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Tuna Salad

I love, love, love tuna salad but unlike many other recipes I can't seem to make a decent homemade tuna salad. I used to go to a local restaurant/caterer that served the best I've ever had. It had fresh dill in it. What am I doing wrong? Theirs was somewhat dry. I use Duke's mayo and it always seems too creamy. Any suggestions?

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  1. You shouldn't be putting more than a spoonful or two of mayo in. You shouldn't even see it, if you like mayo then just put more on the bread. A good amount of black pepper and a little lemon juice are the other essentials. I have to add celery but my husband could live without it. I sometimes add dill too, but that's as far as I go.

    There are many species of tuna, and that makes a difference. Many caterers use tongol or yellowfin rather than albacore, so experiment with that too.

    7 Replies
    1. re: coll

      +1 - gotta have diced celery and I also like to add some minced onion as well. And sometimes I add some defrosted uncooked peas.

      1. re: boyzoma

        This particular tuna salad seemed to have only tuna, dill, and a small of amount of whatever "dressing" they used, very simple but very delicious. I live in the south and Duke's mayo is the #1 choice for mayo - I suspect they used something else. I can't fathom buying Kraft or Hellmanns but maybe that's the difference!

        1. re: kcfields

          I use Best Foods (which is the West Coast version of Hellmanns).

          1. re: kcfields

            I live in the south too, but am from PA. Duke's has a mild sweetness that Hellmann's doesn't, and it also has a thinner consistency. Personally, I prefer Hellmann's for tuna & chicken salad. I also prefer yellowfin (yes, fresh and cooked medium) for my tuna and depending on the texture you like, you could pulse the tuna a couple times in a food processor for a more even texture.

            Celery is also a must for me.

        2. re: coll

          I typically use the canned tuna in spring water which isn't that great to begin with. Occasionally, I get the premium, filet canned tuna. When you say tongol or yellowfin, are you referring to tuna steaks from the meat dept?

          1. re: kcfields

            No you see it in foodservice, it comes in big cans (66.6 oz I think). Sometimes you see it imported in little cans too, in the grocery. I'm just saying try other species or even just other brands. Hard to go wrong with the filets though.

            Around here no one will admit to using anything but Hellmann's, it really is different than any other mayo. Buy a small jar and give it a try, it's the only way you'll find out. Dress the tuna first with the lemon juice, or use the juice to thin the mayo before mixing. There could be some secret ingredient too, but to me, the plainer the better with tuna.

          2. re: coll

            Albacore (from the can) has no flavor - zippo.

          3. Dunno what recipe you are referencing, but try some of these ideas.

            1. Instead of canned tuna, use fresh tuna steaks. Grill until medum, then cut into chunks.

            2. Try using some plain yogurt in place of mayo

            3. Try some wasabi or horseradish

            4. Whole grain mustard, esp. Dijon, adds a nice dimension.

            Good luck.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ipsedixit

              Ditto on the mustard, just a touch.
              Sometimes I'll add a little pickle relish, and celery always.
              Don't overdo the mayo.
              Salt and pepper, and sometimes a pinch of curry powder.

            2. I always add a touch of garlic powder or garlic salt.

              1. Why not just ask the restaurant for the recipe? Most places are more than happy to oblige.

                1 Reply
                1. Are you draining the tuna really well? If it seems too wet, maybe there's too much residual liquid. And trying switching up between oil and water-packed to see if it makes a difference in the final result. I think oil-packed is more flavorful. And I don't like Albacore; it always seems so flavorless, dry, and it's pretty mercury-heavy.

                  1. Onions and a little dill relish or capers, minced into a paste.. Green onions are good but if you use yellow or white, squeeze them dry first or they will weep into the salad if you store it overnight. For some reason, I dislike tuna on the second day, much prefer the same day as made.

                    Here in the Bay Area it is hard to find any tuna packed in oil that isn't imported or costs big bucks for little cans. I have started draining the water, adding a shot of olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper, mushing it around (I like smooth tuna) and letting it sit for an hour or so before mixing in anything else. Also, if it is too thick, I use rice vinegar to thin it out, not lemon juice or more mayo.

                    1. I think its the tuna - I do not like the white albacore for tuna salad it's too dry - the cheaper one works better or a mix. Not too much mayo, salt and black pepper, celery and I love chopped pimento stuffed olives in mine. But I use Duke's too.

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: ChristinaMason

                          I agree on the dry white tuna. I love tuna salad and really prefer the chunk light. It has much better flavor. I recall some magazine's tasting panel (Consumer Reports, America's test kitchen?) reaching that conclusion as well. Here are a couple of comparisons that I found. It's interesting that they both tilted toward the light.



                      1. I love tuna salad also; besides my own, believe it or not, I like the tuna they use in the subs at Subway. In mine, I use chopped celery leaves, onion, pickle relish, cumin, s & p and mayo. I WANT to see the mayo, but I only use a few tablespoons depending on how much I'm making and if I'm using fresh tuna, I poach or grill the tuna to medium well as I can't really stand raw fish. Coarsely chop or shred tuna.

                        If you're tuna is too creamy, cut back on the mayo; add a tablespoon at a time & mix in before adding more.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Cherylptw

                          I like the tuna salad from Subway and also from Publix grocery store. That's the sort of consistency I'm looking for!

                        2. It seems to me that the 5 oz cans, there is a tuna quality problem. I've tried different brands, but this no matter which brand, this is what happens. The tuna is scrappy. When draining the tuna to remove the liquid ( I like packed in water), when I press the lid, a good lot of small scraps of tuna fish pops out from under the lid, and then down into the sink. The 12 oz can have a lighter, larger chunk tuna, easier to drain, and I think makes a better tuna salad. Also mix the tuna well before you add anymore mayo, many times when I get tuna elsewhere its so gloppy it ruins it. Another nice addition that helps the tuna is egg. Grate a hard boil egg into the salad, and again mix it well. The yolk helps to give it a creaminess. I'd add the dill last.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            I agree on the 5 oz cans. Starkist 5 oz packed in water used to be fine, but the quality has really changed in terms of the "scrapiness" that you've identified.

                            As to my recipe, I keep it simple: I use tuna packed in water and drain it very well. Add a small amount of minced yellow onion or green onions, chopped celery, Hellmans mayo, salt & pepper. I use a fork, not spoon, to first flake the tuna and then mix in the other ingredients. DH likes lemon in his tuna salad, so we typically divide the salad at this point, and he adds lemon juice to "his."

                            1. re: chef chicklet

                              You just reminded me, many delis add ground hard eggs or Japanese bread crumbs to their tuna salad to firm it up. I wouldn't, but maybe that's the secret ingredient?