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How come my tuna fish never tastes as good as sandwich shops?

  • f

I feel a bit silly asking but it's true; when I make tuna fish sandwiches, they just aren't as tasty. I usually buy Bumble Bee tuna in veg. oil. I drain most of the oil, mash the tuna and add a little mayo and chopped celery. It still tastes a little fishy and doesn't have a 'clean' non-tinny taste like in delis or diners.

I'm sure sandwich shoppes use the cheapest tuna. What am I doing wrong? Is there another brand I should buy?

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  1. d

    Try buying tuna packed in water, be sure to press all the water out of it, then mix with your ingredients, that's assuming you are looking for standard tuna sandwich mix fare.

    22 Replies
    1. re: DodinBouffant
      JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

      Better still, dump the contents into a colander and break it up with your fingers into little bits- drains WAY better than squooshing the water out then breaking it up with a fork. Also, the tuna you use is quite significant- go for solid white albacore tuna. Once you try out a solid white albacore tuna salad, everything else is cat food. My favorite is Trader Joe's, but Starkist is good too (and much more expensive unless you get it at Costco).

      For seasoning the tuna salad, be sure to mix in some lemon juice, salt, and pepper before adding the mayo. For that matter, *any* ingredients you want to add should go in before the mayo. That way, you'll season the tuna instead of letting the mayonnaise absorb everything and cover up the mix of flavors.

      1. re: JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

        My husband is a tunaholic. He would only use TJ's until we tried Kirkland. Likes it better. Solid albacore in water.

        1. re: rccola

          +1 for Kirkland. One of the things Costco gets absolutely right.

          Holy whatever!!!! Do you realize how old this topic is???? 2003!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          1. re: Midlife

            Came up somewhere as newish so someone was posting. See below for posts to original poster. Proves tuna is eternally dear to some people's hearts.

            1. re: Midlife

              Old or new, gotta give a +1 for the Kirkland albacore in water. It rocks!

              1. re: Midlife

                We used to like the Kirkland brand but like so many other Kirkland products it's really gone down in quality over the last year. Costco is now carrying "wild Planet" tuna. It's troll/line caught and it's pretty fantastic although it is more $$$. The yield is far better than you might think looking at the cans.

                1. re: TraderJoe

                  Funny. I haven't noticed any change in the product. Also haven't seen Wild Planet either. Darned regional buying!!!!

                  1. re: Midlife

                    I'm in LA and I haven't noticed a change in the Kirkland brand either. Still love the quality better than any of the supermarket brands.

                    1. re: Midlife

                      The last few sleeves of the Kirkland I've bought have been fishy mush. Big change but it could just be the lot I bought from. Glad others aren't seeing the same change!

                      1. re: TraderJoe

                        That happened for a little while and then stopped. Richmond CA store.

                    2. re: TraderJoe

                      Wild Planet is so excellent. I like really white, non fishy tuna and this is what I buy now. It's a bit expensive so I try to wait until it's on sale in the coupon book and then buy up.

                      I give the cats the small amt of juice that's there and they give it ***.

                  2. re: rccola

                    PLUS ... the Kirkland can is larger than its competitors.

                    1. re: rccola

                      I found Genova Tonno (solid light tuna packed in olive oil) at Costco in Warminster, Pa. $8/4 cans. I pour off about 1/2 the oil, add mayo, some Italian spice and red pepper flakes. It's terrific!!

                      1. re: bucksguy14

                        Karns in Boiling Springs, PA has it 1.89 per can regular price.

                        1. re: melpy

                          Kirkland has bad chemical in their tuna, thrilled that costco is now carrying wild planet, there is absolutely no comparison to their tuna--low mercury and no tin taste--have tried every brand, the tongol that tj's used to carry was ok, but they don't have it anymore, and their albacore can vary from can to can, 1/2 the time it's covered in brown, or has the irridescent pink sheen on it that indicates it wasn't fresh when canned----the wild planet is great when you want to heat it up as well and not just for a salad.

                          Another important thing that might attract people to deli tuna is that it is so pureed no chunks at all, very smooth going on--whole foods used to have good tuna but it changed to me, the best commercial tuna I've had has been from a place in miami called Miami Juice and another nearby spot, called Epicure market..

                          Oh also, noone mentioned this, but I was taught as a kid in the south, to always add a bit of white vinegar to tuna--so, I used to use white vinegar but I switched to rice wine vinegar few years ago--sometimes red wine vinegar can be used too--but just a little bit--jewish people in the south always used miracle whip in their tuna and non jews used hellmans---I used the hains organic which is the same as tj's about--the organic mayo--

                          1. re: janie

                            I prefer lemon juice to vinegar, myself.

                            1. re: janie

                              All true, self-respecting Southerners, Jews and Gentiles alike, use Duke's mayo.

                              1. re: carolinadawg

                                Someone brought tuna salad at work (for sandwich day), and everyone went NUTS.... She used Duke's... that's the only thing she did differently than anyone else. It was awesome. Just the mayo, pickle relish, and Duke's.

