The Great Tuna Salad Debate

When I was growing up, tuna salad sandwiches were some of my favorites. My mom mixed up a delicious concoction to serve on wheat, rye or pita breads, usually topped with alfalfa sprouts.

Yes, I was mocked ridiculously in the lunch room, but I didn’t care. I loved it.

However, I’ve found that some do wrong by tuna salad. So, so wrong.

My husband was scarred for life by his aunt blending tuna salad into a paste. It took awhile for me to convince him that it was good and that mayonnaise was not the enemy.

I realize that in some parts of the country it is common to add sweet pickles or hard cooked eggs, but you won’t find those in my tuna salad. No, no. I make it like my mama used to make — with celery seed and dill weed — and altogether savory. No sweet.

Solid white tuna is essential. While chunk light tuna is generally the least expensive of the canned varieties, it doesn’t have the right texture. And, honestly, I’ve found that even solid white has become less solid over the years. It used to be an entire piece of tuna in a can, but not any longer.

In order to stretch our dollar a little bit, I cheat and use two cans solid white and one can chunk. It’s a happy medium.

How do YOU make tuna salad?

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Comments

  1. LOL! I love the herbs you use. I make mine different every time, depending on how I feel. I love dill, so that usually finds its way in there. Sometimes, I like to make a vinaigrette like version with lemon juice and olive oil. Delicious! I also like to make it with plain yogurt instead of mayo.

    • @Anne, I love this idea! Plain yogurt is genius… I have serious issues with mayo. ;)

    • Nancy Webb says:

      I am not sure if this is perfect but it is what my friends and family like:
      Mayo
      Mustard (enough to give it a little tang)
      Red Onions
      Boiled Eggs
      ONLY Albacore Tuna

      Make about an hour before eating because you want to refrigerate and make sure it is cold.

      Add a slice of American Cheese if you are making regular size sandwiches, but omit if you are making finger sandwiches because the cheese can become soggy if made too far in advance. It is also too hard to keep the sandwich together with the cheese on it.

  2. I often use mashed avacado and lemon or lime instead of mayo.

  3. i keep it pretty simple. i put either relish or celery in it and salt and pepper.

  4. 1 can solid white or chunk light tuna in water, drained
    1 kosher dill pickle, diced small
    just enough mayo to blend together

    Drain tuna and add to a bowl or container with a lid. Add diced pickle and mayo and stir together just until combined.

    My MIL likes to add diced celery, boiled eggs, and occasionally diced onion to her tuna, and I can’t help but think this is why my husband refuses to eat tuna salad. The best tuna salad is a quick, simple tuna salad.

  5. Jessica Grimes says:

    we use any tuna style with mayo, mustard, sweet relish and hard boiled eggs! Love making it into tuna melts too!

    My G-Ma always added diced apple as well. I would but Im usually a lazy slug :D

  6. My husband and I had completely conflicting tuna salad recipes/tastes when we first got married. His Dad was in charge of the tuna and he used Solid Whi

    • @Anna, Sorry my toddler pressed enter mid-scentence- anyhoo- my husband’s side did solid white albacore, mayo, mustard, a hard boiled egg with a dash of paprika mashed into a paste. My side did chunk light, miracle whip and sweet relish sometimes fine diced celery. To be honest I don’t care for either and have been looking for a recipe that uses fresh herbs- I’m excited to give this one a try!

  7. Thor and I would love your recipe (well, minus the mayo for me), but I have a certain little 5yo who would pick out every tiny diced bit of celery. She must get that from her father. ;)

    • @JessieLeigh, One of the FB didn’t like celery for awhile, so I always made it without and then added celery after I had portioned his part. There are ways to have your picky eater and eat the way you want.

      But, C is sooooo not a picky eater that I think you can allow her this one little fault. :)

  8. I like my tuna salad plain – just tuna and mayo.

    My mother-in-law has a very interesting way to make tuna salad. She mixes tuna, mayo, cooked green beans, water chestnuts (for the crunch), a little curry powder – and here’s the best ingredient – French Fried onions (from the can). The french fried onions don’t stay crispy, but the flavor they add is great. The green beans are unusual, but they add a freshness to the salad.

  9. I like mine with hard-boiled egg and dill pickles (can’t stand sweet pickles anywhere!).

    I LOVE the thought of sprouts on a tuna sandwich… Man, now I am craving it and we have no tuna. Thanks a lot, Jessica. ;)

  10. Its always fun to read the “right” way to make these things. Growing up, the only way to make tuna salad was: chunk light, celery, sweet relish, mustard, miracle whip, on TOAST, not soft bread. These days, i use mayo instead of salad dressing, and a squirt of lemon juice instead of mustard. Will have to try the dill, it sounds delicious.

