Cooking Basics

How to make tuna salad

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Tuna salad sandwich
Who says tuna salad should be boring?
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Good tuna salad is more than just mayonnaise when you know how to make it right

If you're just learning your way around the kitchen, even knowing how to make tuna salad can seem like a challenge. Fortunately, I have a couple of simple recipes, and some suggestions for how to make plain tuna salad into something special.

Plain Jane Tuna Salad

This is your basic tuna salad recipe -- simple, easy and tasty.


1 (7 ounce) (normal sized) can solid of white tuna packed in water*
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip™
Salt and pepper to taste


  • Open the can and use the lid pressed on top to drain the tuna.
  • Mix in the mayonnaise
  • Mix well with a fork, mashing the tuna chucks
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Serve as is, on bread or on a green salad

*If you use "Chunk Light" or "Chunk White" instead of solid pack, the tuna will be softer, with more water.  You will probably want to use less mayonnaise with those kinds of tuna.

The Next Step in Tuna Salad

Okay, once you've mastered the basics of how to make tuna salad, you can get more creative.

Try adding (to the recipe above) one or more of these flavorful extras:

  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped dill pickle
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped olives (black or green)
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • A dash of lemon juice
  • A dash of hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped dill weed (or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed)
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • Chopped hard boiled egg

Instead of the Mayonnaise...

Okay, so tuna salad is traditionally made with mayonnaise or something very similar.  But this is 2011.  We can break out of the tuna salad rut!  (And besides, sometimes you're out of mayonnaise and you need to get creative.)

So here are a few ideas for new and tasty add-ins to use use in your tuna salad instead of the white stuff:

  • Ranch dressing (okay, it's still white, but it's not the "standard: white stuff
  • Yogurt, plain, Greek or lemon are good (and ditto on the white bit)
  • Salsa (lower fat, great taste and it still holds your tuna together)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (the norm in Sicily for tuna salad)
  • Mashed white beans (navy beans work well)
  • Guacamole
  • Homemade hummus (or store bought, if you wish)
  • Mashed avocado
  • Tapenade (olive or red pepper work well)
  • Vinaigrette
The trick is to try different combinations until you come up with the ones that taste best to you.  And at about a dollar a can, it's a cheap food to use as a test while you're learning to cook.

In no time at all, you'll know how to make tuna salad like a pro.

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