Tuna. It’s one of those things most people either love or hate.
For most of my life, I landed solidly in the “meh” camp. It was smelly, bland, and uninteresting, but edible. All I knew to do with it was mix it with Miracle Whip and put it between slices of bread for a really cheap and boring sandwich. Maybe add some pickles if you really wanted to put off your lunch-mates at school or work.
So for most of my life, I simply avoided it.
Which is a shame, because canned tuna is a wonderfully economical and convenient source of protein. Sometimes, when you’re tired of cooking everything from scratch, it can be nice to pull something inexpensive out of the pantry that’s pretty much ready-made, right? I use it in my 15-minute salmon patties as well. Tuna to the rescue!
And if it’s nutritious, too? Bonus! In addition to protein (and all the essential amino acids), tuna contains a healthy dose of iron, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, and vitamin B12. Not bad for something so easy and cheap! (It also contains trace amounts of mercury, though, so you don’t want to overdo it — no more than once or twice a week.) If you are going to use oil-packed tuna, try to find a brand that uses olive oil instead of soybean oil. There are lots of options to pick from, so go with your personal preference that fits your budget.
Tuna Salad with Apples and Pecans
I recently came across a recipe for tuna Waldorf salad, and my whole outlook on this fish-in-a-can thing has changed. Turns out, with a couple of fresh herbs, some sweetness from crunchy apples, and some chopped nuts for textural intrigue, tuna can be quite delightful! It’s a fun twist on the traditional tuna salad.
If you’ve been in the chicken salad only camp, you might just change your mind…
This tuna salad with apples is the opposite of boring. I can easily polish off this entire recipe in one sitting if I’m not careful (though it is intended for two). If you need quick lunches for the week you can make a big batch to have a great protein option on hand.
Perfect for a Healthy Lunch on a Busy Day
The best thing about this easy recipe is that if you have all the ingredients on hand, you can put it together in about five minutes. A tasty, refreshing, protein-packed lunch whipped up in the span of time it takes to microwave a TV dinner? Yes, please!
Looking for more ways to eat healthy on a busy day? Check out Quick Healthy Meals Ultimate Guide (101 Tips, Recipes, and Strategies)
How to make Tuna Salad
It’s so simple that you could practically do it in your sleep. That’s what makes it such a great last minute option for lunch! Here is how you make it.
- Chop your apples, nuts, green onions, and parsley into small pieces. Add then to a medium-sized bowl, or large bowl one if you are making a double batch.
- Drain the tuna. Combine tuna in the bowl using a fork to flake and break up the large pieces as you mix.
- Add the mayo, mustard, sea salt, and black pepper. Gently stir to mix.
- The total time should only take about 5 minutes. Eat it out of the bowl or serve it one of the ways suggested below.
Tuna Salad with Apples: Expert Tips & Tricks
What to put in tuna salad?
I prefer to keep things simple, so I stick with apples, nuts, parsley, and green onions. It’s my favorite way to make it. There are so many options, so don’t let that limit you! This simple recipe is the perfect template for whatever you want to mix in.
Do you like sweet apples or tangy apples? If you like sweet apples you might want to with Fuji apples for a little sweetness without added sugar. For a more tart flavor, Granny Smiths are a great option. Both are crisp apples which add great texture contrast to the soft tuna fish.
Great add-ins with lots of crunch are a must. Here are a few options. You can try it one way the first time and another way the next time you make it. Cranberry tuna salad would be a fun flavor to try.
- red onion
- bell peppers
- chopped apple
- crunchy celery
- green onions
- pecans or walnuts
- dried cranberries
Here are some seasonings and herbs for tuna salad that are full of lots of flavor. Any of these ingredients are great additions!
- apple cider vinegar
- sweet pickle relish
- fresh lemon juice
- curry powder
- chopped sour pickles
How should you serve tuna salad?
If you need an easy meal on the go, you could just eat this delicious tuna salad dressing out of a small bowl. Or if you have a few more minutes here are some tasty ways to serve this simple tuna salad for light lunch.