                                1. re: luvcubs

                                  can't go wrong with duke's! and it is ironic that the cooks illustrated recipe adds sugar, and here, duke's has NO sugar, if i recall correctly). edit: yes, no sugar: http://www.dukesmayo.com/shop_online....

                      2. re: JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

                        agree. rinsing helps draining through colander and getting all 'whatever' removed. the spices or seasonings can and will make a difference. probably order added does matter but seriously doubt that a sandwich shop bothers with any of that. I can't see one going through that much work. think it'd be more like take it outta the can, mix with s&p add mayo then doctor up for sandwich sake with lettuce&tomato if that.

                        1. re: iL Divo

                          I had a customer that would stand there for a LONG time squishing the tuna that way, removing every last drop. I used to joke with him that he should collect the juices and bottle it as a cat treat.

                          Most delis in our area prefer tongul tuna. Around this time of year it becomes hard to get for a month or so and they would stock up in advance so not to run out!

                          1. re: coll

                            "I used to joke with him that he should collect the juices and bottle it as a cat treat"
                            used to do exactly that for all of our many cats over the years. never a complaint, made sense to me.

                            made a batch of tuna using the Kirkland white albacore last week for my man. added panko just to see what it'd really do as directed somewhere on this thread. he said it was great, I had a teaspoon of it and didn't notice the panko. guess that means success (or not) not sure, but it did lick up any residual liquid. it is possible we just love tuna sandwiches.

                    2. I use tuna in water as well. I also mix some fresh lemon juice with my mayo, salt and pepper. It gives it a good kick and no fishy flavor.

                      1. i know many delis add bread crumbs to the recipe.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: kenny candy

                          I used to work in a deli and would blend in cubes of white bread as a filler. Although it's the cheaper way to go, it always tasted great. They did start w/ high quality tuna though. Also, lots of black pepper and NO salt, ever. I'm not a fan of a lot stuff in my tuna salad so the olive/carrot/pepper combos don't do it for me.

                          1. re: kenny candy

                            the deli i worked in during high school added matzoh meal. a mix of sour cream and mayo and don't remember the rest but they all said that's what made the tuna so good.

                          2. a
                            AGM/Cape Cod

                            I always wonder about deli shop tunafish. It is totally white. I mix chopped sweet red pepper, onion, black olives and cornichons with shredded carrots and the tuna, then lemon juice and mayo. Colorful and tasty.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: AGM/Cape Cod

                              I'm so happy to find someone else who puts this much stuff in their tuna! I grate in carrots and celery, mince kosher pickles and dill, grind in green pepper, then add yogurt and mayo in equal quantities. It's more like a salad, but it tastes fantastic.

                              1. re: Kaetchen

                                Try adding cubed granny smith apples too. YUM crispness.


                                1. re: THM

                                  OK here it is the recipe for TUNA LISA

                                  white Tuna packed in water
                                  FInely diced celery,
                                  finely diced red onion
                                  Small dice of granny smith apples
                                  s & P
                                  optional; Add chopped walnuts

                                  tastes best on Eli's Multigrain Bread which is available around NYC and also in COSTCO believe it or not!

                                  another recipe that is very good is

                                  tuna in oil
                                  spiral pasta
                                  extra parmesan

                                  mix well - yum

                                2. re: Kaetchen

                                  I'm 10 years too late to charge Kaetchen with stealing my mother's recipe! The statute of limitations has kicked in, I am sure. But these many years later, its interesting to know Mom wasn't the only one who doctored the family's tuna sandwiches like this.

                              2. It could be the brand of mayo. I worked in a place that exclusively used Erewhon's mayo for tuna and they got compliments and questions all the time. Also, I think deli tuna is starchy and tasteless, but you might be lucky with your delis. In general, I don't think they use cheap tuna, but they add a lot more fillers.

                                1. Another vote for water-packed solid albacore. In addition to the mayo, celery, and S&P, I usually add small amount of green onion, mustard, and pickles.

                                  1. I agree about draining (and wringing) the tuna really well in a colander to get rid of the excess liquid, which can be a little fishy.

                                    Oil packed tuna, I think, is the right way to go when taste really matters. Everyone is concerned about calories, but it can be drained well, and is much moister and better-tasting.

                                    Most importantly,it is impossible to duplicate a good deli tuna using lite mayonnaise. Forget about fat free altogether. A lot of delis use an extra-heavy mayonnaise that's even thicker and richer than the "real" stuff.

                                    1. m
                                      Miss Crabapple

                                      Maybe you should try another brand. Years ago I had a bunch of mushy cans from Bumble Bee and swore off it. I also read a taste test--I forget the source--where Bumble Bee did not do well. Remember the old Starkist commercials? "Sorry, Charlie, not all tunas are good enough for Starkist." Or something like that.

