Lifestyle / POSTED 05-Apr-2024

Not Your Grandma’s Tuna Salad

If you’re like most people, the thought of tuna salad reminds you of elementary school lunches or airport sandwiches (you know, the kind that come in the little plastic boxes). A mix of some unidentifiable fish pasted together with mayonnaise and unrecognizable spices, this type of tuna sandwich might work in a pinch, but it’s about as far from gourmet as you can get. Because most boaters and anglers associate tuna salad with blandness and soggy white bread, few think to turn the grilled fish that they cook into fish salad sandwiches. This can be a mistake. With the fish that you catch on your boat, you have the makings of an incredible sandwich that is about as far removed from bland and uninspired as you can get. 

We call this “Not Your Grandma’s Tuna Salad.” It’s simple, easy to prepare and really good. Not only does this recipe taste great, it’s super versatile. If you’re making a bunch of sandwiches for boat lunches it’s a solid option. You can even make a batch of it and eat it with crackers—as an appetizer at a party or snack for the kids. 

What’s more, it works well with many types of fish—tuna, mahi-mahi, wahoo, or any other fish that is firm and good on the grill. It’s a wonderful option for leftover grilled fish-- that said, it tastes good enough that you might start grilling fish just to make tuna salad sandwiches. It’s also a good way to clear out bags of fish that have been in the freezer for a while (not the freezer burned, three-year-old stuff, but the fillets that you’ve been meaning to cook).

This fish salad recipe is so good, in fact, that it can change your perspective. Try it once, you’re likely to try it again. 


• Grilled Fish
• Mayonnaise
• Relish (we prefer dill, others like
sweet relish)

• Diced Onions
• Seasoning—salt and pepper or
Cajun seasoning are great options

How to Make It
A good fish salad starts with a high-quality grilled fish. If you’re cooking fish that you caught, you’re really ahead of the game. You can also substitute store bought
mahi-mahi to get a feel for what this recipe is all about.

You can grill the fish however you normally do. Seasoning the fish with a bit of salt and pepper and coating it with some olive oil is a good place to start. When cooking the fish, allow the grill to heat up before placing the fish on it. This will stop it from sticking. You’ll want to cook the fish over a reasonably hot section of the grill (not so hot that you can’t put your hand near it, but hot enough to sear the fish). The length of time that you’ll cook the fish depends on the temperature of the grill and the thickness of your fillet. 


Grill your fish until it is done (if it were a steak that’s somewhere between medium and medium well). If you’re planning to use tuna for tuna salad, you’ll want to
cook it more than you might normally. You’ll want fish that is cooked through, rather than seared tuna that’s raw inside. This is especially true if you’ll have the fish salad in the fridge for a day or two after making it. 

Once the fish is grilled, allow it to cool completely before incorporating it into salad. Otherwise, you might cause the mayonnaise to melt. If you’re using leftover grilled fish, you can leave the whole fillet in the fridge and make it into salad before you plan to eat it. Once your fish is cool, chop it into chunks. The size of the chunks is a matter of personal preference. If you’re making sandwiches, you might like the pieces to be about a half an inch. 

Place the cubes into a bowl. You can then add your diced onions and relish. The exact ratios are not super important, but you can start with around four parts fish to one part onion. You can add a third as much relish as you do onion. This will be your base—and your grilled fish is the star of the show. 

From there, add mayonnaise. You don’t want to drown your fish in a sea of condiment, so start with just enough to cover the mixture. As with onions and relish, you can always add more mayonnaise, but you can’t take it out. 

Mix the fish, onions, relish and mayonnaise until it’s all incorporated. Next you can season it. Just be sure that the way you season your tuna salad goes well with the seasoning you put on the fish. For instance, if you made Asian-inspired grilled fish and added Cajun seasoning to your fish salad, the flavors might not align…  


Season to taste. You can jazz it up with fresh parsley, freshly squeezed lemon juice and a dash or two of your favorite hot sauce. In fact, you can take this basic recipe a number of directions.  Enjoy… and no offense to Grandma, we’re sure her tuna salad was great, too.

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