Best Tuna EVAR
September 18, 2010 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Help me make the best tuna fish sandwich ever!

I did not grow up liking tuna... I thought the fish had a weird taste and I didn't like all the mayo. Then in college I moved in with a future chef who made some really excellent tuna salad something. I don't know what he did, but I do know there was a lot more too it than just canned tuna and mayo.

So now I make my own tuna sandwiches. My current recipe is:

-2 packs of Sunkist zesty lemon pepper tuna
-1 stalk chopped up celery
-some brown mustard
-small amount of mayo
all on wheat bread

I like it, but I'm looking for suggestions on new/different ways to spice it up and add new flavors to it. I would love any and all advice. Thanks!
posted by mikeweeney to Food & Drink (51 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
posted by beagle at 9:44 AM on September 18, 2010

I like my tuna sandwiches with pickles on them. The nice crunchy Claussen ones, please. :) Lettuce can be nice too.
posted by WowLookStars at 9:45 AM on September 18, 2010

Skip the pre-seasoned tuna, just use a bunch of lemon juice and fresh-ground (medium and coarse work well) black pepper. You've got the right idea with using little mayo. Try adding some diced celery for crunch. Melt some very sharp cheddar on top.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:45 AM on September 18, 2010

Maybe try using regular (i.e., non-flavoured) tuna, mayo, celery, a bit of cilantro, and curry powder? Tarragon might also be an interesting addition to your current recipe.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 9:46 AM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm definitely not married to my recipe... I'm willing to try anything! I'm also curious about different breads that would be good as well.
posted by mikeweeney at 9:50 AM on September 18, 2010

I no longer eat fish, but when I was a kid I remember putting anchovy paste in tuna salad as a "magic ingredient."
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:53 AM on September 18, 2010

To make the best tuna salad possible, follow the instructions in The New Best Recipe. Namely, you should drain the tuna in a sieve rather than using the can to drain, and flake it with your bare hands. This will ensure that the tuna is not soggy, that it will pick up your dressing and seasonings well, and that it has an even texture. This also makes your hands smell like tuna, but that is a small price to pay for an awesome tuna sandwich.
posted by grouse at 9:54 AM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sliced red grapes are nice instead of/along with celery.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:55 AM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mix in sunflower seeds for crunch. Or diced water chestnuts.
posted by kimdog at 9:58 AM on September 18, 2010

I like tuna mixed with lemon juice, a little bit of olive oil, white beans, cherry tomatoes, scallions, and a little salt and pepper in a pita pocket. Yum!
posted by amarynth at 9:59 AM on September 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

Mine has finely minced onions and more-than-you-might-think pepper in addition to the mayo and celery. Tuna is very well drained, mayo is just enough to keep it all sticking together.
posted by jessamyn at 10:04 AM on September 18, 2010

I find that adding ranch dressing rather than mayo to plain tuna makes it more like what you would get in a restaurant.

I personally really like chopped green peppers and peas in my tuna sandwiches. I also add a little parmesan, dill, and chives if I have them. If you want to get fancy, you could make it with walnuts and sliced grapes.
posted by emilyd22222 at 10:04 AM on September 18, 2010

I'm boring. Tuna, mayo, dill relish. A LOT of dill relish. Mmmm

I should try it with mustard.
posted by bibliogrrl at 10:06 AM on September 18, 2010

If I'm in a rush, I just use a bit of mayo & Bell's Seasoning. It does the trick!
posted by jenmakes at 10:07 AM on September 18, 2010

This is the Pandora's box of questions, as everyone has their idea of what tuna salad should be. Here's another addition to the batch:
Canned tuna (not seasoned)
Minced celery
Minced bread and butter pickles
Mayo (just enough to bind)
Dijon mustard
Fresh-ground pepper
posted by Gilbert at 10:08 AM on September 18, 2010

Tuna, chopped green olives, a little mayo. Ordered it accidentally once in Italy, never looked back.
posted by donnagirl at 10:21 AM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Funnily enough, I was just thinking while dozing off last night that I hadn't made my Pretty Bloody Good Tuna Mess for ages.

(All quantities VERY approximate, just make it to taste)

1 tin tuna in brine, drained.
3-4 tbs mayonnaise.
1/2 small tin of sweetcorn.
1/2 small red onion, diced.
1-2 tsp of salad cream (not sure it exists in the US, but it's pretty much essential for this, though extra vinegar and mayo can be substituted)
Dash of lemon juice.
Dash of malt vinegar.

