Learn how to make the best tuna salad recipe with fresh tuna! This tuna fish recipe pairs fresh tuna steaks with crisp veggies and pantry staples to create AMAZING tuna salad with the perfect balance of creamy and crunchy! Use it to make superb salads, sandwiches and wraps! Or make a low-carb lunch and serve it over a bed of leafy greens. This tuna salad recipe is a must for every seafood lovers’ recipe box!
Update: This post was originally published in August 2014. I’ve updated the post below to include more information about how to make tuna salad at home. Plus, I added step-by-step photos to show you just how easy and delicious it is to make this tuna fish recipe.
Canned tuna fish salad has been a popular classic for decades, and really, what’s not to love!? Tender tuna tossed with celery, relish and possibly hard-boiled eggs in a creamy mayonnaise dressing – yum! But, have you ever tried tuna salad made with fresh tuna?! It takes the humble classic to the next level of delicious!
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About this tuna salad recipe
This is seriously the best tuna salad recipe ever! This simple 30-minute recipe is made with (mostly) pantry staples, but it’s kicked up a million notches by using fresh tuna, instead of the tuna fish in a can. It’s creamy, insanely flavorful, and bursting with crunchy vegetables, fresh herbs, robust spices and more! This fresh tuna salad is just about as easy and delicious as any meal can get! Plus it makes the perfect protein-packed easy lunch, healthy snack, or light dinner.
Bonus: it’s so customizable! You can load your tuna salad up with whatever mix-ins and fix-ins your heart desires. You really can’t go wrong!
Why this tuna salad works
- Fresh tuna! I don’t know about you, but I love to use as many fresh ingredients as possible. And fresh tuna takes this tuna salad recipe to the next level. You can poach, sear, or grill your tuna, then mix it up with all your other ingredients. Simple and infinitely better than canned!
- Easy prep. Once the tuna is cooked, all that’s left for you to do is mix everything up in a bowl. It doesn’t get easier than that!
- Quick to make. Set aside 30 minutes for this recipe and you’ve got lunch ready to go all week long.
- Versatile. Tuna salad sandwich, tuna salad wrap, tuna salad on crackers, tuna salad by the spoonful. Yeah, this recipe is incredibly versatile!
Ingredients for the best tuna salad recipe
This tuna salad recipe requires basic pantry staples along with fresh tuna. When it comes to simple recipes like this one, make sure you are using good quality products! They will literally make or break your meal. Below is everything you’ll need for this fresh tuna recipe.
For the fresh tuna
- Fresh Tuna: For this tuna salad recipe, you can use filets of Ahi, Yellowfin, or Albacore tuna. You will need roughly 1 pound of fish, give or take. To make life easy, ask your fishmonger or local seafood market to cut the tuna into 1-inch thick filets.
- Sea Salt and Ground Black Pepper: Salt and fresh cracked pepper enhance the natural albacore flavors.
- Olive Oil: Any good quality olive oil will work.
Creamy tuna salad dressing
- Mayonnaise: Your favorite variety of mayonnaise creates the perfect creamy base for the tuna salad sauce.
- Substitution: you can easily lighten your sauce up with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise.
- Garlic: You’ll just need 1 large clove of fresh garlic. I recommend grating the garlic for the most delicious, muted flavor.
- Lemon Juice: A touch of fresh acidity brightens up the sauce.
- Dijon Mustard: Luscious mustard cuts the richness of the mayonnaise with a little bit of spice.
- Horseradish: I use 1 teaspoon of prepared white horseradish, but you can add more or less to taste.
- Worcestershire: This is one of the secret ingredients to the best tuna salad! Just one teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce adds just the right amount of salty, umami flavor.
- Substitution: If all you have is soy sauce, or even fish sauce, that will work as well!
To make the tuna salad
- Green Onion: Be sure the scallions are very thinly sliced so they mix well into the rest of the salad. You will need 4-5 to equal a heaping ½ cup.
- Substitution: You can swap the 4-5 scallions out and use 2 scallions along with 1 medium shallot if you prefer. Or if you like a strong spicy-onion flavor, use red onion or quick pickled onion recipe instead.
- Celery: Fresh celery adds a delicious crunch to the tuna salad. Be sure it’s finely chopped.
- Capers: Give a salty pop of texture and flavor.
- Dill: Use fresh dill for the best flavor. Add more or less to taste.
- Optional Additions: This tuna salad recipe is totally customizable! It’s a great way to use up any veggies or fresh herbs you have hanging around your kitchen. I love to add any and all of the following: toasted pine nuts, snipped fresh chives, chopped parsley, hard boiled eggs, avocado, dill pickles, dill relish or sweet pickle relish, and so much more!
Tuna fish recipe variations
- Protein substitution: Swap the fresh tuna out for canned tuna, or use another protein altogether. Shredded chicken would be delicious or you could make it vegetarian by using chickpeas.
- Add veggies: You can add any fresh vegetable (diced!) you like to this tuna salad recipe. Try red onions, bell peppers, cucumber, you name it. Be sure to chop them up pretty small so they incorporate well into the salad.
