Growing up, one of my comfort foods was a tuna salad sandwich. You probably know the kind. A can of tuna, heap of mayonnaise and diced dill pickles on white bread. When people think of tuna salad sandwich, that is most likely the image in their head. Some people hate it, but others- like me- love it. When I became an adult, there were times when I’d want a tuna melt, so I’d make that sandwich (except on whole wheat to make it a tad healthier) melted with cheddar in a panini press. Yum! Except, not healthy.
Tuna, by itself, is very healthy. It’s low in fat and high in protein, an excellent source of omega-3’s, vitamin D and selenium. Because I like to add fish to my diet, I wanted to find a way to make healthy options for tuna consumption and create a new comfort food. Since no one in my household but me likes pickles, we never have them around anymore and mayo is not calorie efficient in my weight loss efforts (even when I make my own from scratch). After some searching online I found a healthy Tuscan Tuna Salad recipe from Epicurious that I used as my base. Nowadays, I create my own depending on what I have in the house at the time, and I’ll give you the fundamentals on how to create your own stellar tuna salad.
How to create your own healthy tuna salad
- Start with tuna– this sounds obvious, but not all tuna is the same. Depending on your preferences, this could mean different things. Though I get albacore tuna on occasion, I usually just get a can regular, wild caught tuna in water. (There are debates on whether farm raised vs. wild caught is better, and this Harvard article says it doesn’t really matter, but do your own research if those are concerns for you.)
- Add some diced veggies– depending on which veggies I have in my house, I add about a half cup of different things for some crunch. My favorites: red onion or shallot, celery, bok choy, red bell pepper. You can also add radishes, zucchini, shredded carrot, cabbage or beets (for a little extra sweet) or fennel bulb (which I will elaborate more on below).
- Spice it up– the number one spice I add is FENNEL. When I don’t chop up fennel bulb, I use fennel seeds (or even the fronds when it’s growing in my garden. Fennel has a sweet flavor that doesn’t overpower and balances the salty of the tuna. This is a must for me whatever else I add. Aside from fennel, I like to try different spices depending on my mood. If you’re new to experimenting with spices I’d start with 1/2 a teaspoon and add more from there to taste. I always add lemon juice, parsley (preferably FRESH), sea salt and pepper. Other spices I may include are: paprika, dill, tarragon, thyme, basil and oregano. I also add a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar or 1/4 tsp of siracha sometimes for a little kick.
- Bind it together– Depending on how I’m going to eat it will change how creamy or rough I make it. If I’m putting it on top of lettuce for a salad topping, I usually just use 2 tsp olive oil. If I am making it creamy for a tuna melt, I add to the olive oil either 1-3 Tbs Greek yogurt or avocado. (For the sandwich in the above picture, I used the olive oil and Greek yogurt combo to make the tuna salad, but added guacamole and asagio cheese to the bread before I melted it…SUPER YUMMY!)
Tuna salad doesn’t have to be a taboo food, and I love creating new versions all the time. If you have a particular favorite combo, please list it in the comments below. Healthy food is delicious and can be enjoyed everyday.