Squirt of tomato ketchup.
Generous slosh of tabasco sauce.
Chopped flat-leaf parsley.
Chopped olives of your choice.

Eat on toasted bread of your choice, with tasty leaves such as rocket, watercress and baby spinach.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 10:35 AM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

My mom added some chopped apple (not my preference but some like it).
posted by salvia at 10:35 AM on September 18, 2010

Sweet pickle relish is in a lot of traditional tuna recipes.
posted by emilyd22222 at 10:39 AM on September 18, 2010

Mine has brown mustard, sweet pickle relish, and ranch dressing. I use Miracle Whip instead of mayo.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:45 AM on September 18, 2010

Best Tuna Ever, if I do say so myself. It's got a lot of crunchy texture and tangy flavor, as opposed to greasy, cat food-style grossness that tuna can sometimes have. Don't use bread that's too crusty as the tuna will just squirt out the back when you take a bite. All quantities wildly approximate:

1 can tuna, well drained
1 tbl mayonnaise
1 tbl Greek yogurt (or regular yogurt drained in a coffee filter)
1.5 tsp dijon mustard
2-3 tbl finely chopped celery
2-3 tbl finely chopped red onion or scallion
2-3 tbl finely chopped dill pickle (optional, but nice)
2 tbl chopped parsley and/or 1 tbl chopped fresh dill
1 tbl (or more) fresh lemon juice
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 dash Worcestershire sauce

Mix, put on bread, nom.
posted by mostlymartha at 10:52 AM on September 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Tuna melt, my most favorite sandwich ever! Easy to do at home with a George Foreman grill

* Sharp mustard as the condiment instead of mayo (can't stand mayo). Always easy to find a good generic dijon, but I'm in California and have easy access to Trader Joe's for Wasabi or Garlic flavored.

* Slice of smoked cheese - Rambol Fume (think of smoked gouda with the texture of Velveeta), smoked Gouda, or smoked mozzarella are my go tos.

* Other items: fresh chopped spinach, roasted red pepper, or caramelized onions.

* Bread: I tend to favor multi grain or wheat, but also had luck with rye bread or sourdough with rosemary.

* Oh and absolute must have from when my mom taught me: Dill Weed. You simply cannot eat a tuna sandwich without dill weed IMO.

I also love the vegetarian version, Chickpean of the Sea:

Soaked/cooked chickpeas (better texture than canned)
Dash of rice wine oil
Dash of lemon juice
Toasted Nori
Enough mayo to bind it together
Sharp Mayo for flavor

I can eat the vegetarian version as happy as I can the tuna one - what I mostly love is the salty and greasy (hence cheese and not so much mayo) combination with toasted bread.
posted by gov_moonbeam at 10:53 AM on September 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm very serious about my tuna. IMO, almost all tuna is either too wet, or too dry. The tuna/mayonnaise ratio is critical. it should be a medium consistency, but never actually wet with the mayo. A big bite should be as easy to eat as a small one.

Don't skimp on the salt either. I like the kosher stuff.

Once I've got that secured, bread is another important factor. I don't use heavy bread for my sandwiches because I HATE the tuna squeezing out the sides. A good light rye is awesome. So is a sliced sourdough.

Then, I'll add thin slices of avocado, red onion, capers (yeah!) but it's my secret ingredient that freaks everyone out.


That's right. Raisins. After assembly of the tuna and the bottom slice, I throw a dozen raisins on my tuna and that shit is goood. I swear.

Try it and you'll see...
posted by asavage at 11:21 AM on September 18, 2010 [7 favorites]

My mom added some chopped apple

This sounds gross but is very yummy:
Water packed Tuna drained
Chopped red delicious apple
Finely chopped sweet or yellow onion
Mayo or miracle whip

I wonder if I have any tuna in the cupboard.
posted by tamitang at 11:24 AM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also mash up a hard boiled egg in my tuna when I want to get fancy.
posted by lunachic at 11:25 AM on September 18, 2010

I'll sometimes swap the mayo out for ranch dressing and the celery for crushed potato chips.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:43 AM on September 18, 2010

You know not all tuna is made the same. In fact, most of the canned tuna you find in the grocery store is pretty abhorrent, IMO. You will do well to go to a specialty store (wholefoods should have some really good, sometimes more expensive, tuna) and buy some good tuna.

