Tuna salad is such a classic that if you alter the ingredients, it just doesn’t taste like tuna salad. You can amp of the flavor with curry powder, make it healthier by swapping the mayo for Greek yogurt, or even prepare a deconstructed version of it. But nothing truly compares to the most basic form of tuna salad.
Since tuna, mayonnaise, mustard, and relish are really all you need to make a good tuna salad, the best way to elevate the dish, according to Girls Can Grill, is to simply use higher-quality tuna. Instead of opening up a store-bought can of tuna, opt for fresh albacore tuna steaks, ideally four-ounce filets, from a local fishmonger.
The reason this is a great upgrade is that canned tuna isn’t a reliable source of flavor. As Epicurious explains, the best-tasting canned tuna is the kind that is packed in oil. Even so, it’s often too bland, too fishy, or has a metallic aftertaste. The texture also varies between mushy and dry. It works just fine in tuna salad, but the fresh kind is overall a better way to go.
Per tuna brand Bumblebee, canned tuna is cooked a lot differently than fresh tuna is. It first gets pressure cooked, de-skinned, de-boned, and cleaned, then transferred into cans along with salt, vegetable broth, water or oil, before it’s vacuum sealed and distributed.
Fresh tuna on the other hand, can be prepared any way you see fit for a tuna salad. Girls Can Grill recommends first brining the tuna in oil, pickle juice, salt, pepper, and celery salt to pack in that tuna salad flavor from the beginning. Then grill it for about 12 minutes. Once you cool the tuna, you can break it apart into chunks of any size, and prepare your tuna salad as you normally would.
For tuna that more closely resembles the texture of a classic tuna salad, Food Network‘s method is the way to go. Poach the fish in salted water. After three to four minutes, it should flake apart naturally. Combine it with the rest of your ingredients and you’ll have the most flavorful tuna salad possible.