    How about egg salad? Eggs, mayo, salt and pepper only. None of those silly extras : )

    • @Jenny,

      Agreed on the egg salad! And no grinding up the egg into some kind of yok=ey mess. ew. Give me proper chopped eggs, and avoid overkill on the mayo- just enough to help give the salt and pepper some stick, and the eggs to spread beautifully on my bread.

  11. Oh my goodness my husband will NOT eat tuna. How did you get yours to finally capitulate? I’ve tried buying the expensive imported Italian stuff in olive oil and everything — no luck. Won’t touch it. No way no how.

    Anyway I change up my tuna salad from time to time but usually it’s very simple: a touch of mayo, a touch of yellow mustard (about the only time I use plain yellow mustard), salt, pepper. That’s what I serve my daughter because she doesn’t like anything crunchy in hers. To mine I add celery or sweet bell peppers, whatever I have on hand, I horrified my mom with this because she will ONLY eat hers with celery and I think green onion. I believe in improvising and using what you have. :) She also insists on serving hers with Lay’s potato chips but we don’t always have potato chips in the house. I do like something crunchy with my sandwiches though. If I have boiled eggs (like, er, leftover Easter eggs) I chop one or two and add them in.

    Sometimes I take the tuna salad and make a tuna melt with whole grain bread and Swiss or havarti cheese. Mmm….

  12. Tuna, diced onion, and some mayo is my favorite way of making tuna salad. Preferably on toasted wheat bread.

  13. This is hysterical! Just yesterday, as I was spooning tuna salad onto my whole wheat toast, I was thinking what a great blog post this would make. You beat me to it! LOL

    I am a traditional Southern gal and like my tuna salad with chopped egg, DILLLLL pickles, a tad of mustard, mayo, celery salt and onion powder. Save the sweet pickles for the chicken salad. ;)

  14. I love my tuna salad; it combines savory, crunchy, sweet, and creamy all in one bite. Makes my taste buds sing. Serve on green salad; or stuff a tomato placed on a green salad; or on any bread.

    Any white tuna I’m not picky, chunk, solid, etc. Drained extra extra EXTRA well; get ALL the water out.
    Boiled egg diced – great for using up dyed Easter eggs
    Celery finely diced
    Onion finely diced
    Extra big helping pickle relish, I only use sweet. Extra-well drained in colander, with paper towels and potato masher, so it doesn’t make the tuna salad sloppy or watery.
    Mayo – I use very very little; not a fan of mayo or any other white stuff.
    Plain yellow squeeze mustard – a squirt
    Garlic powder
    Black pepper
    Granny Smith organic apple diced with skin on – add this last of all so it doesn’t have time to turn brown.

    Quantities are all to taste, I don’t measure, I usually use four 5-oz cans, 1-2 eggs, 1 apple, and as much of everything else to taste.

    DO NOT ADD SALT tuna is canned with a TON of salt, is already waaaaaaaaaaaay too salty.

    Mix with electric hand mixer to blend flavors and spices well throughout but it should still be chunky – the aunt’s mush sounds awful never heard of or seen that and don’t want to; you can still use an electric mixer just don’t overdo and have a clue when to stop, it works like a charm every time for me.

    No celery seed or dill for me. I love my recipe as is.

  15. I tried it this way without mayo and now I just can’t go back. It’s so good!

    Chunk light tuna in water
    Olive Oil
    Artichoke Hearts, chopped
    Kalamata or other strongly flavored olives, chopped (I once made this with blue cheese stuffed green olives – it was awesome)
    Hard-boiled eggs if the mood strikes me
    Sometimes sun dried tomato

    No pickles of any kind!

  16. I use yogurt instead of mayo now, just because I have it in the house and don’t have mayo in the fridge.

    But the spices I use are the same… dill, celery salt, salt, pepper, and onion powder.

    The biggest difference that I have is that this is just tuna. Tuna salad is a completely different animal altogether. Tuna salad has pasta, celery, chopped dill pickles, eggs and mayo.

    Love your blog!

  17. My tuna salad must have dill pickles and black olives. That is how my mom always made it. But I like the idea of adding fresh herbs! I will try that next time.

  18. Mine is basically the same. I do put in a little mustard with the mayo and add dill pickle relish (or chopped dill pickles, whichever I have). Tangy, not sweet! The dill is a must! My kids are pretty particular when it comes to fish, but they will definitely rush to the table to eat this tuna salad.

