The Best Type Of Tuna To Use For Salad, According To An Expert

With a growing interest in tinned seafood of all kinds, selecting a can of tuna isn't such a straightforward task anymore. The choices for tuna are vast, including options packed in water or oil, and flavored with everything from lemon pepper to teriyaki. Additionally, tuna is available in packets and jars, and categorized further into chunk and solid forms. This kind of fish overload can be staggering for someone who, for instance, just wants to whip up some tuna salad.

Thankfully, we have experts like Michael Feinberg, the Executive Chef of Around the Clock Diner — an eatery that offers modern spins on diner classics — in East Rutherford, New Jersey, to help guide us. He told Food Republic that his preferred choice for tuna salad is white albacore packed in water.

"Bumblebee and Kirkland brand are solid options," Feinberg explained. "Make sure to squeeze the tuna dry if you're using the water-packed tuna — I find oil-packed tuna can be too strong tasting for some, which is why water-packed tuna is best for tuna salad."

A chef's secret to a great tuna salad

There are dozens of ways to prepare tuna salad, so once you've picked up your water-packed fish and squeezed it dry, you need to decide how you want to flavor it. Michael Feinberg has a suggestion for that as well.

"I use Duke's mayo and mix in some diced white onion and, my secret ingredient, a bit of relish," he told Food Republic. Feinberg then layers the tuna salad on a soft hoagie roll with lettuce, tomato, and sliced white onion for the perfect lunch.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when whipping up their own tuna salad is neglecting to include an acid, so Feinberg's suggestion to add relish is a genius touch. Other options like lemon juice, Dijon mustard, vinegar, or chopped pickle will give your tuna salad a bright freshness.

Drained water-packed tuna is exceptionally dry, and without added fat or some type of creamy ingredient to bind all the other ingredients together, your dish may feel a little lacking. Mayonnaise is the classic choice for tuna salad, but substituting Greek yogurt, mashed avocado, or even sour cream can give the deli classic a great texture.

When to use oil-packed tuna

So, does this news leave all the oil-packed tuna on the shelves collecting dust? Not at all. First, oil-packed tuna is just fine to use in tuna salad for those who prefer a stronger fish flavor. It's also a bit more tender and moist even after being drained, because the fish is packed in fat. But, in general, oil-packed tuna is best for dishes where you really want the flavor of the fish to shine. It's great served plain on crackers, perhaps with a squeeze of lemon juice; you can use tuna in oil in a simple niçoise salad recipe; and serve up a delicious linguine tossed with oil-packed tuna, sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, lemon zest and juice, capers, and parsley.

A good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to oil versus water-packed tuna is this: If you will be adding lots of flavors and ingredients to the tuna itself (like in tuna salad or tuna patties), go with water-packed tuna, because it will allow the other flavors to come through. If you want the rich taste of the fish to be prominent, reach for the oil-packed cans.