                                      1. Maybe it's how much mayo your are using. At home I'm more health aware and would never put as much mayo as a deli or restaurant would. Fat equals flavor.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Wendy Lai

                                          I was waiting for this response. You hit the nail right on the head. Someone else mentioned in this thread "Deli tuna is so white!" well, why do you think THAT is???

                                          And it's not cause it's chunk white albacore, y'all.

                                          MUH MUH MUH MAYO.

                                          Some bodegas in NYC, it's like half and half. NASTY on the arteries. YUMMY in the tummy.


                                          1. re: Wendy Lai

                                            Very much agree with this. An-overeducated and (then) underemployed immigrant friend was working at a local café and sandwich chain and described making tuna and chicken salad sandwiches - the recipe was half tuna or chicken and half mayo. No wonder they had such a rich flavour - they were oozing with fat.

                                            Friend has found a job in his profession, and would never think of putting so much mayo in a sandwich at home.

                                          2. First, white, solid-pack albacore is a must. Skip the cheaper mushy pink stuff. Second, when I worked in a fancy deli in high school (owned by the same guy who now runs Murray's Cheese Shop in NYC), we used to gussy up the tuna with all kinds of things--finely chopped hard-boiled eggs, chopped celery, chopped pimentos (cooked peeled red-pepper strips), sour pickle relish, and yes, lotsa mayo. We also used to add a heavy sprinkling of an Accent-like, MSG flavor enhancer. I actually think a little pickle relish (the sour kind, not the sweet) is the key to deli-style tuna fish. That, and spreading the tuna on good chewy Jewish rye bread....

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: dixieday

                                              Try tuna guys tuna and it will be better than the deli shops

                                              Link: http://www.tunalovers.com

                                              1. re: Bill

                                                Bill, the link you gave is for one of the distributors of Tuna Guys products. You can buy from TG directly though, for a bit less $$. See link below

                                                Link: http://www.tunaguys.net/

                                                1. re: Bill

                                                  Sandwich shops probably load their tuna salad with mayonaise,sour cream and who knows what fillers they use.

                                                2. re: dixieday

                                                  I used to work in a sandwich shop and people always said ours was better than anything they make at home. We used cheap chunk light tuna in water and we drained and squeezed the hell out of it. The secret ingredient is a couple of drops of sherry vinegar. Don't know why, but it works. Celery, red onion, regular mayo and pepper. Now, personally I use good tuna in oil and a squeeze of harissa from the tube. Goes great with the sherry vinegar.

                                                  1. re: veebee

                                                    that sherry vinegar ingredient is the most unusual one i've heard. but i can see how it might work well, indeed.

                                                    1. re: veebee

                                                      "squeezed the hell out of it." - just came across this thread & not having made a tuna sandwich in years, I'm now tempted to try this! Have done all the other suggestions in the past...good mayo, bit of celery, etc.

                                                  2. Here is the perfect tuna fish sandwich recipe:

                                                    2-12 oz. cans of Bumble Bee white albacore packed in springwater; chilled, drained and pressed

                                                    1-8 oz. chilled jar of Hellmann's, Duke's or Best Brand mayonnaise

                                                    2-Claussen Zesty Garlic pickles, drained and minced

                                                    1-loaf good bakery bread, sliced (onion rye is my fave)

                                                    Mix chilled tuna, mayo and pickles in glass bowl and chill in the refrigerator covered.

                                                    Makes a loaf's worth of sandwiches. Add coarse-ground black pepper to finish each sandwich.

                                                    1. Realize this is an ancient thread, but it's an issue that I became kind of consumed with figuring out (big tuna fan; wanted to replicate deli offerings, and this thread still pops up tops on Google).

                                                      As mentioned... it's essentially the mayo. You can still replicate most deli tuna without going in that - admittedly very unhealthy - direction. (Subway, for instance, uses water-based tuna, insanely flaked, squeezed totally dry.) But, if you're trying to land that unique deli tuna blend, it's all about high fat (VERY high fat) mayo.

                                                      (Please... I'm not trying to start a recipe war here, but only answer the OP's question about what exactly contributes to the unique taste of your average, cheapish tuna sub, while fully aware that there are healthier/better options.)

                                                      The closest approximation I've found is sold by Kraft, ("Black Label, Signature Mayo") formulated specifically for food service applications... not very practical for home cooking, as it comes in gallon containers (with almost 3x the eggs), but it's probably closest to what your general deli is using.

                                                      Best, Chris.

                                                      Here's a link: http://www.kraftfoodservice.com/Produ...

                                                      PS. I don't use this with any regularity... Would love to, but higher than normal cholesterol (due in large part to my crazy cheese habit) preclude widespread experimentation.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: bezoris

                                                        restaurant mayo (not made in house, but purchased by the gallons) is much thicker than my favorite "duke's" mayo. why is this?

                                                          1. re: carolinadawg

                                                            Yes. Extra heavy mayonaise has additional egg yolks. You can buy Ken's in Costco but it comes in a giant jar.

