Southern Tuna Salad Recipe

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You'll love this classic Southern Tuna Salad Recipe made with light tuna and fresh veggies for a quick and easy meal. It's the perfect recipe for lunch, dinner, or afternoon snacks!

scoop of southern tuna salad on a bed of lettuce.
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Why You’ll Love It

  • easy recipe that's ready in minutes!
  • goes great with other cold salads and pasta at picnics and potlucks
  • perfect for a quick lunch or light dinner
  • simple tuna salad recipe that's packed with lean protein and veggies
  • family favorite that makes the best-tasting tuna salad sandwiches!

Recipe Highlights

This southern-style tuna salad is a classic recipe that tastes great on a bed of lettuce or between two slices of bread! If you're in a hurry, it creates one of the best lunches around, and makes a delicious tuna melt sandwich on sourdough bread.

Southern folks like to add hard-boiled eggs, which is what puts the 'southern' into this salad! But, this is the best tuna salad recipe I've ever tasted...with or without eggs.

It makes a great lunch all by itself with a few crackers and slices of sharp cheddar cheese. It's my go-to recipe on a bed of romaine lettuce with sliced tomatoes and diced avocado.

Try it as a salad plate with chicken salad and red skin potato salad. Or, serve it in a lettuce wrap with fire and ice pickles and a side of french fries or potato chips.

tuna salad sandwich on toasted bread.

What Type of Tuna Works Best?

Wild caught light tuna fish or albacore is the best choice. Pick one that has been packed in water instead of oil. I prefer the type in a pouch since it has already been drained. One less step to take!

Equipment

  • large mixing bowl
  • spoons
  • sharp knife
  • cutting board
ingredients needed to make Southern Tuna Salad.

Ingredients

Great news! You can find all of the ingredients for Southern Tuna Salad at your local grocery store, or you might already have them in your fridge and pantry at home.

View the full recipe with quantities in the card below.

  • water packed tuna fish - choose light or albacore
  • dill or sweet pickle relish - your choice of savory or sweet pickles for a flavor boost
  • black pepper - a little goes a long way
  • yellow or dijon mustard - provides a little 'tang' and spice
  • red onion - substitute vidalia or green onion if desired
  • fresh celery - gives this recipe a nice little crunch
  • mayonnaise - most southerners (in my neck of the woods) use Duke's Mayonnaise
  • hard boiled egg - sliced and diced into tiny pieces

Instructions

1 - Open the pouches and use a fork to separate the pieces of fish that stick together. If you're using the canned version, be sure to drain it first.

light tuna being fluffed with a fork.

2 - Dice red onion, boiled egg and celery into small pieces on a cutting board.

boiled egg, celery and onion chopped on a cutting board.

3 - In a large mixing bowl, add celery, onion, pickle relish, chopped egg and tuna.

tuna with other ingredients in a white bowl with spoon.

4 - Stir in mayonnaise and dijon mustard. Mix until creamy and spreadable. Spread tuna salad on two slices of bread, or add a scoop over mixed greens.

southern tuna salad after being mixed together in a large bowl.

Top Tips

  • Keep salad cold at all times, unless making a grilled sandwich or baked casserole.
  • Skip the salt if desired. Most canned tunafish contains plenty of sodium.
  • Go easy on the mayonnaise. Start with a small amount and add more until creamy.

Recipe FAQs

Is tuna salad healthy?

According to StarKist®, a 2.6 ounce pouch of water-packed light tuna contains 17 grams of protein, which is twice the protein of 1 large egg. It also contains more Omega-3 oils than 3 ounces of cod. However, if a high amount of mayonnaise is added, it can add calories and unhealthy fats. Consider substituting greek yogurt or light mayo if you're counting calories.

What ingredients are in canned tuna?

Most canned tunafish contains minimal ingredients and is made with water or oil, and salt. StarKist® makes their light tunafish with skipjack or yellowfin and their white tuna is made with albacore.

What is the best mayonnaise to use for tuna?

It's best to use a high fat mayonnaise to balance out the fishy taste. Duke's, Hellmann's or Blue Plate mayonnaise are southern favorites that go great with this recipe. Miracle Whip is not recommended, but you can use it if you prefer the flavor.

Variations

Upgrade your lunch game by trying some of these typical additions. These ideas will help make a southern tuna salad recipe that's unique to you!

  • pickled red onions
  • fresh dill weed
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • apples and walnuts
  • red bell peppers
  • celery seed
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • chipotle or hot sauce
  • curry powder
  • lemon juice
  • olives or capers
  • dried fruit and nuts
southern tuna salad sandwich on a white plate.

How to Serve Southern Tuna Salad

Looking for some new ways to jazz up your lunch? Try these fun suggestions:

  • Wrap it Up - make your sandwich on-the-go by wrapping it in a tortilla along with fresh veggies, sprouts and cheese.
  • Turn it into a Bowl - add lots of veggies and cooked pasta to a bowl, then top it with tuna for a satisfying entree.
  • Kick it up a Notch - mix in a few jalapeños or red pepper flakes to turn up the heat!
  • Stuff it in a Veggie - create a light lunch or dinner by stuffing tuna into a large ripe tomato, avocado, or hollowed-out cucumber.
  • Lighten it Up - use light mayonnaise or Greek yogurt as a dressing to lighten up the calories and fat content.
  • Skip the Carbs - ditch the bread and make a low-carb snack by using lettuce wraps.
scoop of tuna salad with pickled onions on top.

Storage and Freezing

  • Leftovers - store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
  • Freezing - since this recipe contains mayonnaise, freezing is not recommended because it can curdle when thawed.
  • Temperature - be careful not to leave this recipe out in the heat. Keep it as cold as possible, preferably on ice, especially at picnics and outdoor events.

What Side Dishes Go With Tuna Salad?

A variety of side dishes pair well with Southern Tuna Salad. Try these delicious ideas:

Recipe Card

scoop of southern tuna salad recipe with a fork.

Southern Tuna Salad Recipe

You'll love this classic Southern Tuna Salad Recipe made with light tuna and fresh veggies for a quick and easy meal!
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dish, Salads, Sandwiches
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings4
Calories: 151kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.

Ingredients

  • 2 pouches light tuna packed in water (5 ounces total)
  • ½ small red onion (diced)
  • 1 large hard boiled egg (diced)
  • 2 stalks celery (diced)
  • 4 teaspoons sweet pickle relish (can use dill)
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  • Open the pouches of tuna and use a fork to flake the pieces of fish that stick together. If you're using the canned version, be sure to drain it first.
  • Dice red onion, boiled egg and celery into small pieces on a cutting board.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add onion, chopped egg, celery, pickle relish and tuna.
  • Stir in mayonnaise and dijon mustard. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Mix tuna salad until creamy and spreadable.
  • Spread tuna on two slices of bread, or add a scoop on top of mixed greens.

Notes

  • Add more mayo if you like it extra creamy!
  • Leftovers - store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
  • Freezing - since this recipe contains mayonnaise, freezing is not recommended because it can curdle when thawed.
  • Temperature - be careful not to leave this recipe out in the heat. Keep it as cold as possible, preferably on ice, especially at picnics and outdoor events.
  • View the Google Web Story for Southern Tuna Salad!

Nutrition

Calories: 151kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 262mg | Potassium: 97mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This tuna salad recipe looks amazing! I love that you put dijon mustard in it. What are those pink onions on top in one of the pictures? Do you have a recipe for those?

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