- Make it nutty: Give your tuna salad a bit of crunch by tossing in chopped walnuts, cashews, or pecans.
- Throw in some cheese: Toss a few tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan cheese into your tuna fish salad. Or make it a tuna melt by adding some cheese , stuffing it between slices of bread and griddling!
- Add fruit: Add a touch of sweetness with a handful of dried raisins or cranberries or a scoop of sliced grapes.
How to make tuna salad?
You can cook the fresh tuna for this tuna salad in one of three ways – grill, pan-sear, or poach on the stove or in the oven. Instructions for all three cooking methods are included in the recipe below. Once your tuna is cooked, this recipe for tuna fish salad comes together in a jiffy! Here’s how it’s done:
- Cook Tuna Steaks: You can cook the tuna using the stove-top, grill, or poach it for the most luscious flavor! I recommend cooking the tuna to your preferred level of doneness and liking. When preparing tuna for salad, I like to cook mine to medium-rare or medium, which is about 2 to 3 minutes per side depending upon thickness.
Mix dressing: In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice , horseradish, and Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning. (Tip: You can make the sauce up to 4 days in advance.)
Combine veggies+ add some dressing: To a medium bowl, add the scallions, celery, capers, and dill to the bowl. Stir to combine. Add half of the sauce and stir to combine. Set aside.
Flake Tuna and add to salad: When the tuna is completely cool, cut or flake it into generous bite-size cubes and add it the bowl. Gently fold the mixture together if you like large chunks of tuna in your salad; or stir if you prefer a smoother tuna salad. Taste and adjust for seasoning and creaminess, adding more sauce as desired.
Serve: If adding any of your favorite tuna salad mix-ins, such as pine nuts or hard-boiled eggs, fold them into the salad now. Garnish with more fresh herbs if using. Serve and enjoy!
Tips for the best tuna salad recipe
- Fresh Tuna! While most fish in the can is processed from raw fish, tuna fish is cooked prior to canning. Cooking the fish before canning significantly reduces the levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which results in less rich flavor and less nutrients. Fresh tuna cooked on the grill or slow-poached in oil is an excellent upgrade from canned albacore tuna.
- Add Umami! Adding just a splash or two of umami-rich Worcestershire sauce (or even low-sodium soy sauce) enhances the tuna’s natural flavors. Try it and see for yourself!
FAQ: Frequently asked questions
How do you make tuna salad with fresh tuna fish?
While this might go without saying, the key to making tuna salad with fresh tuna is to cook the tuna first! Most tuna salad recipes call for canned tuna. Canned tuna is good, but trust me when I say, once you go fresh you’ll never go back. The flavor, texture, and overall freshness of tuna you’ve cooked for the salad yourself is just unmatched.
I know this adds an extra step, but it takes no time at all. You have the choice to poach it, pan sear it, or grill it – this fresh tuna recipe is designed to work for you!
Is tuna salad cooked?
The tuna itself is cooked, but everything else in the tuna salad is uncooked. All you have to do is mix it up in a bowl with your tuna. So simple!
Do you put eggs in tuna fish salad?
You totally can! This best tuna salad recipe lists eggs under “optional additions” to leave it up to you. If you want to boost the protein of your tuna salad, whip up a few hard-boiled eggs, crumble them up, and mix them in. If you’d rather not, just leave them out. It’s delicious either way!
How long does tuna salad last?
Tuna fish salad is perfect for meal prepping and makes a great make-ahead lunches! This fresh tuna salad will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Tip: This tuna salad recipe contains fresh tuna and mayonnaise. When storing, do not leave the tuna fish salad sitting out at room temperature or in the sun for any extended length of time.
How to serve fresh tuna salad
If you’re not shoveling spoonfuls of this tuna salad into your mouth straight out of the mixing bowl, there are plenty of other ways you can enjoy it!
- It makes a delicious creamy cold dip with crackers or sliced, fresh veggies, or pita chips.
- I love to serve it rolled up into Boston or Bibb lettuce leaves, tuna fish lettuce wrap style. It makes such a quick and delicious low carb lunch!
- If your looking for a more complete meal, roll it up into a tortilla with homemade pickles and serve it up as a fresh wrap.
- Meal prep your tuna fish and serve it over leafy greens, like Romaine or Boston Bibb, for easy, yet filling (and definitely not boring) salad!
- For a more substantial lunch, it’s also delicious on toasted bread or bagels as a tuna salad sandwich.
Store tuna fish recipe
- In the fridge: Place any leftover fresh tuna salad in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for 3-5 days.
- In the freezer: I don’t recommend freezing tuna salad. The texture of the fresh ingredients won’t hold up and the mayo will separate and become watery upon thawing. However, you can freeze the fresh tuna! Cook the tuna using your preferred method and allow it to cool completely before flaking into large chunks. Transfer the cooked tuna to a freezer-safe storage bag and store in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Whip this quick, light, healthy recipe on a Sunday to keep for easy lunches and quick dinners all week long. Meal time never looked SO good!
More tuna fish recipes!
