10-minute Mediterranean tuna salad without mayo! With crunchy vegetables, fresh herbs, and a zesty Dijon dressing, this unique and healthy tuna salad recipe will be your new go-to!
Healthy tuna salad, the Mediterranean way
Unlike classic tuna salad, this unique tuna salad recipe is completely mayo-free–just like my healthy twist on the classic chicken salad. And, it takes on bold Mediterranean flavors thanks to loads of crunchy veggies, fresh herbs, and a bright Dijon dressing with lime juice and good extra virgin olive oil.
One of the best healthy tuna salad recipes on the site, this Mediterranean tuna salad is oh-so flavorful, and also perfectly light. While I love a composed nicoise salad and other hefty tuna salads with potatoes or rice, this easy tuna salad is likely my favorite. It is much quicker, and I can bulk it up any way I like for a fuss-free meal on the go.
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What kind of tuna to use?
Tuna can be a wonderful, low-cost protein option. It is also nutrient-rich, containing essential vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids.
There are a couple kinds of tuna out there, like white albacore and chunk light. Some are packed in olive oil, while others are packed in water.
I try to use wild-caught Yellowfin or Albacore tuna as much as possible. And if you're concerned about the fat content, your best bet will be tuna packed in water instead of olive oil. I've used both in the past, but I now prefer to use tuna packed in water and then add my own extra virgin olive oil so I can control the flavor and the amount used.
Mercury levels in tuna can be a health concern, which is why my family eats it no more than once every two weeks. (Talk to your healthcare provider if you have concerns about eating canned tuna.)
Ingredients you need for the best tuna salad recipe
This healthy tuna salad comes together with just a few simple fresh ingredients and pantry staples. The key is to use good tuna and load it up with crunch and flavor using fresh ingredients you may already have on hand. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Tuna - You'll need 3 cans of quality tuna (5 ounces each), packed in water or olive oil. I use responsibly caught Yellowfin Albacore tuna (look for the dolphin-safe label).
- Vegetables - Cucumbers, celery, radish, and onions chopped into small bits will add crunch, texture, color, and nutrition.
- Fresh herbs - Chopped parsley and mint for great fresh, cooling flavor.
- Olives, capers, or pickles - Pitted and sliced kalamata olives or a handful of drained capers will add a nice briny and slightly salty flavor to this tuna salad recipe. This is a very Mediterranean thing to do, but if you're not a fan of olives or capers, you can chop up some pickles instead.
For the perfect tuna salad without mayonnaise, I make a zesty Dijon dressing with bold Mediterranean flavors. Here is what you need to make the dressing:
- Dijon mustard - Dijon adds tang to this dressing. And, because Dijon is an emulsifier, it thickens the dressing when mixed rapidly or blended and makes it creamy. So the dressing looks like it has mayo in it, but it doesn’t!
- Lime juice and lime zest - Adds acidity to brighten the dressing, and also to tame the “fishiness” of the tuna. You can use lemon juice and zest instead if you like.
- Extra virgin olive oil - A robust EVOO like our Hojiblanca Spanish olive oil is a good option, with its fruity notes and peppery finish.
- Spices: Sumac and crushed red pepper flakes - Sumac adds color and a tart citrus element to the dressing, which works well with the lime. And while crushed red pepper flakes are optional, I do recommend them. You only need ½ teaspoon, so you will get a very subtle heat.
How to make tuna salad
Once you’ve chopped up your veggies and fresh herbs, it takes very little time to put this Mediterranean tuna salad recipe together.
- Make the no-mayo salad dressing. Whisk together 2 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard, the zest of 1 lime, the juice of 1 ½ limes, ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon sumac, and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (if you like a bit of heat). Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste.
- Put the tuna salad together. Drain the liquid out of the canned tuna (you need 3 5-ounce cans) and add it to a medium bowl. Add the chopped vegetables (celery, cucumber, radish, green onions, and red onion), chopped mint and parsley, and pitted kalamata olives (or capers).