                                                            I always used to buy those dip mixes at craft shows but when I made it at home it never tasted as good. Finally I asked the seller and she told me about the Extra Heavy Mayo. It made all the difference.

                                                      2. Deli's buy their 'mayo' in gallon tubs. It's 'specially' formulated for tuna and chicken sandwiches. There's MSG in pretty much every restaurant mayo for one thing.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Puffin3

                                                          No wonder I am always pining for restaurant mayo!

                                                        2. I have never preferred canned tuna salad out to the stuff I make at home.

                                                          What I do:

                                                          I use more salt than most people probably would. I add very small-diced celery. I use good mayo. I make your own a lot of the time. And I like to spread dijon mustard on the bread, though yellow mustard is good, too (not Gulden's or Pommery, however).

                                                          1. I'm totally in the minority here, but I really don't like tuna salad from a deli. I can't stand celery in my tuna salad - completely messes up the flavor. I'm OK with onions if need be, but that's it as far as add-ins go.

                                                            I use solid white packed in water. Squeeze all the water out, break up really well with a fork, and use Miracle Whip instead of mayo. I know most of you probably hate MW, but I feel it gives it more zing than the mayo. When I'm making it for the rest of the family, though, I usually use 1/2 mayo and 1/2 MW.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: jbsiegel

                                                              I have made many tuna sandwiches in my 23 years working in a deli. It goes chunk light in water. Put it in a colander an give it a quick rinse.Squeeze it until no water remains. Add salt pepper lemon juice and onion powder. Use hellmans extra heavy duty mayo. You can wrap it up and let it sit until the next day. Pour off any liquid that loosened up over night. It is good to go. If you decide to go for a spicier flavor we sometimes used a little old bay in it along with celery and dill pickle chips that had been liquidfyed in the food processor. Blend with some sweet vidalia onion with the pickle chips but finely dice the celery. It also does not need to be a fresh lemon it can be real lem reconstatuted.

                                                              1. re: jbsiegel

                                                                I use MW as well; Kirkland tuna, onions, sweet pickle, sometimes raisins, always HB eggs.

                                                                  1. re: jbsiegel

                                                                    The pizzeria on my mail route made great tuna subs. Their secret was very finely chopped lettuce (no crunch) instead of onion and celery. Tuna/lettuce/mayo/S&P doesn't sound appealing but it is. From what I could see of the lettuce, it was dark green so I assume romaine or leaf lettuce. That makes sense since iceberg would add a lot more water.

                                                                  2. Add onion/onion powder or celery seed/salt. A lot of delis add Miracle Whip. Hides the fishy flavor from anything. Use some light meat tuna with the white for more flavor. Tastes better next day.

                                                                    I'm low-class. I like celery seed, pepper, onion and Vlasic sweet pickle relish.

                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                    1. re: rccola

                                                                      Tuna, much like anything only needs a few essential seasoning for perfection. No need to get over elaborate with too many things that will over power the real taste like capers, pesto, lemon, etc.

                                                                      You see on the travel channel and food network there is a trend to drown every thing like a hot dog or hamburger with so much crap like wasabi mayo, bbq sauce, kim chee I have no idea how can you even taste the main ingredient anymore.

                                                                      Simplicity is the way to go...1st amount of mayo at your discretion. 2nd finely chopped red onion(red only). Lastly chopped cilantro and a whole lot of freshly ground black pepper to kill the fishy taste. That's it, on toasted sour dour or rye bread and you got a one of kind sandwich. I know there are a rare few that cannot stand the smell of cilantro which is really too bad because most Mexican food and other dishes go great with cilantro. I can top it with anything, same with fresh basil.

                                                                      1. re: rccola

                                                                        If a deli here in NY used Miracle Whip, they wouldn't be around for long! Has to be Hellmanns.

                                                                        Only the cheapest of the cheap use low priced, fishy tuna; most will use Tongul while the very upscale places will spring for solid white which is twice the price.Hard to tell the difference.

                                                                        Some lemon juice is all that is needed to hide any fishy taste. Other than that, celery and black pepper is all that is needed for the general public's taste. Breadcrumbs when added are mainly to absorb the juices, and if you ever worked at a deli you'd know why!

                                                                        1. re: coll

                                                                          Maybe, but there are lots of places in the US that are not NY. I worked at a sandwich shoppe during breaks that catered to my fellow med students, construction workers, other hospital employees. Miracle Whip. I was raised to disdain it but then I didn't like mayo then, either, so I didn't eat it.

                                                                          1. re: rccola

                                                                            And in New England it's gotta be Cains: That's the extent of my experience with deli mayo. I don't get around much, and I'm old school when it comes to delicatessen, sorry if I sounded negative. When you say "a lot of delis" I was just curious where, because it's not anything I've ever seen, and I've been in the deli business for the better part of my life.

                                                                            Then again the OP was talking about sandwich shops (shoppes?) so possibly we're getting off track anyway, bringing delis into the picture.

