The Best Classic Tuna Salad Recipe

Tuna salad sandwich cut in half and stacked

The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 10 ounces
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
214 Calories
13g Fat
3g Carbs
21g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 214
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 13g 17%
Saturated Fat 2g 12%
Cholesterol 42mg 14%
Sodium 530mg 23%
Total Carbohydrate 3g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 21g
Vitamin C 2mg 10%
Calcium 20mg 2%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 252mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Tuna salad is a delicious, lean protein recipe that is great as a quick and easy lunch or snack. It is great to have on hand for those who want to meal plan and have a healthy choice ready to go at any time. The basic recipe is simple, but includes everything you would want from a classic tuna salad recipe. Plus, it can easily be tweaked to suit your particular tastes. 

Albacore packed in water is the best canned tuna to use for tuna salad. It also tends to have the least fishy taste. If you are worried about a strong flavor, you can rinse the tuna through a fine mesh sieve to further wash away any fishy taste. That being said, for those who really love tuna, you can even eat the tuna straight out of the can!

"A very satisfying recipe that comes together in no time, and I really mean it! You can make a sandwich out of it with your choice of bread, spoon it out of a bowl, or serve it with your favorite cracker. There is a perfect balance of flavors and a great crunch from the celery." —Tara Omidvar

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A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 (5-ounce) cans albacore tuna packed in water

  • 1 stalk celery, diced

  • 2 tablespoons finely minced red onion

  • 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise, or to taste

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    tuna salad ingredients in bowls

    The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni

  2. Drain the liquid from the tuna cans.

    Tuna being drained in a colander.

    The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni

  3.  In a medium bowl, combine the drained tuna, celery, red onion, sweet pickle relish, and chopped parsley.

    Tuna, onion, celery, pickled relish, and parsley in bowl for tuna salad.

    The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni

  4. Add the mayonnaise until the desired creaminess is achieved. Season with salt and pepper, adjusting to taste, if necessary.

    Mayo in bowl with tuna salad ingredients.

    The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni


If you are concerned about the strong flavor (and potential stinky breath) from the raw onion used in tuna salad, there is a workaround. Simply soak the chopped onion in water for a few minutes before draining and adding to the tuna salad. This removes some of the “bite” from the onion while still keeping the flavor and crunch.

How To Serve Tuna Salad

Once you make a beautiful bowl of tuna salad, it can be enjoyed in countless ways to keep mealtime interesting. A sandwich is a classic way to enjoy tuna salad. Simply spoon between two slices of your favorite bread and dive right in. It also tastes great as an open-faced tuna melt, warm from the oven. Tuna salad also goes well over a bed of greens or as a filling for stuffed tomatoes. Of course, it also is great as dip with crackers.

Recipe Variations

  • If you don’t want to add mayo to your tuna salad, sour cream, Greek yogurt or even mashed avocado can add creaminess to the recipe and can offer a lighter version of the classic dish. 
  • The great thing about tuna salad is its versatility. You can increase or decrease the mayo or any of the other ingredients to suit your taste. 
  • Adding other ingredients such as chopped apple, dried fruit, capers, olives, chopped hard-boiled egg, dried spices, or fresh herbs can all make your tuna salad unique and exciting.

How To Store Tuna Salad

Store leftover tuna salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. (Too long in the refrigerator and the flavors can become too strong and the mixture can become watery.)