Epicurious did a taste test. Here are the results.

I love capers. I would recommend sauteing some capers in a little oil and throwing them in with your tuna.

I also like the idea of sweet and salty, but haven't found the best combination of fruit to use with tuna. Brunoise of apple sounds like the best though (I would use granny smith as they aren't mushy, a little tart, and sweet).

For texture, I'd go with some nuts. Maybe slivered almonds.

As for some herbs, you could always throw in some fresh tarragon.

And lastly, don't forget about a little acid. You could always zest a meyer lemon and use a little of the juice- would make it pretty good.
posted by TheBones at 11:48 AM on September 18, 2010

My local natural food store uses a delicious ginger marinade of some kind in their tuna fish and instead of mayo, just a tiny bit of veganaise to hold it together. I think there may be celery and some sweet red peppers too, but I'm not sure. But, the ginger flavor is what really turns the tuna into a wonderful tuna salad!
posted by ourroute at 1:06 PM on September 18, 2010

Seconding raisins, especially craisins. Seriously, raisins/craisins ruined tuna salad for me - I can't eat it anymore unless they're in there.
posted by windbox at 1:29 PM on September 18, 2010

Diced cucumber, red onion, seeded chopped tomatoes, celery, sliced (not slivered) almonds. And cut down on the fat by using half mayo and half greek yogurt (or drained regular nonfat yogurt). When mixing up your mayo/yogurt dressing, throw in some spices from your spice shelf. I like cumin, cayenne pepper and a little seasoned salt right now, but I change this up all the time. You can also add some little pasta shells and green peas and eat this as tuna pasta salad instead of sandwiches.
posted by marsha56 at 1:29 PM on September 18, 2010

I do this with one small can of tuna, scale up as you like:

1 small drained can of tuna. (oil packed is better, but more calories)
2 spring onions, white and green parts, sliced thinly
half an apple, diced. Pick a sweet and crisp variety, like Braeburn.
2 spoonfulls mayo, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

It's sweet, savory and crunchy. Home made mayo is part of what makes it so awesome, mine is tart with some lemon juice. You may want to add a bit of acid if you use store bought mayo. Exchange the bread for a small whole wheat pita, and stuff some lettuce or baby spinach in there too.

Also, as seasons change and you might want a warm tuna sandwich. Go for a tuna melt!

Drain well 1 small can tuna, mix with 1 spoonful mayo, and 1 sliced green onion. Pile it on 2 pieces of bread and top with a large slice of tomato, and season with salt and pepper. Lay a slice of cheese on top of it all. Asiago is nice, or go with a more mild provolone. Pop it in your toaster oven on low heat, until everything is warm, then broil until bubbly and browning. Enjoy open faced.
posted by fontophilic at 1:36 PM on September 18, 2010

This sounds trashy and gross, but put a layer of potato chips on top of the tuna fish before closing it up into a sandwich. It'll crunch into pieces when you bite into it, and it's a delicious salty crunchy greasy foil to the clean, cold, creamy, uncrunchy tuna fish.
posted by ifjuly at 1:55 PM on September 18, 2010

Okay, first off, don't use the packs of tuna. The taste tests I've seen indicate that the tuna is inferior to canned (particularly the texture). And "zesty lemon pepper"? Bleah. Use solid white canned tuna, packed in water.

After that, a bunch of the stuff above sounds good. Personally, I like a decent amount of mayo, and I really really like pickles. My wife is partial to celery. (in both cases, chopped up and mixed in)
posted by madmethods at 2:05 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is the one and only best tuna salad sandwich recipe:

Small thoroughly drained can of dolphin-safe tuna packed in water.
Mayonnaise to taste. Actually, light mayonnaise is fine.
Chopped sweet white onion. Amount is up to you, I like at least a quarter to a half of onion.
Maybe some chopped celery. If you love celery. Not too much.

Spread on very excellent bread, add some Boston lettuce or red lettuce leaves, maybe a thin slice or two of a really good tomato. Cut in half. Eat.

Or: do the tuna melt thing with your sandwich, meaning you toast your bread first, layer on your tuna salad on one slice, briefly melt your excellent slice of cheese over the salad in the toaster oven on the broil setting, put the other toasted slice of bread on top, cut in half, at eat.
posted by bearwife at 2:07 PM on September 18, 2010

Tuna is best on pumpernickel. Celery seed is a crucial secret ingredient. Bread and butter pickles - very nice.

