How to Make Tuna Salad Sandwich (Recipes Kids Should Know to Make Before Leaving Home)
When I was a kid, my mom pretty much always offered the same two sandwich options for lunch: peanut butter and jam (or honey) and tuna salad. These many years later every time I taste tuna salad I am immediately transported to my childhood!
Since tuna sandwiches were such a common food during my childhood, it was one of the very first things I learned how to make in the kitchen. As such, I think it’s a meal that kids should know how to make before leaving home.
Then, when I got married, I discovered that my husband had grown up eating a very different tuna salad than I did. His grandmother also frequently made tuna sandwiches, but her mixture was decidedly less “mayonnaisey” with a different texture than what my mom made, which was creamier and smoother. This is when I discovered that there as many ways to make tuna salad as there are people who eat it!
That’s what is so great about tuna salad: it’s a good recipe to know because it’s easy and nutritious, but it also is very forgiving and can be made in lots of different ways. If you like it drier, use less mayo! If you like it simple, don’t add any onion or celery. If you’re in a real pinch (and don’t have all the ingredients on hand) you can even make it simply with just mayo and tuna.
Here are a few pro tips to make your tuna salad extra yummy: First, buy tuna packed in water rather than oil. It’s healthier and has (I believe) better texture. Second, my mom taught me to make the tuna salad directly in the dish that I planned to store the tuna in. This saves on dishes to wash. Third, tuna salad is delicious served on a sandwich bread or simply on lettuce as a salad.
Classic Tuna Salad Recipe
Makes about 2 servings
- 1 5-ounce can water-packed tuna fish/albacore (or canned light tuna– see health note below)
- 1 – 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- Spoonful of celery, diced small
- Spoonful of red onion, diced small
- Splash of lemon juice, about 1 -2 teaspoons
- Spoonful pickle relish
- Salt and pepper
- Open the can of tuna with a can opener, making sure to cut the lid all the way around. Leaving the lid in the can and holding it over the kitchen sink, press the lid into the tuna and squeeze out the water, tipping the can to drain the water in the can out and into the sink. Once you’ve squeezed out the liquid and no more water is dripping, remove the can lid and put tuna in a small bowl or storage container.
- Add 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, stir. If you like it chunkier, leave as is. If you want to smoother, add more mayonnaise until you like the texture. I like to use a fork for mixing to help break up the tuna as I stir. Add the celery, onion, lemon juice and pickle relish. Please note that the celery, onion, lemon juice and relish are all optional. Use whatever ingredients sound delicious to you!
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper, adding a little at at time and tasting as you go.
- Serve on bread (toasted is great!) as a sandwich or on lettuce as a salad. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Health Note: Fish contain vital nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals such as iron which are good for developing bodies. However, tuna is also a high-mercury containing fish and canned albacore contains more mercury than canned light tuna. As such, pregnant women and young children should eat canned tuna only occasionally or in-moderation (based on your age, etc). The Environmental Working Group provides a handy calculator here to determine how much of each kind of fish is safe to consume based on your age, including tuna. Click here for the FDA’s most recent recommendations around fish consumption.