - How to Make Homemade Tuna Salad

Make Ahead

Tuna Salad

September 26, 2020
8 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham. Props: Meghan Hedgpeth. Food: Anna Billingskog.
Author Notes

A superlative tuna salad for sandwiches, melts, crackers, you name it. Much of this recipe is old-school, as it should be, but a couple small additions make all the difference.

Technically speaking, any canned tuna works here, but a few thoughts: We tested this recipe with light tuna in oil, light tuna in water, white albacore tuna in oil, and white albacore tuna in water. The light tuna, which usually comes from either skipjack or yellowfin, is rosier in color, with a deeper flavor, while the white albacore tuna is meatier, yet also drier. In the end, the light tuna did a better job of absorbing the dressing, but we disliked its watery, shredded texture. Our favorite type is solid white albacore in oil, which has a meaty texture, but isn’t noticeably dry.

To help the tuna taste even better, a little dash of fish sauce goes a long way. With just ½ teaspoon called for, this ingredient is hard to put your finger on—but it works to round out the dressing, making the tuna more flavorful.

While some tuna salad recipes lean on olive oil or even Greek yogurt, it’s hard to beat creamy, savory mayonnaise. To keep things from getting too heavy, fresh lemon juice and a little Dijon mustard bring balance and brightness. (If you want, you can withhold one tablespoon of mayo and replace it with a tablespoon of your favorite olive oil.)

When it comes to vegetables, you could add anything—bell peppers, fennel, jalapeño, cucumbers—but diced celery and sweet onion is a simple, tried-and-true combo. After chopping the celery ribs, go ahead and chop the leaves too. These provide a nice, vegetal counter to all the other savory flavors.

Beyond that, you can off-road this template and add raw apples, hard-boiled eggs, briny capers, vinegary hot sauce, sweet relish, whatever you like and have around. But our recipe skips such flourishes. Sometimes less is more. —Josh Cohen

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Makes 1 pint
Ingredients
  • 2 (5-ounce) cans solid white albacore tuna in oil, drained
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/4 cup gently packed celery leaves, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons finely diced Vidalia onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 handful roughly chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, and/or tarragon (optional)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Add all of the ingredients to a large mixing bowl and stir until the mayonnaise is fully incorporated. Taste, and adjust with more salt, lemon juice, or mustard if needed. Eat immediately or store it in the fridge for up to 3 days. Just before serving, sprinkle the herbs on top if you're using them.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • FrugalCat
    FrugalCat
  • pamelalee
    pamelalee
  • Nakia
    Nakia
  • Clare Colley
    Clare Colley
  • j.
    j.
Josh Cohen

Recipe by: Josh Cohen

Born and raised in Brooklyn, I’m perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer’s market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta. I learned how to make fresh pasta in Italy, where I spent the first 6 months of my career as a chef. I've been cooking professionally in New York City since 2010.

    13 Reviews

    Marje E. May 17, 2020
    Sounds delish. I also almost always add fresh chopped dill to tuna and salmon or any fish dishes. Try it, hope you'll also love it. :)
    \
     
    Kathleen May 13, 2020
    Where dose one get FISH SAUCE?
     
    FrugalCat May 13, 2020
    Asian grocery store.
     
    ChocLatina May 15, 2020
    Since popularized by another food blogger a few years ago, it's been carried by supermarkets, even Whole Foods sells Red Boat brand.
     
    Nakia May 15, 2020
    Depending on where you live, it is pretty common (Whole Foods, Trader Joes). Many Asian food aisles/sections in mainstream grocery stores carry it and you won't have to go to a specialty shop.
     
    Clare C. May 16, 2020
    I use it a lot. I’m a big umami fan. It’s great on scrambled eggs if you run out of miso paste, and I also have a splash with my V-8 juice in the morning. I also will substitute all or part of the soy sauce in recipes because the fish sauce has more flavor (soy sauce just tastes like liquid salt to me). Supermarkets do carry it now, but in small bottles that are very expensive. You can typically get a bigger bottle at a lower price at your local Asian supermarket (I live in the food desert of the Capital District of Upstate New York and we have a really good Asian supermarket about fifteen miles away, and if we have one here, you probably have one nearby, too — just google it.) Also, amazon probably carries it. It will probably be more expensive than the Asian supermarket, but cheaper than the supermarket, especially if you have amazon prime and free shipping.
     
    j. July 5, 2020
    You also can get fish sauce in more common grocery stores. We live in a quite small city/large town with two supermarkets (Hannaford & Price Chopper); both stores carry a couple makes of fish sauce.
     
    J July 9, 2020
    as does Target
     
    Tammy R. August 12, 2020
    Any large box store should now carry it (like Krogers)
     
    FrugalCat May 10, 2020
    Celery leaves! Love it- I always use them, too.
     
    pamelalee May 7, 2020
    You might want to check your ingredient list. Three of the ingredients you included
    twice.
     
    Author Comment
    Josh C. May 7, 2020
    Thanks for this comment, I will fix it
     
    Robin W. May 11, 2020
    Not really, celery, celery leaves and then some for garnishing. Thats how I read it.