17 Ways To Elevate Your Tuna Salad Sandwich

Travel back to the lunch table of yesteryear to think about some of your favorite sandwiches as a youngster. Perhaps you regularly snacked on a delicious PB&J, or maybe ham and cheese was your favorite. Amongst the many traditional American sandwiches, you may have enjoyed a tuna fish sandwich now and again. If that's the case, there's also a good chance you may have brought that tuna fish recipe into your adult years. We imagine it consists of canned tuna with mayonnaise and some add-ins. Of course, there's a chance you've been a bit experimental at times with those delicious condiments, but you may still make your tuna fish the same way you once had it as a child.

In any case, it is high time we take the tuna fish sandwich from boring to fabulous, and there are many outstanding ways to accomplish this relatively simple and delicious task. Various additions can make your sandwich shine, from cheese to relish and even veggies. What's more, changing your process can often result in an even tastier result.

Get cheesy

When it comes to making additions to tuna salad, cheese might not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, if you choose to add something a little non-traditional to your sandwich, we think you'll be pleased with the outcome.

Of course, you don't want to choose a too sharp or overpowering cheese. Instead, the best cheeses for your tuna salad will be on the mild side. We recommend mozzarella or even gruyère as a great starting point. You could shred up the cheese and mix it right in with your salad or even shred it to become toasted and melty. Your treatment of the cheese will depend on how you want your sandwich to end up. If you're hoping for a warmed sandwich, slices of cheese would probably be the best choice, but if you're preparing a cold sandwich, then shredding cheese and mixing it in will be preferable.

Opt for a hearty bread

One of the central aspects you'll want to consider when preparing your sandwich is the structure. There needs to be a balance between the bread and the toppings. This is why your bread choice becomes an important consideration. So, when selecting the best type of bread for your tuna salad, we recommend picking a multi-grain bread that is hearty with a fair amount of sturdiness. In addition, it can withstand a fair amount of toppings you may choose to add, including a dense helping of tuna salad.

Plus, if you pick up a loaf that includes oats and even barley, your tuna fish sandwich will have a rustic quality and taste different from one made with light, white, airy bread.

Choose the right mayo

As you gather the ingredients to make your tuna salad, you'll probably pull together several standby favorites, including your go-to mayonnaise. You can even use a variety you grew up with that offers a familiar, maybe even a little sweet tang. While this creates a good tuna salad, we can make it great with a special mayonnaise that will improve your tuna sandwich.

Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise has a rich and creamy taste and feel. This mayonnaise is made from oil, egg yolks, vinegar, sodium chloride, and rice vinegar for a little tang. Whipped all together, you'll end up with a salad that offers a tasty sweetness and tart taste. It's perfect for adding a little something extra to your sandwich. You'll simply substitute this special sauce for the typical amount of mayonnaise you add to your tuna salad, but you can add more to taste if need be.

Use umami flavor

A Japanese word, umami is different from a salty flavor. Rather, it is the name for a savory or even slightly meaty taste. Alongside the basic tastes of sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and bitterness, umami adds an additional dimension. You'll find it in several foods, including meat, fish, mushrooms, and cheese, among other foods.

To capture this flavor, add soy sauce, an umami-rich ingredient, to your tuna salad mixture. Since a dark soy sauce will deliver a bolder flavor, you may wish to opt for a light soy sauce so as not to overwhelm your mixture. Start by adding a tablespoon and a half and then slowly increase it as you taste test. If after you add in that soy sauce you notice a similarity to others that you've tried, it may be because Jimmy John's also adds soy sauce to its tuna salad.

Add some crunch

Adding crunch to your tuna salad mixture adds a dimension of texture and flavor to your sandwich. While celery is a common option for adding crunch, there are other tasty alternatives that you can try, like onion.

For one, you may want to try potato chips. The saltiness and crunch of chips complement your tuna mixture and add texture variation. Similarly, Doritos make a great addition with an extra burst of flavor. We recognize that this might seem like an unconventional choice, but it can be a delicious way to mix up your usual tuna salad recipe.

