Rachael Ray's Favorite Tuna Salad Skips The Mayo

Rachael Ray's endearing TV personality has inspired trust and enthusiasm from countless fans and novice cooks looking for speedy yet delicious weeknight dinners. She draws from her Italian and Cajun heritages for recipe inspiration. A case in point is her favorite tuna salad recipe. In an interview with Eating Well, Ray shares her views on traditional mayo-based tuna salad and makes a convincing argument for why you should skip the mayo.

Ray states that she "never make[s] a classic recipe" because mayonnaise obscures the umami-rich flavor of canned tuna. Instead, she opts to "only dress tuna with lemon juice and olive oil so you can taste the product." Whereas a creamy, buttery mayonnaise will mask the fishiness of tuna, Ray believes that olive oil and lemon juice are complementary flavors that showcase tuna's distinct flavor.

Since Ray coined the now dictionary-certified term "EVOO," it's no wonder that she demands copious amounts of olive oil be added to canned tuna. Whether it's the water-packed tuna used in traditional tuna salad or richer oil-packed tuna, Ray says that not only do you need to add more olive oil to tuna, but you also "need to dress the salad [or tomato] underneath it ... and add more olive oil to enhance that flavor." This indicates that a tuna salad can quite literally be a can of tuna spread over salad ingredients instead of a cohesive traditional dump-it tuna salad.

Ideas for olive oil and tuna salad

Rachael Ray's tuna salad recommendation may sound radically different from the traditional blend of mayo, pickles, eggs, and celery. However, it's a common Mediterranean technique. Mediterranean tuna salad recipes use olive oil and lemon juice to dress a blend of canned tuna, olives, red onions, parsley, capers, cucumbers, and pickled cherry peppers. Others keep it simple, tossing tuna, fresh basil, chopped celery, and scallions in lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. You could use a simple recipe to top avocado toast or in an Italianized tuna melt panini with roasted red peppers and capers.

Ray considers the ingredient duo a starting off point for a vast array of salad combinations. For instance, Ray likes to spoon and spread a can of oil-packed tuna over an olive oil and lemon-dressed salad of escarole, celery, and fennel. She'll also mix oil with tuna to blend into a Tuscan white bean salad with fresh herbs and sun dried tomatoes. Another classic olive oil tuna salad is the sophisticated and colorful tuna nicoise, featuring oil packed tuna over a bed of green beans, potatoes, olives, tomatoes, and hard-boiled eggs.