13 Ingredients Chefs Use In Tuna Salad Instead Of Mayo

Tuna salad without mayo? Is it even possible? Why, yes ... yes, it is. While we know that adding mayo to tuna salad is pretty basic in its own right, we also want you to know that there are plenty of other ways you can bind your tuna salad without it. Looking for something decadent yet non-traditional? We've got it. Want something that's different without being too eclectic? We've got that, too. We've consulted several expert chefs (and those who have worked alongside expert chefs) who have graciously shared their insights on what they believe to be some of the best substitutes for mayo in tuna salad around.

Some of the upcoming suggestions are sure to surprise you, but we're confident that you'll find at least one (if not multiple) mayo alternatives that are poised to make your tastebuds sing. Join us as we reveal 13 ingredients chefs use in tuna salad instead of mayo.

1. Avocado

Avocado is a very trendy way to coat tuna salad instead of mayo, and it's quite healthy as well. Daniel Meursing is the CEO of Premier Staff in Hollywood and has been afforded the opportunity to work with many experienced chefs. As he puts it: "Mashed avocado provides a creamy texture and healthy fats, making it a nutritious and tasty substitute for mayo. The mild flavor of avocado won't overpower the taste of the tuna, and it adds a beautiful green hue to the dish."

Apart from being beautiful to look at and packing plenty of good fat, avocados also add a rich buttery taste to tuna salad, according to Jessica Randhawa, head chef over at The Forked Spoon. Still, there's always the chance that your avocado will begin to turn colors, but no worries; as Chef Randhawa recommends, you can simply try making your avocado tuna salad right before eating to prevent browning. Alternatively, you may wish to try adding a bit of citrus, as Chef Nic Vanderbeeken of Apéritif Restaurant suggests. "I mash ripe avocado and mix it with a little lime juice and salt. I think avocado adds a rich, buttery texture and a fresh taste that pairs perfectly with tuna." Whether you plan to eat your avocado tuna salad with or without citrus added, we're certain you'll love this wonderfully nutritious substitute for mayo.

2. Tzatziki

Tzatziki sauce is refreshing to eat on its own, but adding it to tuna salad can really take things up and over the edge. Believe it or not, this very simple and easy-to-make sauce serves as a stellar substitute for tuna salad in place of mayo. Tzatziki is composed of Greek yogurt and cucumbers which gives it a cool flavor that can give your tuna salad a major facelift. The yogurt itself provides its own benefits, but the cucumber adds its own special twist that makes using tzatziki on tuna salad one of a kind. As Premier Staff CEO, Daniel Meursing, puts it, "The cool, crisp texture of the cucumbers adds a pleasant contrast to the soft, flaky tuna."

Not so certain about how to get your hands on tzatziki? As noted earlier on, making it is about as simple as it gets. To do so, simply combine Greek yogurt with diced cucumber and a bit of seasoning. Run it through a blender or food processor before taking this sauce and coating every inch of your tuna salad. Thus, tzatziki proves to be a superstar of a mayo substitute, with little to no effort required.

3. Greek yogurt

Using Greek yogurt in tuna salad is a wonderful swap for mayo, although it will yield a bit of a different flavor and a lighter texture than what you might be used to. "Tangy and protein-packed, Greek yogurt can lighten up your tuna salad while adding a flavorful kick," asserts Daniel Meursing. "The thick consistency of Greek yogurt mimics the creaminess of mayo, making it an ideal substitute."

We also spoke to Lisa Richards, a certified nutrition coach, published author, and creator of the Candida Diet, and she agrees that using Greek yogurt as a substitute for mayo in tuna salad not only tastes great but offers multiple health benefits as well. "Yogurt is typically lower in calories and fat compared to mayonnaise, making it a lighter option for those watching their calorie intake or aiming to reduce fat consumption," says Richards. "[It also] contains beneficial probiotics that support gut health and digestion, potentially enhancing overall immune function."

Lastly, don't forget that adding Greek yogurt to tuna salad doesn't mean you have to endure the somewhat neutral taste of the yogurt only. Feel free to add other seasonings or even a bit of mustard as this will provide an additional kick to your tuna salad, according to Chef Nic Vanderbeeken.

4. Hummus

You may only think of eating hummus when it comes time to consume carrots and crackers, but, according to the experts, this common dip can surprisingly also be used to coat your tuna salad. "Hummus is a versatile and flavorful substitute for mayonnaise," says Chef Jessica Randhawa. "Made from chickpeas, it offers a smooth, creamy texture along with a boost of protein and fiber. Hummus adds a unique, savory taste to tuna salad and can be customized with different flavors like garlic or roasted red pepper."