                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                              I worked in a shop/pe as I said. I didn't want to play the semantics game with other posters. Discussing tuna here.

                                                                              1. re: rccola

                                                                                Thought we were discussing mayo ;-)

                                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                                  Only as the dressing gown for a comely chunk of tuna.

                                                                                  And my shoppe made things I wouldn't eat. Like chitterlings. No mayo.

                                                                      2. Put a little bit or ordinary bright yellow mustard in with the mayo to add a little "lift" to the oily flavor. If you can taste the mustard easily, you have probably added too much.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Tripeler

                                                                          that's the trick for a great deviled egg filling, too -- french's!

                                                                        2. "I'm sure sandwich shoppes use the cheapest tuna. What am I doing wrong?"

                                                                          It's not a matter of what you are doing but rather what they are doing and what they are very likely doing is...brace yourself...is adding Accent. Yes it is MSG and yes your tuna salad will taste better, not that I use it in mine.

                                                                          12 Replies
                                                                          1. re: TraderJoe

                                                                            I've sold tuna to hundreds of delis, and not a one ever ordered Accent!

                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                              coll, other than the ventresca tuna i've had from the fancy food store, the very best tuna i've had is on a salad bar -- at joe's pizza and pasta in arlington, virginia. it is not white, but firm and flaky, not mushy at all, having a medium color, and nice, clean tuna flavor with depth. i'm sure they use a lot of it…just on the salad bar. i know it is ridiculous to expect that you might know what it is, and how i could get some? (i know, ridiciulous. i could ask them, but they're not that friendly). (if i did get a large container, could i freeze the tuna?).

                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                Bet it's tongul! You can get it in the grocery store, but it's not a normal brand, it's imported, and they have it in normal size cans. You could probably freeze the meat itself if you found the 66z size that restaurants buy, but me, I'd just make a tub full and eat it for a few days! Maybe throw together a tuna casserole or two. If I shared with the cats, it would probably work out fine.

                                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                                  i'll sniff around to find some. thanks! any brands you recommend?

                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                    Ruby was the brand we used to sell and it was the one everyone preferred, but in the dead of summer it would be unavailable for a month or two for whatever reason. However it's the species as much as the brand that makes it different.

                                                                              2. re: coll

                                                                                "I've sold tuna to hundreds of delis, and not a one ever ordered Accent!"

                                                                                I'm not surprised. A small bottle from the store goes a long ways and not every one wants their sales rep telling the competition what they are doing.

                                                                                1. re: TraderJoe

                                                                                  I spent most of my working day in kitchens taking orders so had a pretty good view of everything my customers used, whether bought from me, the grocery store, a competitor or Restaurant Depot/Costco. Possibly my favorite part of the job, since most chefs were actually very open to sharing their tips and secrets. Accent never came up, I would have gotten a question about it at some point. Now, of course I knew the salesmen of my competitors but our conversations when we met up on the road did not involve either of us spilling my guts about product! We had better things to gossip about.

                                                                                  Accent never entered the equation for me, and that includes four years as a deli cook. To "brighten up" tuna, I can't imagine using anything rather than lemon juice. But I didn't sell cheap stinky tuna very often, except to daycare and jails. I'm not saying no one does it, just that it's not common in my experience. I'm not convinced that's the "secret".

                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                    "spent most of my working day in kitchens taking orders so had a pretty good view of everything my customers used, whether bought from me, the grocery store, a competitor or Restaurant Depot/Costco"

                                                                                    That's exactly why most Chef's like myself don't let sales people in the kitchen. While I'm sure you didn't share with your sales competition it's mighty common for a sales rep to take what they see in one kitchen and use it as a selling point to the next Chef on their route. I once spent a lot of time and $$ trying every bacon a particular vendor sold only to see the same product on every other hotel menu in the area within a few months thanks to my sales rep.
                                                                                    I'm sure not every one used Accent but at least one other poster did up-thread in a professional setting. I've seen some very high end Chefs do the same. IMO That's the real beauty of this business. No one can ever know it all and there's always something more to learn. Regional differences come to in to play as well. Here it's Hellmans for sure. In much of the South that mayo dog just don't hunt.

                                                                                    1. re: TraderJoe

                                                                                      That's what I love about Chowhound, I know all about my area but I have learned how different it is from everywhere else too.

                                                                                    2. re: coll

                                                                                      Salesman and restaurant-chef daughter stories, please!

                                                                                      1. re: rccola

                                                                                        I got a million of them, I should write a (funny) book!

                                                                                        1. re: coll

                                                                                          Instead of "you'll have to sleep with my daughter" they involve eating?

