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my favorite tuna salad

September 13, 2011

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Well people, sandwich season is upon us and I’m proposing that we branch out and see if we can avoid making peanut butter and jelly everyday.  In fact, I know many of you are in nut-free schools and can’t rely on the old standby at all.  On the other hand, luncheon meats freak me out a bit — and not for any scientific reason.  I just can’t get past the idea that this turkey was cooked who knows when and squished and reformed into this new product with lots of “natural flavors.”  I’d rather poach or grill organic chicken breasts and give the kids chicken sandwiches, which is exactly what I do and I save a little money while I’m at it.

As for me, I’m not much of a sandwich eater, mostly because I prefer to eat quinoa over bread.  But if I had to pick a sandwich for my last supper, it would be tuna salad with lettuce, tomato and avocado on whole grain bread.  If there happen to be some grilled onions lying around, I would add those in, too.  But this wouldn’t be just any tuna salad, it would be this one right here, which my kids also love — hooray!

I found the canned tuna of my dreams at Vital Choice — cooked once, BPA-free cans, minimal mercury and absolutely the best tasting tuna ever.   (It’s also one of the most expensive tunas out there.  Drat!)  Tuna is high in Omega-3 fatty acids (very anti-inflammatory and you’re probably not getting enough of them) and high in protein (so important when the kids are at school).  I mix it with some of the expected like a little mayo (I like soy-free Vegenaise), celery, diced shallot (I hate cutting 2 tablespoons of onion and then wrapping the cut onion in the fridge), a little lemon juice to brighten everything up and a touch of Dijon mustard to give it some zing.  But don’t get mad when I tell you I have a random secret ingredient.  My friend Daisy introduced me to Herbamare, an organic herb and salt seasoning, several years ago and my tuna salad peaked.  It just adds the perfect flavor to complement the tuna.  I buy it at Whole Foods, but you can also find it on amazon.com.  Otherwise, just use some sea salt to taste.

You can make your tuna salad the night before to make your morning easier.  Mr. Picky doesn’t like sandwiches (hard to believe, right?), so he takes his tuna in a (BPA-free) container with a spoon.  My teenage girls would please like a breath freshener in their lunch bags on tuna day, and that does NOT mean a sprig of parsley.  Got it.  Look out for more lunch ideas in a future post!

my favorite tuna salad

serves about 3

1 6-ounce can water-packed tuna, drained

¼ of a lemon

1 stalk celery, diced, about ½ cup

1 small shallot, diced, about 2 Tablespoons

2-3 Tablespoons mayonnaise (I like soy-free Vegenaise) or half Greek yogurt and half mayo

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)

3/8 teaspoon Herbamare or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Right in the can, flake the tuna with a fork over a medium bowl, at the same time allowing the tuna to fall into the bowl.  Squeeze the lemon over the tuna.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix well.  Taste for seasoning.


Notes:  other additions can include diced apple, diced sweet bell pepper, sliced manzanilla  olives (the ones stuffed with pimentos), chopped nuts, chopped water chestnuts, fresh dill


25 Responses to “my favorite tuna salad”

  1. Dalia Viera says:

    This amazing… I could just sit and eat the whole bowl. And so easy to make, it took me just a few minutes. Thank you Pamela for always sharing your great recipes!!

  2. Kelly says:

    LOVE this recipe. My 3 yr old is super picky and has been requesting tuna sandwiches non-stop lately. Is there such thing as too much tuna? (I usually buy the non BPA Crown Prince at Whole Foods (not albacore) low sodium in spring water.)

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks, Kelly! Well, some would argue that we should limit our fish consumption to 2 servings per week. I think if you are getting high quality fish with minimal mercury and it’s from reasonably clean water, perhaps 3 servings/week.

  3. Pia says:

    May I ask how do you poach a chicken? Thank u

    • Pamela says:

      You can use the meat from making chicken stock if you put a whole bird in there. Otherwise, take a few bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and place in a large pot. Cover with cold water by at least 3 inches. Add a few teaspoons kosher salt, a few black peppercorns, half of an onion and a few cloves of crushed garlic. Bring the water to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. I allow the chicken to cool for about 30 minutes in the cooking liquid and then I remove it. That’s it!

  4. know how says:

    I have to say that for the past couple of hours i have been hooked by the amazing posts on this site. Keep up the wonderful work.

  5. Daniela says:

    Just wondering, of the Vital Choice tunas, which do you use for this recipe, the one packed in olive oil with salt or the one without salt and water packed? Just wanted to make sure I got the right one as the recipe sounds delicious…can’t wait to try!

  6. Daniela says:

    Just wondering, of the Vital Choice tunas, which one do you use for this recipe, the ones packed with oil and salt or the no-salt water-packed? Just wanted to make sure I got the right one as the recipe sounds positively delicious, can’t wait to try!

  7. Palmina says:

    Tried this today for my daughter’s and my lunch — absolutely delish!

  8. stephanie says:

    Hi Pamela,

    Greetings from Portland. We love tuna here too, may I suggest a September trip to the OR coast to catch/can tuna?


    This article inspired me to can my own last year, and it was easier than I thought. And, it’s as organic as you can get! Sea salt, tuna – that’s it.

    Thanks for your great recipes.

  9. cheryl says:

    I’m not a huge tunafish-lover, but this was great!

  10. Kymberly says:

    looks yummy. going to make it for my lunch tomorrow. :)

  11. Lygia says:

    Guessing this would make a good chicken salad too for the non-tuna eaters?

  12. holiana sapinsley says:

    thanks for another great recipe. I,too, love vital choice & herbamare. I cannot find an organic mustard I like. I couldn’t tell from the photo…. what brand do you use?
    many thanks.

    • Pamela says:

      The name of the brand is on the side of the jar. It says “Delouis” and the front of the jar just says the generic “Organic Dijon Mustard.” I like the flavor and I love that it’s in glass! Found it at Whole Foods.

  13. Pamela says:

    It’s very clean-tasting. But if there’s something she loves in other tuna salads, throw it in here!

  14. Peir Serota says:

    Thanks for the tuna recipe… my Roen LOVES tuna…. will see how this one goes over with her. Looks delish. :)peir

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