On the other hand, should you prefer to stick with traditional options, add onions or shallots with a little salt to help soften the texture and bring out their flavor. Other veggies like bell peppers or cucumbers also bring a refreshing crunch.

Upgrade to a tuna melt

Though you may think a tuna sandwich should be served as a cold sandwich, there is another way. To switch up your sandwich, consider a melt. You can make a tuna melt one of two ways, and people often have strong opinions on which way is best. We are speaking, of course, of open-faced or closed sandwiches. A closed tuna melt is easier to eat, but an open one has a more substantial tuna taste. 

To prepare a tuna melt, you'll use the same basic ingredients you would for a cold tuna sandwich, but it will spend a little time in the oven to get toasty and warm, giving the cheese time to melt and the ingredients to all become one.

Eat like a goddess

When it comes to mayo swaps, one of the more vibrant options you make is a dressing swap in your tuna salad. Instead of mayonnaise, switch to the delightfully bright green goddess dressing. This delicious dressing is a mixture of Greek yogurt, herbs, olive oil, juicy lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper. Recipes differ, but if you want a consistent favor each time you make this switch, choosing to purchase a green goddess dressing rather than make your own, would allow for that more consistent flavor each time you use it.

To incorporate it into your tuna salad, swap the dressing in for the same amount as your mayo. Then, add more if so desired. Be advised that this will change your tuna salad to a nice green color, making it an ideal sandwich for St. Patrick's Day.

Ginger makes for a sushi twist

Many additions or swaps you make only slightly alter the flavor of the tuna fish sandwich. Pickled ginger, on the other hand, dramatically alters the mixture with its tart and sweet taste. You can chop up pickled ginger and mix it right in with your tuna, or you could include a little of the ginger brine right into the mix, too. 

The danger here is adding too much to overpower the tuna, so add small amounts at a time. Plus, you don't want the brine to thin out the mixture. This addition gives your tuna salad a delightful sushi twist that is sure to please anyone who enjoys the little ginger shavings served on their sushi platters.

Veggies for your tuna salad

Tuna salad is a fairly simple mixture to prepare. In fact, you could just mix up mayo and tuna, slather it on bread, and call it a day. Of course, you could go the complete other direction. Dress up your tuna salad with some Dijon mustard, cucumber, red onion, carrot, and red pepper.

These fresh additions will certainly spruce up your tuna salad recipe. Be sure you cut up those veggie pieces nice and small to mix in well and make eating your sandwich easy. After preparing your mix-ins, we recommend combining everything together and stirring it well in a big bowl. Then, drain and add in your tuna, folding it right into the veggie and condiment mixture.

Stir in some relish

When it comes to flavoring tuna fish salad, some condiments do more lifting than others. Mayo, for example, is a background flavor and binds all the parts together. Veggies, on the other hand, add some crunch, and relish adds a nice zip.

Like ginger, different varieties of relish can make your tuna fish salad sandwich into something extra special: Sweet relish will compliment the sweetness that comes from your mayo; dill relish will bring out a more herby, fresh taste; a jalapeño relish introduces a little zip to your sandwich. No matter what you choose, you'll get to enjoy a little shift in the flavor profile.

If relish isn't really your favorite condiment for tuna fish, reach for the lemon chutney instead. This preserved lemon flavor compliments your tuna in a way that only a bright citrus like lemon can do.

Replace mayo with avocado

If you're looking to avoid mayo and need to opt for a healthier option (or simply don't like its taste), avocado can be the perfect substitute for a flavorful tuna salad. There are some additions you'll want to make to capture a similar effect of mayo, but don't let that stop you because they're probably already in your pantry or refrigerator.

Of course, you'll want to be sure you use avocado that is a little on the riper side, even a little mushy. Peel and take out the pit of your avocado, and mix in some lemon or vinegar. Without a little bite of lemon or vinegar, your avocado will have too smooth of a flavor. Mayonnaise has only the slightest bit of tang, so smooth won't do. Once your avocado mixture is smooth, use it just like you would regular, jarred mayonnaise.

