A classic tuna salad with celery, purple onion, dill pickle, hard-boiled eggs, and just the right amount of mayonnaise.
Growing up in Central Texas, summertime meant heading outdoors to a favorite swimming hole for the day. Mom always packed drinks, snacks and lunch. Most of our friends got bologna, turkey, or even PB&J, but our mom always made us Tuna Salad Sandwiches.
The best tuna salad recipe
After leaving for college, I realized that not all tuna salads were created equal. Most sandwich shops I have encountered serve a little tuna with a whole lotta mayo. Years later my mom's classic tuna salad continues to be a favorite lunch recipe that I now make for my own children.
This healthy tuna salad is loaded with crisp celery, red onion, dill pickles, hard-boiled eggs and a light amount of a mayonnaise based dressing.
According to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we should all aim to eat seafood twice per week. This includes children and pregnant women (1). Tuna is an affordable way to meet the recommended intake of seafood, which has important nutrients including protein, healthy fats, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
My go-to tuna salad is made with canned tuna and a few other common ingredients found in your fridge or pantry.
- Celery - Three stalks of celery chopped.
- Purple Onion - I prefer a purple onion, but white or yellow may be substituted.
- Dill Pickles
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- Tuna - Choose a light tuna, packed in water.
- Mayonnaise - I prefer Duke's mayo. This recipe has just a little bit of mayonnaise.
- Salt & Pepper
- Lemon Juice
- Tabasco Sauce or a dash of cayenne pepper or smoked paprika
- Celery, onion and pickles can be chopped in advance.
- Allow the hard-boiled eggs to cool before adding to the tuna.
- If the can of tuna has juice or liquid, be sure and drain it before adding to the veggie mixture.
- For the hot sauce, I use Tabasco. Tabasco Sauce can be substituted with a dash of paprika or cayenne pepper.
Make a delicious tuna sandwich by placing a generous scoop of the tuna spread on two pieces of whole grain bread, top with lettuce and sliced tomato, if desired. Make an entree lunch salad by placing a scoop of tuna egg salad on a bed of lettuce or spring mix. Serving with a variety of crackers is also a favorite way to enjoy.
Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Best if eaten within 3 days.
Mom's Classic Tuna Salad
- 3 stalks Celery finely chopped
- ½ cup Purple Onion finely chopped
- ½ cup Dill Pickles diced
- 2-3 whole Hard Boiled Eggs diced
- 2 - 5 oz. cans Tuna packed in water, drained
- ⅓ cup Mayonnaise
- ½ teaspoon Pepper
- ½ teaspoon Lemon Juice
- 3 dashes Hot Sauce
- Salt to taste
- Finely chop celery, purple onion, dill pickles, and hard boiled eggs. Combine in medium-sized mixing bowl.
- Drain and flake tuna. Add to chopped vegetable mixture.
- Add remaining ingredients and mix well. For best flavor, chill tuna salad for 1 hour before serving.
Choosing Canned Tuna Lower in Mercury
Many fish contain mercury. For women of child-bearing age, young children and consumers who frequently eat seafood it is important to choose fish lower in mercury. Tuna such as the Skipjack variety are smaller and therefore naturally contain lower levels of mercury.
Look for words on the label like “canned light tuna” or “skipjack tuna”. Those are choices that have lower levels of mercury. Albacore tuna are larger and therefore have more mercury.
If you have more questions on mercury levels in tuna, the EPA and FDA has a great handout including best and good choices regarding mercury levels for pregnant women and children.
What type of onion is the best to use in tuna salad?
I prefer using a red or sometimes called purple onion. It adds some nice color and crunch to the tuna salad dish.
What tuna do you recommend?
I buy the Bumble Bee tuna from the grocery store. For an online option, when it goes on sale I will buy Wild Planet Tuna which or Rain Coast Skipjack Tuna. Both brands offer tuna that are sustainably pole and line caught.
Can pregnant women eat a tuna fish sandwich?
Yes, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that pregnant women consume 2-3 servings (8-12 oz.) of best choice fish per week. Choose “light” or skipjack tuna to make your sandwich, it is lower in mercury.
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This recipe was originally published on May 24, 2014 on My Texas Kitchen. Updated in June 2021 with new photos and relevant text.
1. Home: Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Home | Dietary Guidelines for Americans. (n.d.). https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/.