Spices That Will Take Your Tuna Salad Up A Notch

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Tuna salad is a classic lunch staple. Maybe you pulled a tuna salad sandwich on white bread out of your brown paper sack in grade school every day, or maybe you just sat down in the break room to read and chow down on a tuna salad wrap. Either way, tuna salad has always been there, and with these flavor-packed tips, it always will be. 

A cost-effective favorite, tuna salad is made with incredibly basic ingredients: canned tuna, mayonnaise (Julia Child used this specific brand), and some variety of diced vegetables, usually scallions or celery. With the average can of tuna costing less than two dollars, it's no wonder tuna salad ends up on the menu again and again. 

But, the same lunch can get a little boring day after day. Luckily, spices are an easy addition that can totally transform any flavor profile into something new. For a fresh twist on a classic fave, here are some spices that will take your tuna salad up a notch. 

Try some curry powder

Curry powder isn't just for tikka masala and other Indian dishes; it's a great addition to tuna salad too. 

Rather than one single spice, curry powder is actually a blend of several herbs and spices.  Most commonly it includes ground chili pepper, turmeric, cumin, cardamom, and curry leaf, via Chili Pepper Madness. Turmeric, in particular, gives curry powder its bright golden color and is a reliable dietary supplement for arthritis, digestive disorders, respiratory infections, allergies, and liver disease, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. These health benefits combined with the omega-3 fatty acids in tuna (per the Cleveland Clinic) make for a sandwich that will make you live forever — just kidding! Still, the combo will make for a pretty tasty lunch.

Why it works for your tuna salad: All of the spices in this blend have distinct flavor profiles that work in tandem to create that uniquely tangy, spicy curry powder flavor. It's a common tool in the chef's arsenal for spicing up any meat: chefs reach for curry powder in chicken or even mussels. It'll definitely kick that plain mayonnaise base up a notch. Try pairing your curry tuna salad with golden raisins (per Food Network), peanut oil, and fresh coriander to break away from the standard recipe.

Give dill a go

Dill adds a flavor-packed punch to any dish. There's a reason it's the superstar of potato saladdeviled eggs, and, of course, pickles.

The spice comes from a green, fragrant plant in the celery family native to southwest Asia, via MasterClass, but the reach of its culinary influence extends far beyond there. Dill is a favorite spice of cultures around the globe. Greek Boston reports that dill is one of the most common spices used in Mediterranean cooking. Rows of dill pots line the aisles of Swedish supermarkets and farmer's markets year-round, according to Swedish Food

Why it works for your tuna salad: Britannica describes dill's unique flavor profile as warm, slightly sharp, and sweet. The leaves, small stems, and flowers are used fresh or dried for flavoring a variety of dishes. Dill will add an earthy, herbaceous element to your tuna salad, with the perhaps-surprising addition of its classic snappy taste. Swedish Food suggests pairing the herb with fish. Dill tuna salad promises a trip around the palette. 

Grab the lemon pepper

Perhaps it isn't the first spice you reach for, or even a spice you reach for very often, but, perhaps lemon pepper should be. 

Lemon pepper is a combination of coarse salt, fresh ground pepper, and lemon zest, via Simply Scratch. To make your own lemon pepper at home, you can combine these ingredients in a mortar and pestle.

Why it works for your tuna salad: Lemon pepper tuna is a flavor combo backed by science. According to Seafood Nutrition Partnership, lemon and fish go so well together because the natural saltiness in fish is balanced by the fruit's acidity. That's why citrus fruits, it says, are so often used in cooking to "brighten" flavors and counter any briny fishiness that might be lingering.

If the tuna's saltiness and the lemon's acidity balance each other, then the pepper is an added flavor bonus. Household-name tuna brand StarKist even sells pre-seasoned Lemon Pepper Tuna packets. It's a tried-and-true flavor combination.