White Bean and Tuna Salad

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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.

White Bean Tuna Salad

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

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4


  • 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 (loosely packed) of chopped parsley or arugula, or 2 Tbsp thinly sliced mint
  • 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 more olive oil to taste


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 chili 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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Showing 4 of 27 Comments

  • Alison

    Very good, used cilantro instead of parsley and mint.

  • Jim

    Elise, I just discovered this site a couple years ago, wish I would have found it much earlier. I made this one as written with a good Genova brand Albacore packed in olive oil. I’ve made a similar tuna salad (sans beans) a while ago, and found it was much better the next day when the flavors had time to get to know each other. That said, it was *really* hard to quit sampling and put it up for tomorrow hehe.

  • Blaire

    Your recipes always seem to work, Elise. This is the third one I’ve tried in the last couple of days, and it was delicious. I substituted water-packed tuna, which is what I had, and added some olive oil. The addition of mint was fantastic.

  • Weiwen Ng

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

  • 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.

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