Speaking of different flavors, one hummus infusion we think would pair excellently with tuna salad is lemon. Lemon hummus can be made at home, using only a few ingredients like chickpeas, lemon zest, tahini, and garlic. Don't have time to make your own hummus? All good. There are plenty of store-bought hummus options out there, making this easy substitute for mayo in tuna salad a practical, nutritious, and viable option, whether you plan to make it from scratch or snag a pre-made brand like Hope Foods.

5. Pesto

Another mean green nutritious substitution, pesto proves itself to be an unexpected, yet totally doable option for tuna salad. "Pesto infuses tuna salad with a vibrant and aromatic herby, nutty flavor," explains Kevin Ashton, experienced chef and culinary advisor at Restaurantji. "Made from pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and basil, it adds a rich, savory note that complements your tuna salad well. Pesto can transform a simple tuna salad into a gourmet dish with minimal effort."

Like with hummus, feel free to experiment with making your own basil pesto sauce recipe, using only a few ingredients. As Chef Ashton mentioned, most pestos are made from basil, nuts, garlic, and cheese, so getting your hands on these ingredients is typically quite simple. With that said, it's usually best to make this coating for your tuna salad in a food processor to get the right consistency. Low on time? As with many options on this list, there are plenty of great store-bought options out there to make your tuna salad creation come alive in as little time as possible. Even lesser-known sundried tomato pesto is an option, which, according to Chef Vanderbeeken, is an equally scrumptious mayo replacement for tuna salad. Yum!

6. Olive oil

Olive oil may not give the same creamy decadence that mayo does, but it still is a stellar option for tuna salad when considered as a replacement. Providing its own flavor and texture, olive oil binds tuna salad in a special way that makes it feel luxuriously decadent, with only a drizzle or two. "Olive oil offers a relatively smooth, rich texture that blends beautifully with tuna, providing a delicious mouthfeel," Chef Kevin Ashton tells us. Not only is olive oil a velvety option as a mayo replacement, but it tends to be a healthier one too. As Daniel Meursing reminds us, olive oil can be a great source of healthy monounsaturated fats. These monounsaturated fats reap benefits like restoring heart health and more, making it a wonderful option for the health conscious.

Need another reason to love using olive oil as a mayo replacement in tuna salad? According to Ashton, high-quality olive oil can add a uniquely peppery savor to tuna making it a subtle yet very enjoyable Mediterranean-inspired coating for your next tuna salad meal.

7. Tahini

If you've never heard of tahini before, allow our experts to fill you in on why it might make an excellent substitute for mayo in your next tuna salad. "Tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, is another great substitute for mayonnaise. It has a rich, nutty flavor and a smooth consistency that adds depth to the tuna salad," explains Jessica Randhawa. "Tahini is also a good source of healthy fats and vitamins, making your meal both delicious and nutritious."

Daniel Meursing asserts that the chefs he often works alongside love using tahini to add a Middle Eastern flair to tuna salad, while Chef Nic Vanderbeeken gives us a few pointers on how exactly to use tahini to achieve the perfect tuna salad base without mayo. "For a more exotic flavor, tahini mixed with lemon juice and a bit of water creates a creamy, nutty dressing," says Vanderbeeken. "I love how the sesame flavor from the tahini complements the tuna and adds an unexpected but delightful taste."

8. Cottage cheese

This one might catch you a little off guard, but cottage cheese added to tuna salad can be a wonderful combination when done correctly. Chef Kevin Ashton fills us in on the details: "Cottage cheese can also be used in place of mayonnaise. Its mild, tangy flavor and creamy texture make your tuna salad more delicious. It is low in fat and protein, making it a healthier option. The small curds add a unique texture that makes your salad more delicious and satisfying."

Not into those small curds Chef Ashton talks about? You can make it smoother if that's the consistency you truly desire. To do so, simply place it in a food processor. Nic Vanderbeeken has a few tips: "For a lighter option, cottage cheese works surprisingly well. I blend it until smooth and mix it with some chopped fresh herbs. It provides a creamy texture and a mild flavor that lets the tuna shine."