                                                                              3. I add dill relish (not sweet) and celery. I always use albacore.

                                                                                1. I haven't read this through, but my suspicion is that it has to do with the quantity it's made in and the products used to make it. At a deli, it's likely they're using foodservice items like mayonnaise, to achieve their desired end. (whoot! Tuna Salad!) I've run into things like this now and again, making a salsa recipe given to me by the owner of a local restaurant. I followed the recipe and ratios to a T, and also of course the knife-work directions, and the result just wasn't the same. It tasted like the Ghost of Salsas Past. And all I can think is that they left out an ingredient, or that the robot coupe they used heats more or less than mine, duriing using.
                                                                                  So - it can be products or technique or that which is totally beyond your control. One thing that may help is in REALLY draining liquids - that tuna should be as dry as you can make it. Then, instead of mixing it, try just folding the mayonnaise in very carefully, so it doesn't break. That way it won't combine with any tuna liquid and thin out - that milky, fishy liquid at the bottom of the bowl isn't appetizing, is it? Also add a squeeze of lemon - helps flavor.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: mamachef

                                                                                    Squishing out the water is key, I think. And a little can wouldn't have the same ratio of tuna to water, so maybe that's part of it. I used to sit there for quite awhile, squishing every drop of liquid into a garbage receptacle, and thinking maybe I should save it and sell containers of it as a cat treat? And other random thoughts.....

                                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                                      "Squishing out the water is key"

                                                                                      +1. Wring the living schneickies out of it!

                                                                                  2. I think the answer is the mayo. There tuna and the other ingredients is pretty much the same as what we use at home. It's just a larger tin.

                                                                                    Sandwich shops typically use heavy duty mayo which is thicker and richer than the stuff we use at home.

                                                                                    1. Depends on the sandwich shop you go to. I've worked for a few and I have to agree with the above about being packed in water and making sure you get the water out of the tuna and flake the tuna.

                                                                                      The place I worked for used 1 pack of chunk light and 1 pack of white albacore. Two reasons for this, 1. to keep cost down and 2. Albacore tuna is a bit dryer and the chunk light helps with that.

                                                                                      Drain the tuna in a colander then flake it to separate large chunks.

                                                                                      Use a plain but quality Mayo. They use a lot of mayo so that it's pretty creamy. This place cut up celery and added it in. Salt and pepper and some oregano.

                                                                                      Also you might be getting the tinny taste from the cans. The place I worked at used the pouches. You can buy them at the grocery store now.

                                                                                      Try that.

                                                                                      1. I always add some pickle relish. It makes a big difference. Just don't overdo it. I also toss in some hard boiled egg.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: cantkick

                                                                                          Add celery seed and small shell macaroni. The ONLY food I can't stay away from.

                                                                                        2. Sorry to disappoint, but my tuna salad tastes better than any I've had from a deli or shop. I use:
                                                                                          Albarcore Tuna packed in water. Drained and rinsed in a fine mesh collander.

                                                                                          Hellman's Mayo - however creamy you want it

                                                                                          A tiny squirt of yellow mustard

                                                                                          dried minced onions flakes (trust me on this) - maybe a half a teaspoon per can of tuna

                                                                                          dill - dried, about 1/4 teaspoon

                                                                                          season salt and black pepper

                                                                                          sweet pickle relish

                                                                                          1/2 stalk of celery, finely diced

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: kyrn80

                                                                                            Dried onion flakes is very good in tuna! That's how my Grandma makes it, and it's great!

                                                                                          2. Ironically, all this talk of tuna salad has me craving macaroni salad.

                                                                                            Elbow Macaroni cooked firm
                                                                                            Fine dice carrots & onions
                                                                                            Salt & Pepper to taste
                                                                                            Little milk 1-2 hours later because those noodles drink up the sauce.

                                                                                            1. Puree the celery (by its self & don't be afraid to add too much) into a smooth mix & add it to your tuna along w/S&P. I use tuna packed in H2O and also add fresh chives, squeeze of lemon juice & mayo.Yummmmm!

                                                                                              1. I'm just wondering (and maybe somebody said this): could it be that the sandwich shops make their tuna in quantity in the early am and it blends by the time lunch rolls around whereas most of us make it at lunchtime and immediately serve?

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: rccola

                                                                                                  I rarely serve immediately and when I do it doesn't taste the same.

                                                                                                  I make sandwiches for work ing the morning. You can definitely make several cans at once and keep it in the fridge. We used to do it all the time.

                                                                                                2. Solid white albacore, minced sweet onion, fine dice celery, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, Hellman's mayo, and make it a few hours before serving. NO pickles/relish, and NEVER use Miracle Whip (I am a fan of MW on BLT's and tomato sandwiches, though). Of course, great bread makes any sandwich better.

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                                                                                                  1. re: grampart

                                                                                                    No onions, please! I hate when shops sneak it in there, it really doesn't belong. Just celery. If you like onion, ask for a slice added.

                                                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                                                      That's how I feel about pickle relish. It just doesn't belong. In truth, I don't really need the onion or the celery. The tuna is the star.

                                                                                                      1. re: grampart

                                                                                                        Yes, the tuna is the star for sure. Less is better, in this case.

