Our “Cooking for Two” series is all about those of us who love good food but need smaller batches. Maybe you’re single or coupled but with no kids (no kids, before kids, after kids). Whatever the reason, you don’t necessarily want a lot of leftovers hanging around. We had you in mind when we developed these recipes.
Raise your hand if you didn’t grow up eating tuna salad sandwiches. Anybody? That’s what I thought.
Wait! You, in the back. Okay, I’ll allow that not everybody grew up eating these. Your mother probably fed you something far more interesting. But, hold on, there’s comfort in that can of tuna!
Tuna Salad: A Simple Pleasure
I have memories as a child sitting atop Mt. Chocorua in New Hampshire with my camp friends after a day’s climb. Lunch was always oranges and tuna or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and for dessert, well, let’s just say a Hershey bar never tasted so good.
And now, in these times, that sandwich brings just as much pleasure (not to mention cost savings). Spare me the bells and whistles; I’ll get to them in a minute.
Right now, a classic tuna salad sandwich is all I’m after. And that means canned tuna, mayo, celery, lemon juice, and if you like, red onion. Period. Slather it on some good bread and I’m that happy camper again. In fact, I’m taking my sandwich out to the back porch to eat in the sunshine.
The Best Tuna
Any can or jar of tuna will work in a sandwich. Just make sure you drain the water or oil before mixing with the ingredients for tuna salad.
I prefer using water-packed tuna in tuna salad because I’m already adding mayonnaise to the recipe. I save oil-packed tuna for dishes where the oil matters a bit more, such as in this Salad Nicoise, because oil-packed tuna is richer than water-packed tuna.
That being said, tuna salad is no time to get picky—just use what you have on hand.
Swaps and Suggestions for Tuna Salad
I’m strictly a mayo kind of gal, but if you prefer Miracle Whip or light mayo, go for it. I’ve never tried it with yogurt, but Greek yogurt might work, especially if you add a little lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
To toast or not, it’s up to you if you're turning this into a sandwich. Sometimes I’m in a toasty mood and crave a little crunch, and sometimes I just want the comfort of soft bread. No bread in the house? My better half always prefers tuna salad on saltines(?), but you could make some of these biscuits or homemade soda bread.
Tuna Salad Add-Ins and Adaptations
The best thing about basic recipes is how easily you can adapt them to your own tastes. Use my Classic Tuna Salad recipe as a foundation but then mix things up with some excellent add-ins:
- Chopped pickles
- Chopped apples
- Chopped fennel
- Any color diced bell peppers
- Chopped pickled jalapenos from a jar
- Grated carrots
You can also try these great herbs and spices for tuna salad:
- Smoked paprika
- Chopped fresh parsley
If it sounds good to you, it probably will be. If you want to get fancy, make Elise’s Best Ever Tuna Salad Sandwich, though I’m going to have to talk to her about that claim.
How to Serve Tuna Salad
For me, the next best thing to a plain ol’ tuna sandwich is a tuna melt. That’s a grilled cheese sandwich with tuna salad. Slap some cheese on the sandwich, butter the bread on the outside, and grill it in a pan until the bread is crisp and golden and the cheese melts.
You could do something similar with a tortilla, too. Just place cheese in the center, top with tuna salad, fold it like a burrito, and grill it to seal it. But there’s more! Make a wrap with pita or flatbread and add some greens and sliced tomatoes or cucumbers.
You could also serve this as a true salad on top of greens with some extra vegetables to round it out.
Tuna salad makes a simple mid-afternoon snack when paired with crackers or spread onto celery sticks. You can also take the virtuous route and top your greens with a scoop of tuna salad for a healthy lunch.
How to Store Tuna Salad
Leftover tuna salad can be stored in the fridge for three to five days. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap to keep other refrigerator odors out and the tuna odors in.
More Easy Tuna Recipes
- Tarragon Tuna Melt
- Tuna Burgers with Dill Olive Mayo
- English Muffin Tuna Melts
- Avocado Tuna Salad
- Pan Bagnat (French Tuna Sandwich)
- Pasta with Tuna and Arugula
Classic Tuna Salad
This recipe serves two, but it’s easy enough to double or even triple to serve larger families.
- 1 (5-ounce) can tuna packed in water
- 1 rib celery, diced
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped red onion
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of black pepper
Drain the tuna:
Open the can and hold it over the sink. Tilt the can and press on the lid to allow the water in the can to drain.
Mix the tuna salad:
In a bowl, break the tuna up with a fork. Add the celery, mayonnaise, onion, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Chill or use immediately.
Spoon tuna salad onto slices of bread to make a sandwich, scoop onto crackers for a snack, or serve it atop a bed of salad greens.