Win at Life: Make a Proper Tuna Salad

Note: I've added 1 teaspoon of minced sweet pepper.

Note: I’ve added 1 teaspoon of minced sweet pepper.

If there was only one important thing I learned throughout college and graduate school, it was to master the basics. If you don’t have a good grasp on the foundations of your chosen field of expertise, you’re going to flounder through every subsequent project—you’ll miss things; you’ll try to needlessly reinvent the wheel; you’ll ask stupid questions, anger your boss and otherwise look incompetent.


Which is why it is so important to know how to make tuna salad.


Think about it: if you don’t know the nut and bolts of what goes into a classic, simple tuna salad and you start adding crazy shit like curry, raisins, siracha or…gulp…Miracle Whip, you’re setting a course for failure. In all of your endeavors.


Don’t be a failure.


After researching the vast array of tuna salad recipes in the ether, I found three to four common ingredients in varying ratios: mayonnaise, celery, onion and black pepper. Seemed legit. Usually the recipes that are the best are those with the simplest ingredient list—and those with “Grandma’s”, “Old-fashioned” and “Southern” in the description. Especially when you’re talking about recipes that include mayo.


Again: note the minced red pepper.

Again: note the minced red pepper.

Though I wasn’t blessed with deep southern roots, my ancestors (read: my immediate Cuban family) do have a love and respect for mayonnaise that rivals that of the most twangy, peach-eating, apron-wearing southern grandmother. Which is important because it is the reason I incorporate one other essential ingredient: yellow mustard.


If devotion to mayonnaise is the measure of trust you give to recipes, then you should be able to fall backwards off a 20-foot building into a net held by cats over a bed of happy porcupines because this is the stuff of dreams.


It may sound god-awful, but adding yellow mustard to tuna salad is actually genius. It’s got just enough tang to cut through that glorious white goop, while not being too over-powering and throwing in the perfect amount of depth to pull everything together. And the slight yellow tinge it gives lightens up the otherwise unappetizing grey you usually get.


My aunt’s tuna salad was more like a dip—you couldn’t really shouldn’t eat it on a sandwich or as the main protein source on a bed of greens. She used mayo and cream cheese…and sour cream. She also used onion powder and yellow mustard. But despite it being mostly dairy products, I’m convinced it was the yellow mustard that made it shine.


I like the addition of fresh onion and celery—it adds crunch and helps break the monotony of mushy tuna. It’s also super healthy*. And tasty. But Mostly tasty. Pepper gives kick and a dash of sour cream cuts the richness of the mayo while still offering up creamy, tangy goodness. *When eaten by itself


1 can Tuna in water (any kind—so long as it’s in water)

1 tablespoon minced Onion

2 tablespoons finely diced Celery (there’s a difference: “minced” is super-finely-diced)

Pepper to taste

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon Yellow mustard

1 tablespoon Mayonnaise


1. Put everything in a bowl and mix. Please remove the tuna from the can first.



2 thoughts on “Win at Life: Make a Proper Tuna Salad

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