The Unexpected Ingredient J. Kenji Lopez-Alt Adds To Tuna Salad Sandwiches

There are few sandwiches more nostalgic than the simple tuna salad. Flakes of canned tuna folded into rich mayonnaise with crisp slices of celery and tart relish between a few slices of bread. Or, with the inclusion of a slice of cheese and a burst of heat from a broiler, a lovely tuna melt. With such simple and cheap ingredients, a tuna salad sandwich is something plenty of people have tried during their childhood.

Efficiency is really at the core of what makes a tuna salad sandwich – the earliest iterations of the food would have come about in the 19th century when scraps of leftover meat – be it chicken or fish – would have been mixed together and eaten for lunch the next day, per Smithsonian Magazine. One of the hallmarks of the tuna salad sandwich is that it's infinitely adaptable given the simplicity of the ingredients and how easily they hold flavors, with many people's favorite tuna salad being the variant their parents made for them growing up (via Taste). With so many variations, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt has uncovered one surprising version of the sandwich that might revolutionize how you view the staple.

The crunchy secret to a tuna salad

In an article for The New York Times, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt outlines the secret ingredient to elevating the humble tuna salad sandwich: a handful of potato chips. Throughout the article, Lopez-Alt ponders on the origins of the combination with a series of anecdotes that suggest this crunchy variant of the sandwich probably started around the 1960s, but it still has a strong following to this day.

Lopez-Alt also outlines how to go about constructing the best version of this sandwich, determining that mixing crushed chips into the salad just before putting it on the bread and following it with another handful of chips gives the best structure and crunch. Of course, potato chips don't need to be the only unique ingredient you add if you want to spice up a simple tuna salad. Barefeet in the Kitchen suggests incorporating jalapenos for an added kick. And if you're wary of the inclusion of mayonnaise, Greek yogurt makes a great substitute for a lighter tuna salad sandwich.