The Mayo Swap Rachael Ray Reaches For When Making Tuna Salad

When you think of a classic tuna salad, you probably think of a soft, creamy mixture featuring tuna, mayonnaise, and perhaps a couple of crunchy add-ins such as celery or onion for textural contrast. But if you're not a fan of mayo, or if you just want to switch things up, Rachael Ray has a tasty alternative: She dresses her tuna in olive oil and lemon juice instead (per Rachael Ray).

There are many delicious substitutes for mayo in tuna salad, from hummus to ranch dressing. You can even elevate tuna salad sandwiches with just one umami-packed ingredient: fish sauce. Ray's swap, however, is more like a traditional vinaigrette, combining rich extra virgin olive oil with the bright zinginess of freshly squeezed citrus.

Lemon brings unbeatable freshness, sharpness, and balance to a dish that can often otherwise be overly creamy and even a bit bland. And when combined with a full-flavored, fruity olive oil, it both complements and enhances the natural taste of the canned tuna. To get the best results from a dish with so few components, it's worth paying attention to the quality of the ingredients themselves, such as using the best canned tuna brands – as well as to the ideal ratio, so it doesn't become too tart or oily.

Rachael Ray dresses canned tuna with lemon juice and olive oil

Rachael Ray is a fan of using pole-caught, salt-free canned tuna in recipes, making sure it's a sustainable option. For her tuna salad with olive oil and lemon juice, she prefers to use cans of Italian tuna in olive oil, which is perhaps not especially surprising given the overall Mediterranean feel of the dish.

For two 5 ½ ounce cans of tuna, Ray uses the juice of a whole lemon, which adds a lovely tanginess without being overpowering. For the extra virgin olive oil, it very much depends on the variety and intensity of flavor of your particular brand. Try starting with just a drizzle, and you can always add more if needed — but, obviously, you can't remove it once it's there. Even if there is already oil in your canned tuna, it's well worth adding more, and especially a high-quality variety for the taste. Other ingredients can add even more of an Italian flair — think fragrant fresh basil, artichokes, or sweet roasted red peppers.

Ray uses the mayo swap in other tuna-based salads, too. Her tuna pasta salad combines cooked pasta shells with lemon and oil instead of mayo, along with crunchy red onion and celery, Italian seasoning, fresh grassy parsley, and canned cannellini beans to give it an extra boost and make it more substantial. She also sometimes serves the tuna over an olive oil and lemon-dressed salad of escarole, celery, and fennel.

More ways to take tuna salad to the next level

If you love the thought of citrus but think you'd miss the mayo in regular tuna salad, then Rachael Ray has another top tip — use lemon mayo. The chef and TV presenter makes her own by whisking egg yolks with lemon zest and juice, Dijon mustard, and grapeseed oil — and adds an extra squeeze of citrus once she's mixed the condiment with the canned tuna to really elevate the flavor. But you could upgrade store-bought mayo with a little lemon juice to make things even easier.

As for different ways to serve it, try your tuna salad on a baked potato — the delicious topping the U.S. misses out on though it's a very popular lunch option in the UK. Stuff it into creamy avocado halves. Or mix a lemon-and-oil dressed tuna salad with minced shallots, capers, fresh parsley, and a good grinding of black pepper and serve it on toasted baguette slices; the tasty crostini make an elegant appetizer or a crowd-pleasing party snack.

Or for another Mediterranean take on tuna, make a simple salade niçoise. Crunchy lettuce, juicy sweet ripe tomatoes, earthy potatoes, and soft-boiled eggs add a variety of contrasting textures as well as rich flavor, with salty olives and perhaps a few crispy capers adding extra punch. Like Ray's tuna salad, it also works perfectly with a lemon juice and olive oil dressing, with a little Dijon mustard for added depth.