World’s Best Tuna Fish

5 from 1 vote

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A few pantry ingredients elevate homemade tuna to a new level. This is the kind of tuna you'd hope to get at the best delis, prepared food counters, and diners!

Tuna fish sandwich on yellow plate.

I know this title is anything but modest, but this tuna has been a family and friend favorite for decades. This is the kind of tuna served in the best diners or delis, the kind of tuna that is equally at home piled on a sandwich, a salad, or scooped up with crackers. I have made more batches of this tuna than I could ever count. My guys would eat this until their mercury levels made them glow in the dark.

For an extra few minutes of your time, you can elevate the acceptable but uninspiring combo of tuna and mayonnaise to something significantly more delicious. The relish adds a sweet brininess that puts this tuna in a class by itself, and the Dijon gives it a tiny kick. The chopped onion and celery add a welcome refreshing crunch.

If you’re serving this as a tuna sandwich, think about a simple salad on the side, like Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad, Quinoa Salad, or Escarole Salad.

Woman holding tuna fish sandwich with tomatoes and lettuce.

World’s Best Tuna Fish: A few pantry ingredients elevate homemade tuna to a new level. This is the kind of tuna you’d hope to get at the best delis, prepared foods counters, and diners!

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Best Tuna Fish Ingredients

  • Tuna – I like a half-and-half blend of solid white tuna fish and light tuna. I usually use tuna in water; whichever you choose, make sure to drain it well.
  • Sweet relish – Another delicious option is chopped gherkin or cornichon pickles instead.
  • Dijon mustard – You can use coarse or smooth, or sub in another mustard of your choice. It adds a terrific little kick to the creamy mayo.
  • Mayonnaise – You can use any type of mayo you prefer. I like regular Hellmans.
  • Celery – Just a bit, well chopped, for crunch.
  • Onion – Chop it finely so it blends into the tuna salad.
  • Red wine vinegar – This is optional, but a little splash adds a nice pop of acidity that balances out the creamy richness of the mayo. Lemon juice is another option.
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper – I like to be generous with the pepper.
Tuna fish sandwiches on yellow plates with blue napkins.

Best Tuna for Tuna Fish

I like a combo of light tuna and white tuna, which I think results in the best flavor and texture. Using all solid white tuna results in a salad that can be too dry unless you add an unconscionable amount of mayonnaise. Using all light tuna can be perceived as too fishy, though it’s nicely moist. The 50/50 combo results in a tuna fish that is nicely in the middle. You might find a different balance to your taste.

I usually use tuna in water, though if you prefer tuna in oil, you can definitely use that. You could also use part tuna in water and some tuna in oil if you want a richer result.

There is perfectly fine tuna available in cans, and that’s what I use for everyday tuna fish. But the best tuna usually comes in jars and is imported from Italy. It is often packaged in oil, however, so make sure to drain it very well, and you may want to reduce the amount of mayo in the recipe by a tablespoon or so to prevent it from becoming too mushy or oily. Imported tuna will definitely be more expensive than domestic, which is expected. It’s particularly good in Tuna Salade Nicoise.

How to Make the World’s Best Tuna

  1. Mix the tuna, relish, mayo, mustard, celery, onion, and vinegar (if using) in a medium-sized bowl. Add the salt and pepper and blend well.
Scooping tuna fish onto bread with spoon.

How to Serve Tuna

I love tuna in sandwiches made with toasted bread, but others prefer their bread untoasted. Whole wheat, sourdough, and rye are favorites. We also love it on bagels or toasted English muffins. And, you should definitely check out the World’s Best Tuna Melt, which, as you might expect, is made with this tuna.

This is also great in the form of a wrap, scooped onto a crunchy green salad, or served with crackers. Wheat Thins or Triscuits, in particular, are a perfect date for this tuna.

How to Make Perfect Tuna Sandwiches

This recipe makes enough for 6 average-sized sandwiches (or 4 overstuffed ones!).

  1. Divide the tuna over slices of bread (toasted or not, your choice), using anywhere from 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of tuna per sandwich, depending on how stuffed you want your sandwiches to be.
Spreading tuna fish on break.
  1. You can layer on sliced tomato and lettuce if you like. Top each sandwich with another slice of bread.
Building and cutting a tuna fish sandwich with tomato and lettuce.

FAQs

How do you drain tuna?

If your tuna comes in a can, use a can opener to remove the metal lid (or pull it off if it has a little pulley guy), but leave it in place. Holding the lid against the tuna, flip the can upside down over the sink, and steadily and evenly press the lid against the fish so the water is pressed out of the can. Remove the lid, and scoop out the tuna with a fork.

If your tuna comes in a jar, the best way to drain it is to scoop it out of the jar with a fork and turn the tuna into a strainer (positioned over the sink). Gently press down with the back of a spoon to release the oil or water.

Why is my tuna runny?

You may not have drained the tuna well enough or added too much mayo or oil.

Why is my tuna dry?

If you use all solid white tuna, that tends to be drier than light tuna. Also, the pieces are (as the name suggests) quite large and solid. Break up the tuna very well into little bitty pieces and blend them well with the mayo and other ingredients. And make sure you have enough mayo or dressing to moisten all of the tuna completely.

What can I mix with tuna to make it taste better?

This recipe calls for the additions of sweet relish or chopped pickles, mustard, onions, celery, and salt and pepper. A splash of vinegar is optional, but the acidity helps to balance out the richness of the mayo. Lemon juice is another option. The result is a tuna that you’d be happy to order in a restaurant!

Other good additions to jazz up tuna are fresh herbs or chopped apples, olives, almonds, or walnuts.

Is Miracle Whip or mayo better for tuna salad?

I absolutely prefer mayo to Miracle Whip, but it’s really a matter of preference (and what you grew up with!). I like full-fat regular Helman’s mayo, the favorite of many chefs.

What to Serve With Tuna

Tuna fish sandwich with tomato and lettuce on yellow plate with chips.

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5 from 1 vote

World’s Best Tuna Fish

A few pantry ingredients elevate homemade tuna to a new level. This is the kind of tuna you'd hope to get at the best delis, prepared food counters, and diners!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 6 People
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Ingredients 

  • 2 (6.5-ounce) cans solid white tuna fish (drained)
  • 2 (6.5-ounce) cans light tuna fish
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sweet relish
  • cup mayonnaise
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Instructions 

  • Mix the tuna, relish, mayo, mustard, celery, onion, and vinegar (if using) in a medium-sized bowl. Add the salt and pepper and blend well.
  • Serve.

Video

Notes

This tuna will last in the fridge for up to 4 days. Serve with crackers, in a sandwich, or on a salad.

Nutrition

Calories: 192kcal, Carbohydrates: 1g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 0.03g, Cholesterol: 46mg, Sodium: 359mg, Potassium: 216mg, Fiber: 0.2g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 116IU, Vitamin C: 0.4mg, Calcium: 24mg, Iron: 2mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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