Really everything else can be adjusted for current pantry contents. But the celery seed, man. That's where it's at.
posted by Mizu at 2:10 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I really like putting preserved lemon and capers in my tuna.
posted by juliapangolin at 2:11 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

green onion, or a little bit of very finely chopped onion
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:13 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Quick and dirty method of varying your tuna salad: use a different salad dressing. I'm partial to shiitake sesame ginger vinaigrette, but any prepared salad dressing will do the job. Italian! Blue Cheese! Whatever's on the door of the fridge, really. Annie's Goddess is another favorite.

I love pickles in tuna salad, as well as diced red bell pepper for crunch and a hint of sweetness.
posted by vortex genie 2 at 2:24 PM on September 18, 2010

Add a good pinch of hot curry powder to your recipe.
posted by biscotti at 2:33 PM on September 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I like putting in a healthy dose of sriracha in my tuna salad. I still use onions, mayo, and celery like other recipes.
posted by advicepig at 2:44 PM on September 18, 2010

My college roommate's family recipe for tuna salad was:

1 can tuna
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1 granny smith apple, chopped
Some bread-and-butter pickles, chopped

Mix with mayonnaise and enjoy!
posted by jillsy_sloper at 3:55 PM on September 18, 2010

First thing's first: Make your own mayo. It's easy, insanely much better, and people will think you're some kind of wizard. He's serious about the glass bowl. It's science. Also, I put in more mustard powder than he does.

Next: In addition to your basic recipe, apples instead of celery, and regular tuna instead. Also, maybe a dash of hot sauce mixed in. Very little... so little you wouldn't be able to pick it out as a flavor if you didn't know. It makes a difference, though.

Also, you don't specify canned tuna, so I'll throw this out. Sear a small steak of tuna with salt and plenty of black pepper. Put grated cabbage, tomato and pickles on top and whatever combination of mayo and wasabi you feel appropriate. Welcome to tuna town.

Oh, also, I like tongol tuna instead of albicore for the canned tuna. It's less overt with the slightly metallic fishiness.
posted by cmoj at 4:27 PM on September 18, 2010

Shit. The Monterey Bay Aquarium says I need to find a new tuna.
posted by cmoj at 4:41 PM on September 18, 2010

Havarti and dill tuna melt: bread, tuna + mayonnaise, fresh dill, and thin slices of havarti. Make it open-faced in a toaster oven or use a panini grill.
posted by parudox at 6:00 PM on September 18, 2010

Minced onion
Olive oil
Lemon juice
posted by Stewriffic at 6:03 PM on September 18, 2010

Grapes, cilantro, diced tomatoes, lime juice and fresh ground pepper are my faves in tuna salad. I also use Miracle Whip instead of mayo.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:36 PM on September 18, 2010

mikeweeney: "I'm also curious about different breads that would be good as well"

Tuna goes good with Fergasa Bread (self-link to my recipe as there just aren't a lot of Fergasa recipes on the net). The green onions and general moistness of the loaf enhance tuna's flavour.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:53 PM on September 18, 2010

50/50 whole-egg mayo and sour cream. Lemon juice. Chopped kalamata olives. Diced, seeded tomato. Fresh parsley. Arugula.

(And grapes? Genius! Why am I only hearing about this now?)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:04 PM on September 18, 2010

One of the better tuna salads I ever had included celery, diced onions, and water chestnuts. An alternative, if you don't want to include the ooginess of mayo or sour cream (or worst of all, like my old roomate had it, mixed with strawberry yogurt, gag gag), you could also just go straight up: drained, with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a dollop of wasabi in there. Kosher horseradish works just as well.
posted by holterbarbour at 10:55 PM on September 19, 2010

A local restaurant/pub chain (McMenamin's) sometimes has a tuna sandwich on their menu which is made with mango chutney. The chutney is added separately to the sandwich, not mixed in with the tuna. I think the tuna is just the standard tuna/mayo type. It is so terribly delicious.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:26 AM on September 20, 2010

My go to recipe:
Canned tuna, well drained
Lemon pepper
Finely chopped red onion
Soft whole wheat sliced bread

Also all tuna combos benefit from being transformed into a tuna melt!
posted by like_neon at 7:12 AM on September 28, 2010

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