- Mason jar salads (great for taking on the go! Add tuna salad to the jar, followed by greens, then shake to combine before eating.)
- On top of your favorite salad
- Tuna sandwich on whole grain bread (healthy upgrade: make it sourdough)
- Bed of lettuce (butter lettuce would be amazing!)
- Inside half of a red bell pepper
Best things to put on tuna salad sandwiches
With so many options to mix into this tuna salad with apples, you almost don’t need to put anything on the sandwich except for the bread. If you do want to add a bit of something else let these ideas lead your inspiration and add a bit of extra crunch or flavor.
- Slices of apples
- Sliced pickles
- Red onion
You might ask, is tuna salad good for you?
It totally is. If you do adhere to a specific eating style, this is a paleo and Whole30-compliant tuna salad. It is packed with protein, fresh fruit, and healthy fats. Plus you can add any of the vegetables you want! This healthy tuna salad is a great way to sneak more veggies into your day. It’s the perfect healthy lunch. This delicious salad is even better for you when you use homemade mayo.
What can you mix with tuna instead of mayo?
Oh! But I absolutely must mention: DO try making your own mayonnaise — for this recipe, and for all your mayo needs. It is so, so easy. And you can avoid all the gross and troubling ingredients commonly found in conventional mayonnaise. (Here’s my simple and scrumptious recipe. Seriously, if you haven’t tried it, you must. You will never go back. All my friends are now converts. Even the ones who never make stuff from scratch.)
Yet if you are sure you don’t want to use it or maybe you just don’t have time to whip up a batch, Greek yogurt or sour cream could work. I always use my own mayo, so I haven’t tested them. If you try them out please let me know in the comments!
Tuna Salad with Apples – Storage Options
Tuna should never be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours to prevent bacteria from growing. Your best bet is to stick in the fridge as soon as you make it if you are not going to eat it right away. Tuna salad will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Can tuna salad be frozen?
You can, but if you are particular about texture, you may not want to. Mayonnaise separates when frozen. The texture of the apples and herbs will be different as the dish defrosts. If you are going to freeze this tuna salad recipe, chose an air-tight, freezer-proof container. Use within 1 to 2 months.
It can totally be done if you are okay with the texture not being quite the same.
Other quick and easy sides and salad
It’s always a nice to have a collection of great recipes and easy sides to serve with your tuna salad with apples.
- Lentil & Chickpea Flatbread
- Baked sweet potato fries or Homemade French Fries
- Cucumber slices & other raw fruits and veggies
- Apple walnut kale salad (You are already chopping up apples and walnuts so this is a perfect option!)
- Or one of these healthy snacks
Other weekday lunch recipes
Quick meals are a must for a weekday lunch. You can never have too many in your arsenal. Here are some favourites, that aren’t just pasta salads and tuna recipes that are easy wins. (P.S. These time-saving tips for healthy meals are a lifesaver in my house.)
- Instant Pot Hummus with raw veggies
- Instant Pot Shredded BBQ Chicken
- Easy Homemade Burger Patties
- Instant Pot Herb Chicken Lunchmeat
Please: if you’re a fellow tuna-hater, give this recipe a try. It just might change your mind and have a new favorite.
Tuna Salad with Apples & Pecans (Waldorf Tuna)
- 2 cans tuna, drained
- 2 small apples, diced
- 3 green onions, tops only (sliced)
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
- ¼ cup mayo, preferably homemade
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Add the apples, green onions, nuts, and parsley to a medium-sized bowl. Gently stir to mix.
- Add drained tuna, and stir with a fork, flaking the fish and breaking up large clumps as you mix.
- Add mustard and mayo and continue stirring until blended. Taste, and adjust seasoning with sea salt and black pepper.
- Use as a filling for sandwiches or wraps with lettuce, or enjoy the salad on it's own.
Original post & recipe by Kathleen Quiring, published in 2014. Post updated and expanded in 2021 by Beth, Red & Honey.