Mexican-Inspired Tuna Salad Recipe

What happens when you infuse basic canned tuna with Mexican flavors and add a dash of the delicious whimsy of a chopped salad? You get this visually stunning and palate-pleasing Mexican-inspired tuna salad, courtesy of recipe developer Julie Kinnaird. This quick and easy chopped salad is a winner for weeknight dinners but sophisticated enough for entertaining. 

A good chopped salad should have a full spectrum of flavors and textures: crunchy, sweet, salty, spicy, savory, juicy, creamy, and tangy. This salad has all of that, with rows of crunchy toasted corn and raw pepitas, sweet dried currants and roasted red peppers, spicy jalapeños, juicy tomatoes, jícama, and marinated albacore tuna, all tossed in a creamy jalapeño and cilantro dressing. All of the elements of this salad can be prepared in advance then tossed just before enjoying with tortilla chips on the side. Kinnaird loves this salad because each bite is different and so satisfying while also being fresh and nutritious.

Gather the Mexican-inspired tuna salad ingredients

For this salad, you will need a couple of romaine hearts to chop and form the base. The romaine is topped with bands of fresh garnishes — small teardrop or grape tomatoes, diced jícama, red onion, and jarred roasted red peppers. Dried currants, toasted corn, and raw pepitas add layers of crunch, sweetness, and texture, while diced ripe avocado balances the bowl with creaminess. You will make the dressing from a jalapeño, mayonnaise, sour cream, fresh lime juice, fresh cilantro leaves, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, a little garlic powder, and ground cumin. A bit more diced jalapeño gets mixed with the canned albacore tuna, olive oil, and a tiny bit of salt. Choose your favorite crunchy tortilla chips to pair with the salad.

Step 1: Chop the jalapeño for the dressing

For the dressing, cut the stem off of the jalapeño, remove the seeds, and roughly chop (use gloves to protect your hands).

Step 2: Add all of the dressing ingredients to a blender

Add the chopped jalapeño and the remaining dressing ingredients to a high-speed blender.

Step 3: Process until smooth

Process until smooth.

Step 4: Transfer the dressing to a container

Transfer to a container and chill until the salad is ready.

Step 5: Mince the jalapeño for the salad

For the salad, remove the stem and seeds from the jalapeño as above and mince.

Step 6: Marinate the tuna

Combine the minced jalapeño, tuna, olive oil, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl.

Step 7: Slice the romaine

Clean the romaine, remove the stems, and thinly slice crosswise.

Step 8: Chop the jícama

Cut away the peel from the jícama flesh. Cut the jícama into ¼-inch slices, and then dice enough to measure ½ cup.

Step 9: Chop the onion

Remove the ends and peel from the onion and chop enough to measure ½ cup.

Step 10: Slice and dice the roasted peppers

Slice the roasted peppers into strips, and then dice.

Step 11: Slice the avocado

Halve the avocado, remove the pit, and cut the flesh into a dice while still in the shells.

Step 12: Add a layer of romaine to salad bowls

Divide the chopped romaine between 4 shallow salad bowls.

Step 13: Assemble the salads

Start from one side of each bowl and add vertical bands of tomato, jícama, red onion, diced red pepper, tuna, currants, toasted corn, and pepitas.

Step 14: Finish with the avocado

Finish with a band of avocado, using a spoon to scoop out the diced flesh.

Step 15: Drizzle on the dressing

Drizzle the dressing over the top of each salad.

Step 16: Toss the salads

Toss each salad to combine it with the dressing.

Step 17: Serve the Mexican-inspired tuna salads with the tortilla chips

Serve the Mexican-inspired tuna salads with the tortilla chips on the side.

Mexican-Inspired Tuna Salad Recipe
No Ratings
This spicy, Mexican-inspired tuna salad goes the chopped salad route for a fresh, vibrant, and produce-filled dish that's perfect for entertaining.
Prep Time
45
minutes
Cook Time
0
minutes
Servings
4
servings
Mexican-inspired tuna salad in serving bowls on table with garnishes
Total time: 45 minutes
Ingredients
  • For the dressing
  • 1 medium jalapeño
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • For the salad
  • 1 medium jalapeño
  • 2 (5-ounce) cans albacore tuna, drained
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 hearts romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup small tomatoes (such as teardrop or grape) or chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 1 jícama
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers
  • ½ cup dried currants
  • ½ cup toasted corn
  • ½ cup raw pepitas
  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag tortilla chips
Directions
  1. For the dressing, cut the stem off of the jalapeño, remove the seeds, and roughly chop (use gloves to protect your hands).
  2. Add the chopped jalapeño and the remaining dressing ingredients to a high-speed blender.
  3. Process until smooth.
  4. Transfer to a container and chill until the salad is ready.
  5. For the salad, remove the stem and seeds from the jalapeño as above and mince.
  6. Combine the minced jalapeño, tuna, olive oil, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl.
  7. Clean the romaine, remove the stems, and thinly slice crosswise.
  8. Cut away the peel from the jícama flesh. Cut the jícama into ¼-inch slices, and then dice enough to measure ½ cup.
  9. Remove the ends and peel from the onion and chop enough to measure ½ cup.
  10. Slice the roasted peppers into strips, and then dice.
  11. Halve the avocado, remove the pit, and cut the flesh into a dice while still in the shells.
  12. Divide the chopped romaine between 4 shallow salad bowls.
  13. Start from one side of each bowl and add vertical bands of tomato, jícama, red onion, diced red pepper, tuna, currants, toasted corn, and pepitas.
  14. Finish with a band of avocado, using a spoon to scoop out the diced flesh.
  15. Drizzle the dressing over the top of each salad.
  16. Toss each salad to combine it with the dressing.
  17. Serve the Mexican-inspired tuna salads with the tortilla chips on the side.
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What are pepitas, and how are they used?

Pepitas are the seeds of Styrian pumpkins and are hull-less with a muted green color and delicate skin. They are quite different from the seeds that most people are familiar with from scooping out of holiday pumpkins, which have a tough, white hull that must be roasted before consuming. The Styrian variety is also known as the oil seed pumpkin, and its pepita seeds are valued for making rich pumpkin seed oil, which is popular as a finishing oil in many European countries. 

Pepitas have long been popular in Mexican cuisine and are a quintessential ingredient in moles and other sauces. Pepitas can be eaten raw or roasted, and they add crunch and a sweet, mild flavor to salads, granola, cookies, breads, and soups. They're also delicious on their own as a simple snack. Pepitas should be stored in an air-tight container in a cool spot but may also be frozen to extend their freshness.

What are the best kinds of canned tuna for tuna salad?

When shopping for canned tuna to make salad, it might be appealing to go with the least expensive varieties since the tuna will be mixed up with mayo and other flavorings. The rule of "what you put in is what you get out" is an important one in culinary endeavors — even with tuna salad! Using a high-quality and sustainably harvested brand of tuna will not only taste better in your salad but is better for the planet and seafood populations. 

In this recipe, Kinnaird selected water-packed albacore for its meaty texture and mild flavor. Chunk-light tuna, typically coming from slip-jack or yellowfin tuna, often has a stronger fish flavor and softer texture. Kinnaird always looks for brands that source pole and line-caught tuna, which avoids damaging natural habitats or depleting other sea populations. There are plenty of great artisan brands, as well as bigger brands, putting out higher-quality products. If you go with an oil-packed tuna, check to see if extra-virgin olive oil is being used and omit that when preparing this recipe, if so.