                                                                                                  2. The other day I was at our local Sprouts market and realized I needed an on-the-go quick lunch, so I picked up a tuna wrap from their deli case. I don't know if the wraps they make to order are different but I was really surprised at how plain and bland this thing was. Basically just white albacore, lettuce and sprouts (of course). I'm not sure they even used mayo, though they must have used something as a binder.

                                                                                                    Very curious, but maybe not all that odd for a market that specializes in natural and organic foods.

                                                                                                    1. I would get tuna packed in water. I would also consider adding a bit of sour pickle relish.

                                                                                                      1. Here's the trick, ok? I know most people won't believe me, but try it for yourself. If you do it right, you will know how shops do it.

                                                                                                        It's not the brand of tuna, it's not because the mayo is thicker. (In most cases, it's way thinner than hellmans.). The tuna is not rinsed, there's no fancy trick involved. It's something that saves money, simple as that. But I must admit i like the tuna better this way.

                                                                                                        K......sandwich shops use tuna in water. They open these cans and pour the ENTIRE contents in a mixing bowl....tuan AND water. Plain dried breadcrumbs are mixed in......just enough to soak in the water.. Now add mayo and seasoning. You now need MORE mayo than before..and the yield from that can is about 1/3 more....lower food cost. However, because of the added crumbs, you put in more mayo, making the tuna much creamier and less fishy. The crumbs soak up the water and after the mayo is mixed in and allowed to sit for a short time....you can't tell the crumbs are in there.

                                                                                                        I know, I know..I thought NO WAY when I was told, but, once you get the amounts right, it's pretty damn good. Not everyone likes it....you see the posts of people who say they like their homemade tuna better. But try it and see.

                                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Uncuoco

                                                                                                          Some places do this, but not all delis, by any means. These are usually the same places that cheap out and don't use Hellmans either. Not saying it's a bad tasting sandwich, but still.

                                                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                                                            You're absolutely right, coll.....I've worked in places that DO NOT do this......and you are right again, they were always high end delis that got big money for their tuna....poached their own tuna, used hellmans, etc . This way of doing tuna was almost exclusively a DINER method.

                                                                                                            1. re: Uncuoco

                                                                                                              Oh that explains it. I do know seafood restaurants that use bread crumbs (usually Panko) in all their seafood salads, especially lobster and crab. Mainly to keep the water content from building up, although stretching the fish portion is a nice secondary result.

                                                                                                          2. re: Uncuoco

                                                                                                            Uncuoco, that's a great tip. I would never have guessed it in a million years. I love it when I read tips like this from Chowhound. Thanks.

                                                                                                            1. re: gfr1111

                                                                                                              While that may be a great tip (I've never tried it)that same tip was posted on this thread by "kennycandy" more than 10 years ago...


                                                                                                              1. re: gfr1111

                                                                                                                You're welcome Gfr......very kind of you

                                                                                                            2. Keep it simple, cheap, quick and easy. First use Bumblebee tuna in water(Not oil, YUCK!). Than add Hellman's REAL mayonnaise(Think subways which is really white so use lots of mayonnaise).

                                                                                                              From there you can add some garlic powder and onion powder or you could use the "real" deal(I use cheap 50c powders from Walmart). Let this sit for at least 30 minutes. I also like to add hard boiled eggs and shredded cheese. Put that on your favorite type of bread and add lettuce if on hand.

                                                                                                              Or you could just add avocados to the tuna, mix them together and let it sit for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
                                                                                                              *you can also add the garlic powder and onion powder if wanted.

                                                                                                              **The trick for me, I got rid of the mustard and now my tuna sandwiches ALWAYS! come out the best for my taste buds.

                                                                                                              ***I also like to substitute the bread sometimes for Ritz crackers.

                                                                                                              ****Sometimes I also add a little bit of parmesan cheese, the powdered stuff with a green label. A little goes a long way.

                                                                                                              1. I'm a believer in commercial mayo being the key (high-fat, high bind from more yolks), along with low water content tuna and extreme flaking...

                                                                                                                I chimed in below about the benefits of Kraft Black Label mayo, but wanted to throw in a note about my new go-to sub tuna (at least here on the east coast): "Chicken of the Sea 'No Drain' Solid Light."

                                                                                                                Yeah, I know what you're thinking, and it is generally a cheap line (I still love Genova and would live on Ventresca if I could afford it), but this stuff rocks for basic deli-style tuna salad... it's light, flakey, nice water content (but not too much) and tastes very clean IMO. Makes a great fresh mix that comes close to approximating some of my favorite deli offerings...

                                                                                                                Somewhat off topic, but a few folks asked about this: MSG/Accent is not bad for you, per se; it's a non-essential amino acid (glutamatic) bound to sodium that was originally derived from kelp (how's that for a green food).

