Veggie Tuna Salad is a classic New York bagel store and deli traditional recipe. The creamy salad is loaded with crispy and chopped vegetables. This veggie tuna can be enjoyed on a bagel, bialy, wrap, or on a bed of greens.
The two best places to have lunch in New York are bagel stores and diners. This veggie tuna is really good, but you don't see it much outside of the Jewish deli and bagel store.
Try my recipe for New York Diner Tuna. I've had many tuna sandwiches and salads in diners too.
Now that I don't eat bread, I'm best with a salad. At a bagel store, I might order a half pound of tuna salad and eat it from the container. I always make sure they don't throw bread crumbs in to bulk it up. You can't see them or taste them, but some shops still put breadcrumbs in without telling anyone.
I live in the Florida Keys now and there are no diners and there is a bagel store 20 miles away that I haven't visited.
I consider myself an expert tuna salad chef. There are no chopped eggs, no jalapenos, no cilantro, hot sauce, or anything Mexican in tuna salad. It is a smooth and creamy dish with very high standards.
First and foremost, you have to use the right tuna.
What Is The Best Tuna for Tuna Salad?
The best canned tuna is solid albacore white tuna. The can should say white, not light. It should also say solid, not chunk. Chunk Light is dark and very fishy tasting.
I like Wild Planet Wild Albacore tuna fish.
For the popular supermarket brands, I used to buy Bumble Bee, but lately, Chicken of The Sea White Albacore Tuna packed in water tastes much better.
What You Need For Tuna Veggie Salad
This is exactly what goes in tuna salad:
- Good quality Albacore Tuna
- Hellmann's Mayonnaise (you can sub avocado mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, or sour cream to make it healthier)
- Diced celery
- Carrot, shredded on a box grater
- Diced red bell pepper
- Diced red onion (you can sub scallions or a grated yellow onion)
- Dill (optional). If I have fresh dill in the fridge, I add it.
How to Make Tuna Vegetable Salad
- Tuna: Try to squeeze as much water out of the can as you can so the mayonnaise binds to the tuna. In a large bowl, mash the tuna with the back of a fork until it's in small pieces. Never grind in a food processor; it will get mushy.
- Veggies: Chop into small pieces.
- Mayo: Mix in about a quarter cup for two cans of tuna so the tuna sticks together.
- Salt: You might need a little salt, depending on the tuna and the mayo.
Extra Tuna Salad Add-Ins
Some people (mostly in the South) like to add these flavors to their tuna salad:
- Garlic powder
- Dijon Mustard
- Lemon juice
- Hard-boiled eggs
You can serve your tuna salad any way you please: a bed of lettuce with tomato, cucumber, scallions, and onion slices is my favorite.
Try these too:
- Veggie tuna on a bagel or bialy.
- Stuff the tuna in an avocado half.
- Lettuce wrap (lettuce or a tortilla wrap)
- Tuna melt
What's a Bialy?
For my friends in Key Largo: Have you ever had a bialy? They're in the freezer at Publix and they're very good.
The traditional Polish bread comes from Bell's Brooklyn Bagels and Bialies in Oceanside, New York, a few miles from where I grew up.
A cross between an English muffin and a bagel, a bialy is a little smaller than a bagel and toasted like an English muffin.
The bottom half of every bialy has a bunch of sweet chopped onions, about the size of a quarter right in the middle, which gives the bialy a distinct flavor.
Bell's Bialys are available at Publix, in the freezer section. If you eat gluten, you'll really enjoy them!
How To Store Tuna Salad
Store tuna salad in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Veggie tuna salad is an easy lunch or light dinner. You can enjoy the creamy salad as a sandwich, wrap, or as a topping for a big tossed salad.
Make sure you get high-quality tuna that is Albacore or solid white. Dark tuna, labeled "chunk light" is for cats, not humans.
For a quick lunch, you can always rely on canned tuna with mayo and celery, carrots, and onion.
To make your tuna healthier, use plain Greek yogurt, sour cream, or mashed avocado in place of mayonnaise.
You can get a box of bialies in the freezer section at Publix in Florida for a taste of New York City.
Bagels, sour pickles, cole slaw, and a good cup of coffee are great with tuna salad.
Veggie tuna is white albacore canned tuna that is chopped and mixed with mayonnaise and crunchy vegetables such as diced carrots, celery, red onions, and bell pepper.
You can put anything you want in tuna salad. However, sriracha, lemon juice, and soy sauce are not traditional condiments that you would find in a New York deli.
Veggie Tuna Salad
- 2 (5 oz.) cans white albacore tuna packed in water (or one double can)
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons diced red bell pepper ½ pepper
- 3 tablespoons diced celery 1 stalk
- 3 tablespoons red onion or scallions ½ small onion or 2 scallions
- 2-3 tablespoons shredded carrots 1 carrot (shredded on a box grater)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
- sea salt to taste (if needed)
- Open the cans of tuna and drain them into a colander, pushing out all the water.
- Chop all of the veggies into small pieces.
- Mix the veggies and the tuna. Add enough mayonnaise so the tuna salad sticks together, but not too much so it tastes like a bowl of mayo.
- Serve on a bed of lettuce with tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Or, pile on a warm bagel or toasted bialy 😊