Italian Tuna Salad
on Sep 02, 2019, Updated Feb 13, 2024
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This tuna salad is very robustly flavored and briny with olives, capers, and sundried tomatoes. A mayo-free twist on a favorite lunch salad.
I love Italian tuna salad — firm, meaty tuna, bound together with a lick of olive oil, jammed with onions and capers and olives and the like. And while my family loves a basic mayo-based tuna salad, they also went crazy for this no-mayo tuna, an Italian interpretation of one of our favorite lunches. Whether you’re looking to change up your tuna fish game, you ran out of mayo, or you have some “no mayo, please!” people in your house, this is a beautiful recipe to keep on hand.
This tuna salad goes great on top of a simple green salad and makes for some phenomenal sandwiches, especially on a nice piece of sourdough bread with some tomatoes and arugula. It’s light, bright, and full of texture. If you don’t like any of the ingredients or you don’t have them, skip them! You’ll still end up with a terrific mayo-free tuna salad.
Table of Contents
Italian Tuna Salad: Tuna bound together with a lick of olive oil, jammed with onions and capers and olives. You’ll never miss the mayonnaise.Tweet This
- Tuna – Try to find Italian tuna for this recipe. It will usually be packed in oil and needs to be well drained. You’ll want to add a smaller amount of olive oil if you use oil-packed tuna. If you use a combo of light and dark tuna, you’ll still want to reduce the added oil lightly. I happen to love the mix of white and light tuna together.
- Olive oil – Use a really good olive oil if you have one — the higher quality these ingredients are, the better the end result will taste.
- Sun-dried tomatoes – If they come in oil, just drain your tomatoes well. If they come dried, you’ll want to revive them by soaking them in hot water for 10 minutes, then draining.
- Shallots – Give them a rough chop; they will get more finely minced when pulsed in the food processor with the rest of the dressing.
- Spinach – Use baby spinach leaves, which are more tender.
- Green olives – With pimentos or not — your choice!
- Capers – Add lovely brininess.
- Red wine vinegar – This adds some acidity to the mix, which keeps things interesting.
- Pepper – Don’t be shy with the pepper – this is a robustly flavored tuna salad!
How to Make Italian Tuna Salad
- Drain the tuna: Drain the tuna and place it in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
- Make the dressing: In a food processor, pulse the sun-dried tomatoes, shallots, spinach, olives, capers, and pepper until roughly blended. Add the red wine vinegar and olive oil and pulse until combined.
- Mix into tuna: Add the dressing to the tuna and toss until combined. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add more olive oil if it looks dry.
- Serve: Serve a scoop on lettuce or green salad, or make this into sandwiches.
- If you buy your tuna in oil, you’ll still want to drain it and add fresh extra-virgin olive oil — but just start with 1 tablespoon rather than the full amount.
- If you store the tuna salad for a day or more, it might dry out a bit as the tuna absorbs the dressing, so it might need a splash of olive oil to loosen it up. Or, if you want it even tangier, add a splash of vinegar, too.
I like to drain off all of the oil, even if I’m making Italian-style tuna, which has olive oil in it. I prefer the addition of my own olive oil to the oil the tuna is packed in.
This Italian Tuna Salad will keep for 4 days in the fridge.
Italian tuna salads are different from most American versions because they don’t contain mayonnaise. Don’t worry, though: what they lack in creaminess, they certainly make up for in flavor! I also suggest using Italian tuna.
These types of canned tuna share many of the same attributes — they’re both rich in omega-3 fatty acids and packed with protein. Technically, albacore tuna is higher in calories than chunk light tuna and has more mercury; however, the difference between them is ultimately pretty negligible.
What to Serve With Italian Tuna Salad
More Sandwich-Friendly Salad Recipes
- Smoky Chipotle Chicken Salad
- Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps
- Salmon Salad with Jalapeno Scallion Dressing
- The World’s Best Tuna Melt (this is the mayo version of tuna salad)
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Italian Tuna Salad
- 2 5-ounce cans solid white tuna
- 2 5-ounce cans chunk light tuna
- ¼ cup sundried tomatoes (drained if in oil; soaked in hot water for 10 minutes then drained if dried)
- 2 shallots, (roughly chopped)
- 1 cup baby spinach leaves
- ½ cup green olives with pimentos
- 1 tablespoon capers (drained)
- Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or more if desired)
- Drain the tuna and place in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
- In a food processor, pulse the sun-dried tomatoes, shallots, spinach, olives, capers, and pepper until roughly blended. Then add the red wine vinegar and olive oil and pulse until combined. Add the dressing to the tuna and toss until combined. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add more olive oil if it looks dry.
- Serve a scoop on lettuce or green salad, or make this into sandwiches.
- If you buy the tuna in oil, you’ll still want to drain it, and add fresh extra-virgin olive oil, but you’ll want to start with 1 tablespoon. Also, I happen to love the mix of white and light tuna together, but you may have different feelings about what kind of tuna you prefer, and how you like it packed.
- This tuna will keep for 4 days in the fridge. Also, know that if you store the tuna for a day or more it might dry out a bit as the tuna absorbs the dressing, so it might need a splash of olive oil to loosen it up. Or, if you want it tangier, even a splash of vinegar, too.