                                                                                                                That being said, it's often used to impart the taste of "savoriness" (umami - think meat, potatoes, mushrooms, anchovies, chicken soup) to sub-standard ingredients... low-grade meats, old vegetables (though, when used correctly, it can also reduce/replace sodium content by up to 40%). I can't think of any reason that it would wind up in a tuna salad, though, assuming it's not two weeks old. With good, fresh ingredients you should never need it...

                                                                                                                If you want to play around with the flavor profile, try some "porcini powder" or something like that (widely available, amazon, etc).

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: bezoris

                                                                                                                  arrg. I had to register because I wanted to give your post a + one. nice post. #trytocookthis :) pic is my sisters fresh tuna and bread roll topped with onion. so good.

                                                                                                                  1. re: tunersub

                                                                                                                    Good looking stuff!

                                                                                                                    I've since tried to move off this to slightly healthier options, lol. Remember the Bill Pullman / Ben Stiller movie "The Zero Effect"? Somewhat of a Nero Wolfe update, where Pullman plays the Wolfeian shut-in detective and Stiller's his assistant...

                                                                                                                    There's a scene early in the film where Stiller is looking for food in the kitchen and every single cabinet is stocked sky high with Genova! I remember thinking at the time, "Fantastic! I could be that guy!" (And, point in fact, I did wind up being a PI for almost ten years shortly thereafter).

                                                                                                                    Re tuna: I've recently started rocking Pan Bagnats. Sweat some sliced onions in vinegar and s/p (no salt if you're using capers). Warm up ciabatta rolls and layer tuna in oil, the onions, shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, olives, sliced radishes, and sliced hard-boiled eggs. Drizzle a vinaigrette or olive oil on top. Layer a few anchovies over everything.

                                                                                                                    Tasty stuff!

                                                                                                                2. You're probably not using enough MSG. LOL

                                                                                                                  1. I see this is an old original post now revived. Presently, I think Bumble Bee tuna is no good as a brand, except perhaps some "premium" line they might offer, which I haven't tried. But also, tuna seems to be now like olive oils: they vary from year to year as regards brands.

                                                                                                                    Cooks Illustrated did some story a few years back where they food-processed about half of the tuna with the mayo and other items and then left another portion more chunky. That seems worth trying.

                                                                                                                    For my part, I think the issue is one of balancing seasoning (salt), fat (mayo and oils), and textural extras like celery and onion and relishes and parsley and the like. You just have to experiment. Draining in a colander is a great idea. Giving it real time to settle and meld is also good.

                                                                                                                    As to brands, I currently prefer Wild Planet (available at Target here), not only because they use line-caught, eco-friendly tuna, but because they pack the tuna only in its own juices (or, in some lines, with oil). It costs a bit more, but in actual yield, it is not much more costly than those mushy water-packed economy brands.

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                                                      I like Cooks Illustrated's tuna.... They added olive oil heated with sugar and onion to the usual suspects (well-drained tuna, mayo, celery, pickle relish, mayo).....

                                                                                                                    2. Tuna in oil is vastly better than water-packed, so you're okay there, I think it's the addition of a lot of salt, maybe MSG, and some proprietary spice blends that restaurants use.
                                                                                                                      Also, this is my thing, a salad that somebody else makes is always infintely better than one I make myself. The surprise factor? I have no idea.

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                                        That's funny because a twenty year running gag with my lunch friends is that whenever a waiter or chef asks us how the food is, my stock answer is "It's pretty good...but not as good as mine".

                                                                                                                        Occasionally, "Almost as good as mine", and three or four times in the past twenty years: "Even better than mine!".

                                                                                                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                                          "a salad that somebody else makes is always infintely better than one I make myself."

                                                                                                                          Absolutely. And for some reason, it applies more to salads (at least for me) than other things. Very odd.

                                                                                                                        2. Looking for a particular brand of tuna salad. Anyone know which one this could be?

                                                                                                                          I used to work in a bagel shop in the late 90s in SoCal and we used to make all sorts of sandwiches. My favorite was the tuna salad. We had a couple of different companies delivering our food but the tuna salad was always the same.

                                                                                                                          It came in a fairly large beige/brown tub, much like the typical country crock butter and it had red writing on it. I can't for the life of me remember the name of it. I have scoured the internet but can't find anything that resembles it. Does anyone know what it could be?


                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                              I would have if it still existed...

                                                                                                                          1. I've given up on canned. I buy fresh fish, small sea bass for $4, steam or poach drizzel with oil and garlic and maybe also ginger and soy. almost same cost as Solid canned and twice as tasty. This meal was about $5.00

                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: NiceNYCer

                                                                                                                              As good as that may be, it's another experience entirely. When I'm looking for a tuna sandwich I want the tuna sandwich.

                                                                                                                              1. re: ferret

                                                                                                                                It's one of those things that are better than the sum etc. Canned tuna has nothing to do with fresh tuna.

                                                                                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                  since I need gas I'll go to Costco-will run in for their tuna. I'm out of canned good stuff@home.
                                                                                                                                  anyone know info on affected tuna from waters of concern regarding Costco tuna? appreciate any info