Tangy Brine Is The Secret To A Lighter Tuna Salad

You're probably used to making tuna salad with spoonfuls of mayonnaise to create a delicious, creamy texture, whether you spread it on crackers or pile it on a sandwich. Mayonnaise is a mainstay ingredient in classic tuna salad recipes, but if you want a lighter version, swap it for the tangy brine from a jar of olives or pickles instead. The result will be a flavor-packed tuna salad that is lighter in taste, lacks the fat content from mayo, and can be dairy-free, depending on what other ingredients you add.

When you remove the mayonnaise from tuna salad, you're not just missing the creamy, cooling quality; it also provides a tang from lemon juice and vinegar. However, adding olive or pickle brine will give your lighter tuna salad a similar tang. This swap also opens the door to matching flavors with other ingredients you might not see in mayo-based tuna salads. For example, use olive brine to boost a salad that includes diced olives and peppers for a Mediterranean-inspired take on the dish. 

This versatile liquid also helps mix the tuna flakes with the other ingredients so it's well combined. Another perk is that it prevents you from throwing away the often underused brine to eliminate food waste and elevate tuna salad.

Tips for making tuna salad with brine

Before making tuna salad with brine, consider the following to help you achieve the best results. First, you can use your go-to tuna salad recipe and swap the mayo with brine. Start with a spoonful of brine so you don't overdo it, then add more to taste. If you can't fathom tuna salad without mayo, reduce the amount and combine it with the brine. You can also make a vinaigrette with lemon juice and mustard and add brine to mix with the tuna, or replace sweet pickle relish with chopped pickles and a spoonful of pickle brine instead. Use dill pickle brine if you like the flavor, or use the juice from bread and butter pickles if you prefer a subtle sweetness.

We've been discussing using olive and pickle brine in tuna salad because they're common ingredients — and typically are used in variations of the dish already — but that doesn't mean those are your only options. Do you like spicy food? Use the brine from a jar of sliced hot cherry peppers or pickled jalapeños. Some tuna salad recipes include capers, so why not use some caper brine in the mixture, too? Whatever pickled foods you have in the fridge are in brine, so experiment with different options for a tangier, lighter tuna salad to eat atop crispy greens, crunchy crackers, on a wrap, or spread in a sandwich.