White Bean and Tuna Salad

Some items that you will almost always find well stocked in our pantry are canned beans (white beans, garbanzo, kidney) and canned tuna packed in olive oil. We also keep well supplied with onions, including at least one red onion. So when we are looking for a super-easy-I’m-hungry-now-and-I-don’t-want-to-spend-time-cooking meal we’re prepared. This combination, canned tuna with white beans and onions is classic, and so easy. It helps to have a high quality canned tuna, packed in olive oil. If you have water-packed tuna it will still work, but you’ll need to add a lot of olive oil to help it come together. An herb or bitter of some sort is a bright addition too. Mint, parsley, arugula are all growing around our garden at some point, and depending on the season we gather what we can find. You could also use cilantro, tarragon, or rosemary. A little Tabasco or chili pepper will give the salad a bit of zing. Try substituting the white beans with garbanzo beans. This salad is designed for improvisation.

White Bean and Tuna Salad Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of chopped red onions or shallots
  • The zest and juice of 1 lemon or 2 limes (can sub a tablespoon or two of cider vinegar)
  • 2 five to six ounce cans of tuna packed in olive oil
  • 2 15-ounce cans of cannellini or Great Northern white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup of chopped mint, parsley, or arugula
  • A few splashes of Tabasco sauce, or 1 minced Serrano chile or 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt and olive oil to taste

Method

1 Sprinkle some of the lemon juice over the chopped onions while you prepare the other ingredients. This will take some of the oniony edge off the onions.

2 Drain the oil from the tuna and put the tuna into a large bowl. Add the beans to the tuna and gently stir to combine. Add the onions, herbs, black pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice and mix to combine. Add Tabasco or chile to taste. If the salad needs more acid, add a little more lemon juice. If the salad seems a little dry, add a little bit of olive oil. Add salt to taste.

3 Chill before serving. This salad will last several days in the fridge, tightly covered.

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30 Comments

  1. Liza (Jersey Cook)

    I love those impromptu meals that come together from stuff you have laying around the kitchen.

    I have never been able to get into canned tuna. It smells too fishy to me. But I would think about subbing bacon for it in this recipe. I always have some in the freezer because everything is better with a little bacon!

  2. Kate

    My favorite lunch ever! I use tuna packed with water, so I generally mash the beans a bit, which means I have to use a bit less olive oil to hold the mixture together. And I strongly recommend adding fresh dill and crumbled feta.

    Love the site, and really enjoyed the behind the scenes post. Thanks for all of the lovely recipes!

  3. Gail

    I make a salad very similar to this and it is a great summer dinner. I add some fresh basil or oregano and serve it over organic romaine lettuce and sliced tomatoes. Pass extra dressing and don’t forget forget some crusty Italian bread. Sooooo healthy and delicious.

  4. Lulu

    One of my favorite quickie meals! This was actually one of the first things I learned how to whip together when I moved away from home. If I didn’t happen to have any garbanzos or cannellinis, I would make a quick pot of white rice and make tuna n rice instead.

    My favorite additions to this are olives or capers. A little thawed frozen (or canned, if you must) corn is also a nice addition.

  5. Cathie

    Thank you so much for using olive oil packed tuna instead of that awful water packed stuff! It is always dry and tasteless to me. I love this salad!

  6. Tina

    Raw onions don’t agree with me, so I carmelize them. Adds a wonderful sweetness. I also like green peas and pasta in tuna/bean salad.

  7. Annie

    I only had one can of cannellini beans on hand, but added the 2 cans drained water packed tuna. Only used 1/2 cup red onion. Added a few tbsps olive oil. Used parsley, dill, a few shakes of Old Bay seasoning, the lemon, plus hot sauce. It’s really tasty and the recipe’s flexible. Thanks very much for this one.

    Love the addition of Old Bay! ~Elise

  8. Valentina

    You just described my once-a-week lunch!
    The feta cheese someone commented on a previous post is a great addition. I sometimes put stuffed olives (which is a must in every salad here in spain) but as you said, its a salad that gives a lot of room for improvisation.

    I loved your post on behind the scenes. Lots of lucks with your new house, we’ll be all here reading you.

  9. Sharon

    I make an asian version of this salad (since I am half asian) which is exactly the same cept I make it with garbanzo since thats what I have in my pantry all the time, and cilantro. I also add a small diced tomato sometimes and use fish sauce for the salt. I make it for work all the time but I leave out the tuna and at work add a small can of tuna in oil which I always have a stash of in my desk.