  19. Rachel K says:

    Growing up, it was tuna with mayo, sweet relish and hard boiled eggs. Now…I usually want to make it quick, so I skip the eggs. My husband is not a big fan of tuna, so I make just for me :)

  20. My current favorite way to eat tuna is to use Geisha solid white tuna (the only brand I really like) – add a small pinch of salt, course ground pepper, a small amount of fresh dill chopped, and maybe a teaspoon of Miracle Whip. I barely use enough MW to wet the tuna. I serve that on white toast with cucumber slices! Yum. When I was a kid it was always toast, tuna with fresh cucumber and lettuce from the garden.

  21. AllieZirkle says:

    I’m all about celery salt & curry powder in mine. Yum.

  22. I want to add a caution about albacore tuna: the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as children, limit the consumption of albacore because it contains much more mercury than the chunk light or “pink” tuna . We LOVE the albacore, but I no longer buy it because of the academy’s warning.

    • @Kathy, good point. We limit it and eat it very rarely. But, it good to keep in the loop. Thanks!

    • @Kathy, I was going to mention this, but didn’t want to be a spoil sport. Since it’s already mentioned though…I’ve switched entirely to chunk light just so I don’t have to be concerned about the mercury. It’s not as good, but it’s OK. I also used canned salmon. Canned chicken is also quite nice, or just shreded chicken to make chicken salad, which is what I prefer over tuna (I do like tuna though). I never thought of adding all those herbs. I’ll try it sometime.

      • “shredded,” that is…

        • @Stacy, Stacy: I was a newspaper medical writer for many years; I so don’t worry about being a spoilsport :)
          I like albacore tuna better also, but it’s not worth the health risks , especially when I can make a pretty good chunk light tuna salad and we are salmon crazy anyway!

      • Jessica says:

        @Stacy, I don’t think I ever heard that chunk light had less mercury. That’s a new one for me.

        • @Jessica, There are lots of articles on it, but here’s one: http://www.ewg.org/news/limits-urged-eating-tuna . The warnings are mainly for pregnant and nursing women, children, and women who may become pregnant. That said, mercury isn’t good for anyone, so I figure less is better. Certain seafoods are very high. Albacore is high because they’re bigger fish and have had more time to absorb mercury. Chunk light is made from smaller fish who haven’t.

          • Jessica says:

            Oh, I knew there was a limit on tuna; I just didn’t realize they were differenciating between albacore and other tunas. I think they started issuing the warnings four kids ago. ;)

    • @Kathy, It makes me so sad, The chunk tuna looks and tastes (to me) like it had a run in with a propeller. I will eat albacore but wont feed it to my daughter. chicken salad for her little tummy!

  23. SheilaB says:

    I agree, no sweet. But when I was little my mom put in very finly chopped celery instead of seed. The dill sounds delish! My only probelm now is that my husband wants it with sweet relish. And so does my son. And when we do have it we steer totally clear of albacore because it has a much higher mercury content (larger tuna fish).

  24. Esther Robb says:

    I often add curry powder and peas to my tuna salad…it just seems so lacking in color and interest without those little green gems in there.

  25. I will certainly try this. Back in Washington, with 6 people in the family, I could buy the cheap tuna on sale for 4 for $1, so I would buy that. I’m lucky if I can find the cheap stuff on sale for 75 cents a can in southern CA. I rarely buy it, but since buying a pressure canner, I’ve been thinking of canning my own tuna. I’m looking for better quality if I have to pay so much anyway. Crazy that I live in a town that was the major source of harvesting and canning tuna. It’s all gone now. :(

  26. Right now we are making simple tuna fish with mayo and dill. It’s great with cheese for tuna melts or to add to a salad.

    I do like to add relish or just diced pickles with mayo to tuna.

    Carrots, celery, sprouts are fun and tasty to add. Tuna salad is something you can change up so it is never dull

  27. I can help! :D Get your solid white albacore at costco! It is very solid :D and comes in a larger can. Because I have a family of three I get the cans that are slightly larger than the grocery, but they also have larger cans that I’m betting would feed your family just fine. :) and I’m a slightly sweet tuna sal girl. My husband is all savory however. So I compromise I add half sweet relish and half dill relish and we get on fine.

    • @Jesse, Oh and since I’m allergic to egg whites I use mushrooms cut in the same way my mom started doing it that way for me when I was little and sad because I was different lol.

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