The Tuna Salad Ingredient You Shouldn't Skimp On

Tuna salad is one of those timeless dishes that lends itself well to experimentation and adaptation. It can be turned into an upscale tuna dish using the finest ingredients, or it can stay a simple lunch staple that even the fussiest of eaters will enjoy. Everyone has their own way of making tuna salad, too. Some cooks whip out their own secret ingredient for tuna salad to upgrade an otherwise basic recipe, and there are people who swear by flavorful and zesty tuna add-ins like curry powder or even jalapeno juice. 

Meanwhile, others like to keep their tuna salad relatively straightforward, sticking to classic components like minced carrots and celery, salt and pepper, and mayonnaise. Maybe some fresh dill if the mood strikes. Either style can be delicious in its own right, but a few ground rules remain. Whether you're making an amped-up tuna salad or sticking to the basics, it turns out that there's one key ingredient that's essential to making a quality tuna salad every time.

Use real mayonnaise for the best tuna salad

If you're using mayonnaise to bind your tuna salad together, it's crucial that you use quality mayonnaise, not a fluffy and cheap alternative like Miracle Whip. If you do use a cheap alternative to the real stuff, you'll be missing out on the creamy texture and rich flavor that mayonnaise provides. Not sure how to tell real mayonnaise from the fake stuff? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that real mayonnaise must contain at least 65% vegetable oil, which most of those lower-end alternatives do not.

But what if you don't have any mayonnaise on hand for your next tuna salad adventure? Fear not. It's actually super easy to make mayonnaise at home. All you need are some egg yolks, a little vinegar or lemon juice, vegetable oil, and a couple kitchen basics like a mixing bowl and a whisk. With a little elbow work, you'll be whipping up your own mayonnaise in no time.

When it comes to tuna salad, fresh is best

In addition to focusing on using high-quality mayonnaise, you should also pay attention to the quality of the other ingredients you're adding to your tuna salad. Crisp celery stalks, sweet carrots, and a small portion of finely diced onions can go a long way in taking basic tuna salad to the next level. 

Are celery and carrots not your thing? Next time, try an alternative such as fresh radishes or even some diced pickles for a pop of flavor and a satisfying crunchy texture. 

Plus, even if you're someone who finds mayonnaise disgusting, you can go light on the condiment and focus on highlighting the flavor profile of your tuna salad in other ways. The fun thing about tuna salad is that it's totally variable, and you can can incorporate seasonal vegetables and unique spices into the recipe all year 'round.