9. Roasted red peppers

If you're a red pepper fan, rejoice; adding roasted red peppers to your tuna salad can do it some serious good. Roasted red peppers are a healthy and nutritious way to coat your tuna, and it stands to benefit your tuna salad in more ways than one. "Pureed roasted red peppers bring a smoky, sweet flavor to the mix, elevating your tuna salad to new heights. The vibrant red color of the peppers also adds visual appeal to the dish," says Daniel Meursing.

To do it, you'll want to roast your red peppers in the oven at a very high heat; typically around 410 F is the way to go. Rotate the peppers as they cook through, and eventually, they'll start to deflate. After around 40 minutes, you'll want to allow the peppers to cool. From there, peel the peppers, reserve a bit of the liquid, place the flesh and liquid in the blender (along with olive oil and salt), and puree until smooth. Place red pepper sauce over the tuna salad for a healthy and brilliantly colorful replacement for mayo.

10. Kimchi

You're probably looking at us a little strange here, and trust us, we get it. Who eats kimchi in tuna salad, right? Apparently, this is one ingredient that is unsuspecting, yes, but also darn delicious. Daniel Meursing fills us in on the details, stating that kimchi is a spicy and scrumptious way to flavor your tuna salad. To use it, finely chop your kimchi before mixing it in with your normal tuna salad ingredients. "The tangy, fermented flavor of kimchi adds a unique depth to the dish, while the probiotics support gut health, " Meursing attests.

So, what is kimchi, really? It's a rather strong-scented cuisine, but still delicious, nonetheless. To put it simply, kimchi can be thought of as fermented and salted cabbage. There are sometimes other veggies that can be fermented for kimchi, such as radishes, but cabbage tends to be the most common. You can even make this tasty Korean food at home, although homemade kimchi may be trickier to pull off without the right ingredients. But don't worry; store-bought is always an option if you don't feel like enduring the "do-it-yourself" hassle.

11. Mashed white beans

If you've wanted to incorporate a bit more fiber in your diet, this is the way to do it; albeit a little unconventional. Daniel Meursing has come across some pretty creative options when it comes to playing up tuna salad, and mashed white beans, though not the norm, may just be the fiber-rich substitute you didn't know you needed in your next tuna salad.

"Creamy mashed white beans can replace mayo while adding fiber and plant-based protein to your meal. The neutral flavor of white beans allows the taste of the tuna to shine through," Meursing explains. Of course, when using mashed white beans, you'll want to make them into a smooth puree to ensure that you aren't getting a bunch of tiny bean pieces in your tuna salad. To get your beans into a smooth paste, try cooking them down and running them through a food processor or blender, along with a bit of broth for the best flavor.

12. Salsa

Now, this one may sound a little odd, and we'll admit, it might not be for everyone. According to Daniel Meursing, however, adding a bit of salsa to your tuna salad as a replacement for mayo puts a fun twist on the traditional by adding surprising texture and flavor to an already delicious entree. "Mix in your favorite salsa for a zesty, low-calorie option that packs a flavorful punch," suggests Meursing. "The acidity and slight sweetness of salsa brightens up the tuna salad, while the chunks of tomatoes and onions add texture."

Though our expert didn't suggest this directly, we're thinking homemade salsa may work best here. Because homemade salsa tends to have deeper, richer, and more complex flavors, they'll shine through nicely against the somewhat mild backdrop of tender flaky tuna. Loathing the thought of making your own salsa? Don't. If you have a blender, making homemade salsa can be a cinch if you have the right ingredients. For an easy salsa recipe, simply broil tomato, onion, and garlic in the oven along with a few herbs and seasonings. Dried chilis and sugar are also a must for helping elevate the flavor. Give it a whirl in the blender, and you've got the perfect salsa for ladling over your next tuna salad. You're welcome!

13. Mustard

Adding a bit of mustard to your tuna salad to replace mayo could sound a bit overwhelming, but when done right, it could be just the component you're looking for elevating your next tuna salad dish. "Mustard adds a sharp, tangy flavor that cuts through the richness of your tuna, creating a balanced and flavorful salad," states Kevin Ashton. "It also adds a slight heat, enhancing the overall taste of your tuna salad without overwhelming it."

Experimenting with different mustard types is really key here, especially if you don't like the pungent flavor of yellow mustard. Dijon might serve as a flavorful change, using just a dollop or two to start so as not to overpower your tuna salad. Feel free to combine your mustard with other mayo alternatives as you see fit, as this will help mellow out the tang a bit. Play around with it as much or as little as you like to achieve that perfect balance of pungency and flavor the next time you make tuna salad.