  10. Jonproshot

    I made this salad last nite using a Vadalia onion, 3 cans of olive oil packed yellow fin (only drained 2 of them), and lots of Arugula. I also added diced red bell pepper and halved grape tomatoes, and a few dashes of garlic flavored Tabasco. It was spectacular! Thanks for your great recipes.

  11. Ken

    This is fantastic with fresh shelled beans or peas. Boil them for 8-10 minutes, then drain. While they’re still warm, assemble the salad and serve at room temperature.

    Very Mediterranean!

  12. Kristie

    I made this and left out the onions. What a great lunch.

  13. Tempy

    This recipe sounds great! I am an avid fan of both tuna and beans. I do not have white beans or Garbanzo at the moment, would pinto or red kidney work just as well?

    No on the pinto, maybe on the kidney, but I kind of think not. If you try it, please let us know how it works out for you. ~Elise

  14. Shannon

    I made this last night after reading the post. It was so good! I served it over butter lettuce for a nice salad :)
    I also made the summer squash fritters (recipe on this site) to go along side…also very yummy!

  15. Candy

    I made this for dinner last night and it was probably the quickest meal I have ever made and so good!
    We put it over plain salad and crumbled tortilla chips over the top. The crunch and salt from the chips was a perfect add for us!

    Thanks for the super good idea!

  16. Marie

    This sounds perfect for these hot evenings. I recommend trying it with boneless, skinless sardines (packed in olive oil). They have a light flavor, like canned tuna, but they are sustainably fished and are likely to have less mercury. Smoked sardines might make an interesting variation, too!

  17. anita

    I used this less as a recipe, more as an idea starter. It was a great idea to get something going with some on-hand ingedients. I used a shallot, some tarragon, basil, some leftover edamame (along with the beans), and some tomatoes. It would be good with a lot of different things: red pepper, red wine vinegar, small bits of celery, dill…

  18. Andi

    This is one of my favorite light go-to meals – I make a similar dish with a dressing of the olive oil from the tuna and red wine vinegar, plus capers, cherry tomatoes (halved) and basil, served over arugula. So good. Someone mentioned subbing red kidneys – aren’t they related to cannellini?

  19. Gwen

    Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I made it last night and it was absolutely amazing!

  20. Jessie

    Yum! I used red kidneys, garbanzos, shallots, lemon juice, a little cider vinegar and a dash of hot sauce. Chopped up some mixed baby greens and ate it all with a whole wheat tortilla. Adding the lemon zest really made the flavors pop!

  21. bonita love

    You can also try tuna in sunflower oil; it gives the salad a good taste. Also try black beans, and alfalfa sprouts, and to kick it up add garlic and cheese croutons but not a lot, crumble it over the salad just before serving.

  22. Kay

    I have tried only a handful of your recipes – I am a widow w/no one to cook for. I halved this recipe and it was great. Thanks.

    Just a heads-up – when I got my salad out the next day, it did not look really appealing. Just looked like a “mush” of some kind. A little fluffing with a small fork took care of that. Fluffed up the parsley so that it looked appealing. I will very likely make this in larger proportions for church dinner next month!

    Thanks again!

  23. Chrissy

    Amazing – great recipe! Added a bit of tarragon. Halved the recipe and had enough for 3 days worth of work lunches.

    Thanks so much for sharing this one :)

  24. Penny

    Wonderful salad! The 8-year old approved enthusiastically – will try the feta addition next time like one commenter recommended. Thanks!

  25. Jennifer Jo

    Just made this and couldn’t stop shoveling huge spatula-fulls into my mouth. Fabulous!

  26. Alyssa

    What a terrific salad! I didn’t have parsley, arugula or mint so I used cilantro instead and the salad tastes great. Thanks Elise!

  27. Mom in a Box

    I do not like canned tuna or tabasco, but had both in the pantry and decided to go for it. I could not stop eating this salad! This will become a regular lunch-item in my house!

  28. Nichole

    We munched on this for lunches over the weekend. It was fabulous!! Of course I had to make a couple of changes but the inspiration was all yours. =) Thanks, Elise ~ I always have THE best luck with your recipes.

  29. Shannon

    Thanks for this recipe. I can tell this one will become a staple. I had some leftover balsamic vinaigrette in the frig that I’d made with mint, basil, and lime juice, so I poured that over the salad and used white onion and green bell pepper. Just fantastic and fast.

  30. Weiwen Ng

    I tried this sans mint/parsley but with artichoke hearts and garlic. Very good.

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