The Simple Sauce To Give Your Tuna Salad An Umami Boost

Canned tuna is a go-to favorite for a quick snack or meal. It can be eaten on crackers or incorporated into pasta, soups, and salads. Perhaps one of the most well-known tuna creations comes in the form of a mixture that can be eaten on its own or sandwiched between two slices of bread and dolloped onto lettuce cups — tuna salad.

Tuna salad is composed of canned tuna, mayonnaise, seasonings, and maybe a few minced veggies. For such a simple salad, it truly makes a statement regarding flavors and textures. There's the creaminess of the mayo, the crunchiness of veggies like chopped celery or bell peppers, and, of course, flavors from whatever seasonings you have on hand — Food For Net recommends cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder, and fresh herbs. Gwen Ihnat of The Takeout also loves to add capers, avocado, and giardiniera relish for even more creative contrast.

But sometimes, tuna salad needs an umami boost for a complex savory flavor, says Kikkoman. And luckily, we've found just the right "fishy" ingredient to make a tuna salad even better.

Grab some fish sauce

Fish sauce is a staple of Thai, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese recipes and is known for its fishy smell and salty flavors, per The Woks of Life. It's essentially one big bottle of salted, fermented fish extract. The fish is salted, allowing the moisture to seep out, and then pressed. The pressed liquid is the real prize, and as the source explains, it elevates a dish with savory seafood essence.

Tuna salad benefits from the depth of umami flavor that fish sauce can impart. As LifeHacker explains, the fish sauce won't hide or change the identity of tuna salad either (unless you add too much). Instead, the tuna becomes the star of its own show once again. So think of fish sauce as giving tuna the little push it needs in the flavor department.

Serious Eats agrees that fish sauce is an excellent addition to tuna salad, suggesting the flavor blends subtly into the already fishy tuna and makes it a more savory-tasting mixture. Food For Net adds that its depth contrasts nicely with the bright flavors of fresh herbs and tart mayo. But how much fish sauce are we talking about here? Fish sauce is quite potent, and Serious Eats notes that about a half teaspoon works for four 5-ounce cans of tuna. In other words, a very small amount is needed to level up your tuna mixture.