How to make the best tuna salad recipe 👇
Homemade Fresh Tuna Salad
- 1 Grill, Grill Pan, Skillet or Casserole Dish (for cooking fresh tuna)
- 1 Glass Measure or Small Glass Bowl (for tuna salad dressing)
- 1 Large Mixing Bowl (to combine salad)
For the fresh tuna:
- 1 pound Fresh Tuna Steaks Ahi, Yellowfin or Albacore (roughly 16-20 ounces)
- Sea Salt & Ground Black Pepper – to taste
- Good Olive Oil – to taste
For the tuna salad dressing:
For the fresh salad:
- 4-5 whole Scallions – thinly sliced (heaping ½ cup) (substitute: 2 scallions + 1 medium shallot)
- 3 medium Ribs Celery – finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
- 2 TBS Capers – drained & finely chopped
- 2 TBS Fresh Dill – finely chopped, or more to taste
- Optional Mix-ins: Toasted Pine Nuts, Snipped Fresh Chives, Parsley, Hard Boiled Eggs, Pickles, Avocado
- Cook Tuna: You can cook tuna on the stove-top and grill or poach it if you like! I recommend cooking the tuna to YOUR liking! I prefer mine medium-rare, which is about 1 ½ to 3 minutes per side depending upon thickness. (SEE NOTES for poaching instructions!)o Poach in Oil: Recommended for best tasting fresh tuna. See notes for full poaching instructions.o Pan Sear: Pat the tuna dry and season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the tuna to the pan. Cook, 3-6 minutes per side, depending upon the desired doneness. Transfer tuna to a clean work surface and allow it to cool completely.o Grill: Preheat grill or grill pan over medium-high heat (450-degrees F). Coat the tuna in oil and season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Add the tuna to the grill and cook for 3-6 minutes per side, depending upon the desired doneness. Transfer tuna to a clean work surface and allow it to cool completely.
- Mix dressing: In a glass measure or small bowl, combine the garlic, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, horseradish, and Worcestershire. Season with scant 1/4 tsp salt and a scant 1/8 tsp black pepper. Whisk until well combined. Taste and adjust for seasoning. (Tip: You can make the sauce up to 4 days in advance.)
- Combine veggies + add some dressing: Add to a large mixing bowl, the scallions, celery, capers, and dill to the bowl. Stir to combine. Add ½ of the sauce and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Flake Tuna and add to salad: When the tuna is completely cool, cut or flake it into generous bite-size cubes and add it the bowl. Gently fold the mixture together if you like large chunks of tuna in your salad; or stir if you prefer a smoother tuna salad. Taste and adjust for seasoning and creaminess, adding more sauce as desired.
- Serve: If adding any of your favorite tuna salad mix-ins, such as pine nuts or hard-boiled eggs, fold them into the salad now. Garnish with more fresh herbs. Serve and enjoy!
- Time Tip! To make the most of your time, I recommend cooking the tuna first since it needs to cool completely. Then, grab and prep the veggies, mix the sauce, etc.
- Tip for cooking Tuna in Pan or on Grill: For the best sear or char, don’t move and fuss with the tuna while it’s cooking. Let it cook for at least 3 minutes, undisturbed, before checking on it and possibly flipping it!
- For the best tuna for tuna salad, I recommend oil poaching the tuna! The oil infuses flavor into the tuna and keeps it moist and super luscious. Plus, you can store the tuna right in the oil (completely submerged, after it cools), so I recommend poaching in large batches. Store extra in the fridge for several weeks. (See below for instructions on how to poach tuna.)
- Add a couple glugs of oil to a wide saucepan, one that will fit the tuna snugly in a single layer. (You are just adding a bit of oil so the tuna doesn’t stick to the pan.)
- Then, add tuna to the saucepan, arranging it in a single layer.
- Add enough oil to just cover the tuna about ¼-inch of the way up the sides.
- Season the tuna generously with salt and pepper.
- Add aromatics - the garlic, red pepper flakes, strips of lemon zest and any fresh herbs you love.
- Low heat. Set the pan over low heat and cook gently. There should be tiny bubbles on the sides of the pan, but no rapid simmering!! Cook, basting the tuna with the oil frequently, about 12-15 minutes for a faint pink center. (Tip: I like to gently lift the corners of the tuna to ensure the oil is flowing underneath to prevent sticking.)
- Grease an oven-proof casserole dish just large enough to hold the tuna in a single layer.
- Add tuna to the dish, arranging it in a single layer.
- Add enough oil to just cover the tuna about ¼-inch of the way up the sides. Lift the corners of the tuna to ensure the oil flows underneath.
- Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Add aromatics - smashed garlic, red pepper flakes, strips of lemon zest and any fresh herbs you love.
- Place into a 275-degree Fahrenheit oven. Slow poach for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and very carefully flip the tuna over. Return to the oven and continue to poach for an additional 15 minutes. (1-inch tuna will take approximately 30 minutes total to reach 145-degrees F.) (Step substitution, if you prefer to not flip the tuna, you can remove the tuna from the oven every 7 minutes and baste the tuna in oil.)
- Cool. Remove the tuna from oil to a clean work surface and let cool completely.
- Flake or cut into large chunks. Use or return to oil and store in the refrigerator for several weeks.
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