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~ Creamy, Chunky & Crunchy "Classic" Tuna Salad ~

IMG_4704While English settlers brought salads dressed with a creamy egg mixture to Colonial America, it doesn't take a food historian to figure out that tuna salad was not one of them as manufacturing canned tuna didn't occur until 1903.  I enjoy reading history about life in the colonies, so it is fun for me to imagine Betsy Ross serving her family a typical-of-the-time composed (layered), creamy-coated dinner salad made with readily available ingredients such as:  eggs, chicken, ham, lobster, potatoes and/or turkey.  Moreover, knowing the French were creating versions of mayonnaise during the early 1750's, followed by the invention of the sandwich in 1762 (by the English nobleman and Fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu), I smile at the possibility of Paul Revere's wife packing an egg or chicken salad sandwich in his saddlebag for his famous ride in 1775... or maybe even an early version of the lobster roll!

Is there such a thing as "classic" or "traditional" tuna salad?

IMG_4665In my opinion, not in terms of a formal recipe.  When I use the words classic or traditional in the context of tuna salad, I think of the special way my mother made it for me or your grandmother served it to you.  After all, tuna salad really only requires three or four things:  tuna, mayonnaise, celery and/or onion!  

Eggs, pickles, herbs and seasonings eventually got added to it depending on where one was raised and the availability of ingredients.  The most important ingredient is obviously tuna, so (also in my opinion), in terms of using the words "classic" or "traditional", I'm referring to canned-tuna and I think you are too!

IMG_4717I particularly enjoy tuna salad on a sunny, hot, Summer day.  Since it is exactly that here in Happy Valley today, I deem this a tuna salad kind of day. I'm going to make my all-time favorite recipe, but, I will tell you, when I go out to lunch, tuna salad or a tuna salad sandwich is one of my favorite things to order and I'm not snobby about it.  I'm very accepting of creative, refreshing, unique flavor combinations.  That being said, I'm critical and judgmental if my tuna salad is not: chilled, creamy, chunky and crunchy.  I am totally unforgiving if it is:  mushy, watery and/or bland!  

IMG_4783If I'm ordering a sandwich, my favorite breads for tuna salad are untoasted, medium-sliced, fresh brioche, egg challah, a croissant or a soft semolina roll, as they all seem to melt around each and every delightful bite.  When I want my bread toasted, I choose whole wheat or whole grain bread.  That being said, if I have leftover tuna salad in my refrigerator, I love to snack on it throughout the day on top of one or two crackers!  














2  12 1/2-ounce cans solid white tuna, packed in water, well-drained, your favorite brand (Note:  My favorite brand is pictured above and I prefer my tuna out of the can, not those new-fangled pouches.  My Italian relatives and probably more than a few food critics might disagree with this next statememt, but I also prefer my tuna packed in water... I'll add my own EVOO thank you!) 

2  tablespoons sweet pickle relish, well-drained

4-6  extra-large eggs, hard-cooked, peeled and coarsely chopped

4-6  ounces diced red onion

4-6  ounces diced celery

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

2  tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2-3/4  cup mayonnaise

1/2  teaspoon each:  celery seed, salt and coarsely ground black pepper

PICT0975 ~ Step 1.  Place the tuna in a colander to drain.  Using your fingertips, not a fork, break the large pieces up into chunks.  Add the sweet pickle relish to the colander to drain as well.  While the tuna and relish are draining:

~ Step 2.  Hard cook, drain, peel and chop the eggs as directed and set aside.  Prep the onion and celery as directed and set aside.  

Note:  To learn how to perfectly hard cook eggs (eggs without that unsightly green ring around the yolk that forms as a result of overcooking), read my post ~ A Little Thing Called:  Boiling Eggs ~, found in Category 15.

PICT0983 ~ Step 3.  To prepare the dressing: In a large mixing bowl, vigorously whisk together the Dijon mustard and EVOO, until thick and emulsified.

Add 1/2 cup of the mayonnaise, the celery seed, salt and black pepper. Continue to whisk until a thick, smooth, light-colored dressing has formed. 


PICT0987~ Step 4.  Add the drained tuna, pickle relish, chopped eggs and diced onion and celery.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the mixture until all of the ingredients are evenly coated in the mayonnaise dressing.  If you want your tuna salad a little creamier, fold in 1-2 tablespoons of additional mayonnaise.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.  Serve well-chilled.

IMG_4674Creamy, Chunky & Crunchy "Classic" Tuna Salad:  Recipe yields 5-6 cups or 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  colander; 4-quart saucepan; cutting board; chef's knife; whisk; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap

IMG_4680Cook's Note:  The tuna salad sandwich is often referred to as "the mainstay of everyones childhood" or the "lunch staple of the office generation."  Other variations include a "tuna melt", which is served open-faced on toasted bread with cheese melted over the top, and a "tuna boat" or "tuna sub", which is served on a hot dog or sub/hoagie roll with lettuce and sliced tomato. Children tend to love tuna salad scooped into pita pockets or wrapped in flour tortillas!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 


To each his own Scott -- personally I find the thought of avocado in my tuna salad revolting.

I mash up half an avocado instead of the mayonnaise (I find mayo to be revolting).

Fresh Salmon Recipes! Thanks for the kind words! We do like our fresh fish here at Kitchen Encounters and if you'd ever like to feature one of our recipes on your site, let me know! Hope to hear from you again!

Nomnomnom ... I LOVE tuna salad, really enjoyed your article, thanks :o)

Thank you! I will get started on this, and look out for your answer tomorrow.

PSUinBosston! I've missed you... great to hear from you again! I'll formally answer your question on Culinary Q&A (tomorrow as I'm getting company tonight), but in case your reading this now:

Read my recipe for ~ A Chilled Mediterranean-Style Tuna & Orzo Salad ~, which you can find by clicking into Categories 1, 2, or 14. It contains no mayo and just 1 tablespoon of Dijon (which you can omit). Make it substituting chicken for tuna, and, make it with or without the orzo. I think this light oil-based salad is what you are searching for, will solve your problem AND put a smile on your face!

Let me know how it turns out! ~ Mel.

Mel!!!!! I'm sorry I have forgetten to come by, I just saw mention of your crossover return and had to check in. Then I saw this. And I have to ask.

Chicken salad would be a dish I would really enjoy, except I hate mayo and mustard. I have heard rumors of great chicken salads in a light oil base. I have tried to create them (with and without recipes) to no avail. The closest I ever came was with my own modified crab cake recipe (which, of course, has no mayo). It was fine, but tasted to similar and made me sad there was no crab.

Please tell me you have the solution to my problems!?!

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