Brighten your salad with seasonings

Sometimes, the most impactful changes you can make to a recipe are not with primary ingredients but with spices. When it comes to tuna salad, there are plenty of spices you can include that will take your tuna salad up a notch.

Reaching into our spice cabinet, there are three different seasonings that create an entirely different tuna salad. For some tang and even spice, use your curry seasoning. This spice is a blend of turmeric, chili powder, cardamom, and, of course, curry leaf. On the other hand, if light and bright is more your style, dill should be your spice of choice. Dill adds a sweet, slightly tart taste with a herb-forward flavor. Then, of course, there's a nice lemon pepper for that perfect citrus addition. No matter what you choose, be sure to add only a little at a time.

Pack on the protein with chickpeas

Including some extra protein in your tuna sandwich is as easy as adding chickpeas. This protein-rich ingredient can be used as an addition, substitution, or even as a topping. 

For a substitution, you'll use canned chickpeas, mash them up into a paste, and mix it in with tuna in place of mayonnaise. Alternatively, you could make your tuna salad as you normally would but mix in some mashed chickpeas for some extra flavor, smoothness, and protein. If you've perfected your tuna salad recipe and the idea of adding anything into the mix feels too daunting, roast up those chickpeas and top your tuna salad with them for some added crunch. This is another place you could add in some spice or even just salt and pepper to make that tuna salad even more interesting.

Spice things up with jalapeño

If you need your mix ins to do a little more heavy lifting than just adding color and crunch, jalapeño is a great option for a little extra spice. For a spicier tuna fish mixture, chop up those jalapeños in very small bits and mix them all throughout so that there will be jalapeño in every bite. 

Alternatively, you could slice the jalapeños and place them on top of your tuna fish for the occasional zip. The way you incorporate this pepper should depend entirely on your comfort level with spices. If you're uncertain about how substantially it may impact the flavor of your sandwich, we recommend placing the slices placed on top. This way, you can add or remove slices if need be.

Dry out your tuna

It's no secret that you should drain your tuna before including it in your tuna salad. However, for the best tuna fish sandwiches, we recommend going a step further and ensuring that your tuna fish mixture is as free from liquid as it possibly can be. A simple drain of the can is a good place to begin but go further.

After draining out the oil or water from your can, take out a little strainer. Place your tuna in this strainer and press it with a spoon. Removing all of this liquid gives you the ability to flavor the salad mixture exactly the way you'd like. Plus, when the extra liquid is gone, you're left with just tuna, and that tuna flavor will be more pronounced.

Elevate your sandwich with fancy tuna

Selecting your tuna from the grocery store seems like the easiest step to making a tuna fish sandwich. After all, when it comes to tuna brands, it may not seem like there is much of a difference from brand to brand. But, the truth is that these differences are vast.

For a tuna fish sandwich that goes above and beyond, consider purchasing Scout tuna or Ortiz tuna, which are some of our favorites. We are especially impressed with Scout tuna due to the smokiness of the fish with just that perfect combination of sugar and salt. In fact, it's so good, you may be tempted to eat it straight out of the can rather than mix it into your tuna salad sandwich. It doesn't need much more to be absolutely delicious. Ortiz, tuna, on the other hand, offers a delicious taste, and outstanding mouthfeel. We found it to be silky and even soft in texture, and the olive oil packed in is divine.

No matter which brand of tuna you choose, if it is different, then it will certainly take your sandwich in a whole new direction. We must warn you, however, once you go fancy tuna, you'll struggle to go back.

Make it into a bagel

It's true, that a multi grain bread makes for a delicious backdrop for your tunafish sandwich, but it is far from the only delicious bread that can handle tunafish salad.

For a delicious spin on the classic, consider swapping out your bread for a bagel. We don't advise using a flavored one, like blueberry, but this is where an everything bagel could really have its time to shine. Just like you would a typical tunafish sandwich, be sure to include, some addends as well. Tomatoes and cucumbers work really well on a bagel, for example. As you are preparing your bagel, do you be mindful of how large these can become. You most certainly still want to be able to comfortably take a bite, after all.