- Dress the salad. Pour the zesty Dijon dressing all over the tuna salad ingredients and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for about half an hour. Before serving, gently mix the salad once more to redistribute the dressing.
There are so many ways to change up a simple tuna salad! Here are some other add-ins you could use for different textures and flavors:
- Chopped pink pickles or cucumber pickles
- Diced or grated carrots
- Chopped fresh fennel
- Chopped bell peppers
- Dried thyme or oregano
- Chopped fresh dill
What goes with it: How to serve tuna salad
What goes well with tuna salad? Well, many things! It tastes so good in a sandwich or wrap, and makes a healthy appetizer or snack next to some fresh vegetables. Here are just a few ideas for serving tuna salad:
- Tuna Sandwich: Probably the most convenient way to serve tuna salad is in a sandwich. You can use any bread you like, but I make it a bit more Mediterranean by scooping it into warmed pita pockets instead.
- Tuna wraps! For a low-carb option, you can ditch the bread and simply serve the chunky tuna salad in lettuce wraps (something a bit similar to my shrimp lettuce wraps).
- Appetizer or snack: One of my favorite ways to serve this easy tuna salad is piling it onto tomatoes for a yummy hand-held snack or app. Try it over some roasted tomatoes or with this heirloom tomato salad. For an even easier shareable snack, surround a bowl of the salad to use as a dip with vegetable spears, pita chips, and your favorite crackers.
Make ahead tips
To work ahead, make the dressing a day or two in advance and keep it in the fridge in a tight-lid mason jar. You can also chop up the vegetables a night ahead and store them in airtight containers in the fridge.
How long does tuna salad last?
This homemade tuna salad will keep for about 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Just give it a good mix before serving leftovers.
More tuna recipes to try
10-Min Mediterranean Tuna Salad (Bold & Healthy)
For the Zesty Dijon Mustard Dressing
- 2 ½ teaspoon good quality Dijon mustard
- Zest of 1 lime
- 1 ½ limes, juice of
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sumac
- Pinch of kosher salt and black pepper
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
For the Tuna Salad
- 3 cans tuna, 5 ounces each (use quality tuna of your choice)
- 2 ½ celery stalks, chopped
- ½ English cucumber, chopped
- 4-5 radishes, stems removed, chopped
- 3 green onions, both white and green parts, chopped
- ½ medium red onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
- 1 bunch parsley, stems removed, chopped (about 1 cup chopped fresh parsley)
- 10-15 fresh mint leaves, stems removed, finely chopped (about ½ cup chopped fresh mint)
- To make the zesty mustard vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard, lime zest, and lime juice. Add the olive oil, sumac, salt and pepper, and crushed pepper flakes (if using), and whisk again until well-blended. Set aside briefly.
- To make the tuna salad, in a large salad bowl, combine the tuna with the chopped vegetables, Kalamata olives, chopped fresh parsley and mint leaves. Mix gently with a wooden spoon.
- Pour the dressing over the tuna salad. Mix again to make sure the tuna salad is evenly coated with the dressing. Cover and refrigerate for half an hour before serving. When ready to serve, toss the salad gently to refresh.
- What tuna to use? I try to use wild-caught Albacore or Yellowfin tuna, when possible. And for a lower-fat option, choose the kinds that are packed in water.
- Make-ahead tips: You can make the dressing a day or two in advance and store it in a Mason jar in the fridge. You can also chop the veggies and refrigerate them in airtight containers.
- How to serve tuna salad: In warm pita sandwiches, in wraps (like these lettuce wraps), or as an appetizer or snack on top of roasted tomatoes.
- Leftovers & Storage: You can refrigerate this tuna salad in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Visit our shop to browse our all-natural and organic spices (like the sumac used in this recipe), olive oils, and much more!
*This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in May 2015 and has been recently updated with new information and media for readers' benefit. Enjoy!