The ULTIMATE Tuna Salad Sandwich | Bella Vita Cucina

My husband and I completely disagree on how to prepare a classic sandwich recipe that both of us enjoy: A Tuna Salad Sandwich! His version is the most minimalized recipe possible: tuna mixed with mayo . . . period. For me, that’s just so B-O-R-I-N-G!

So to keep the peace, when we want a tuna salad sandwich at home, we just make our own separate versions and enjoy a simple (harmonious) lunch!

I grew up in the States learning how to prepare only Italian recipes that either my mother or my Nonna made without a written recipe. So little surprise to you, tuna salad sandwiches were NOT a staple in any of my family’s recipe boxes.

It was only after marrying a non-Italian that I learned to prepare typical American recipes such as strawberry shortcake, potato salad, baked beans, and fried chicken, just to name a few. Oh, we enjoyed tuna in my family all right, but it was simply mixing up canned tuna with some chopped onions and Italian salad dressing! So after graduating from college, I bought the most classic, traditional cookbooks that were (and still are) popular with American cooks. I scoured through wildly popular cookbooks authored by Better Homes and Gardens (1968)“, “The Joy of Cooking {1973} andGood Housekeeping {1988}“. From these, I learned how to create a simple, classic tuna salad sandwich recipe.

The ULTIMATE Tuna Salad Sandwich

The instructions written in my old cookbooks basically stated to:

Add canned and drained tuna with mayonnaise, add chopped onions, chopped celery, chopped green bell peppers, AND loads of sweet pickle relish. Sprinkle with generous amounts of freshly-cracked sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper. . . spoon generous heaps between toasted buttermilk bread (I used challah this time) with lettuce and tomatoes.

Say no more! You now have a feast of simple deliciousness!

This is seriously a “must-have” recipe that you’ll gladly return to again and again. After 50 years since the purchase of my first classic American cookbook, I have to honestly say to you that I have NEVER tired of this superb Tuna Salad Sandwich recipe.

After a few years, along came my children, and I remember preparing endless amounts of this tuna salad for them while they were growing up. Today, this recipe is still a ‘winner’ to them and to me. This tuna salad remains the benchmark, reference point recipe from which I judge all tuna salad recipes. It’s a comfort food that just can’t be beat.

Simple and easy, this Tuna Salad Sandwich is quick to put together for busy peeps like you and me! It’s delicious and satisfying . . . and the price fits well into our budgets so it’s kind to our pocketbooks. On those busy days at work or home (which is ‘work’) and you find yourself pressed for time and in desperate need of a time-saving recipe that’s easy to throw together yet also filling, and delicious, this is the recipe for you!

If you’re a meal planner, nothing can beat the addition of this delightful fresh tuna salad to your rotating meal schedule. As one of the best make-ahead meals, this creamy tuna salad can be made on a Sunday afternoon or evening so you have it in your meal plan for the coming week’s yummy, homemade lunches to pack for school or work.

This light and fresh tuna salad sandwich is packed with deliciousness: lots of healthy protein, creamy mayo, tangy pickle relish, and crispy low-carb celery, green peppers, and onions – – many are staples in your pantry and fridge!


tuna salad
  • Canned Tuna: I use imported Italian tuna and domestic albacore white tuna packed in water; both drained well. Imported tuna is famous for its flavor, and albacore tuna has a lighter taste. You can get tuna in cans, jars, and packets.
  • Mayonnaise: Use your favorite brand. My family enjoys either Duke’s or Miracle Whip, which are entirely different flavors. We also like a lot of mayo, but add what suits your taste.
  • Sweet Pickle Relish: This is what makes this tuna salad stand out from other recipes. Pickle relish as a complimentary sweet, yet tart flavor to the very mild tuna/mayo combo.
  • Onions: add a sweet tangy flavor; use either red or yellow onions.
  • Celery: For a wonderful crunchy texture that compliments the soft, creaminess of the tuna and mayo.
  • Green Pepper: Adds another crispy layer of flavor.
  • Garlic Powder, Salt, and Pepper: Each enhances the flavor of the dish and brings a bolder flavor.
tuna salad


There are SO many ways to prepare and customize your own version of tuna salad. Its versatility is what makes it so popular in my family. Be creative in both additional ingredients and presentation.

Other Ingredients:

  • Green onions
  • Shredded carrots
  • Baby/spring peas
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Crumbled bacon
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Capers
  • Dried cranberries
  • Raisins
  • Nuts
  • Cucumber
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • Dijon mustard
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Italian parsley

Other Ways to Serve and Enjoy Tuna Salad

Beyond serving tuna salad as a classic sandwich, it’s great to serve as:

  • Tuna Salad: simply placed in a mound on top of a bed of fresh mixed lettuce, or scooped into the large, round outer leaves of a head of lettuce and set in a bowl to keep the round shape of the lettuce leaves.
  • Stuffed Tomatoes or Peppers: in large, hollowed-out, juicy tomatoes or colorful bell peppers,
  • Lettuce Wraps: other hand-held options include serving in lettuce wraps,
  • Belgian Endive Leaves: on individual Belgian endive leaves,
  • A dip with a variety of crackers, or
  • In small pita cups,
  • Other hand-helds, including croissants, tortilla wraps, and pita bread. 

If you loved this recipe, you might also enjoy:

Creamy Cucumber Salad

Egg Salad

Simply The BEST Chicken Salad

Greek Salad

BEST Thai Cucumber Salad

St. Louis Pasta House Salad {copycat}

Ruth’s Chris Chopped Salad {copycat}

More Tuna Recipes For You to Enjoy

Tuna and Artichoke Pasta Salad

Italian Tuna and Orzo Salad

Belgian Endive Bites with Salmon and Tuna Salads

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The ULTIMATE Tuna Salad Sandwich | Bella Vita Cucina

The BEST Classic Tuna Salad

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  • Author: Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina


  • 2 cans imported Italian tuna, or solid white albacore tuna, packed in water, drained
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. capers (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried chives, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

For assembly of the sandwiches:

  • hearty bread (white or whole wheat), or challah, brioche, toasted, 2 slices per sandwich
  • curly, green-leafy lettuce
  • sliced tomatoes

Or serve on a bed of lettuce or inside a scooped-out tomato.


  1. In a large mixing bowl, add all of the ingredients and gently mix with a large mixing spoon, silicon spoon, or rubber spoon.
  2. Toast the bread.
  3. Serve in the way you prefer.