According to the Food Timeline Library, when Albert P. Halfhil’s sardine factory began to experience a shortage of sardines in the early 20th century, Halfhil began canning tuna. Restaurants and recipe books soon featured the flaky fish in salads containing mayonnaise, lemon juice and seasonings. Making tuna salad at home can be accomplished quickly with ingredients you may already have.
Open the canned tuna and drain the liquid. Flake the fish into a bowl, breaking up any chunks. If using fresh tuna, sear the steaks on both sides until the flesh turns white, about 5 minutes. Let the fish rest; then it flake into a bowl.
Add enough mayonnaise to cause the fish to just stick together. Alternately, for a lower-fat version, use unflavored yogurt in place of the mayonnaise.
Dice celery and onion and add it to tuna mixture. Stir in lemon juice, pepper and optional ingredients to taste.
Add ingredients such as hard-boiled eggs, olives and walnuts, which can add protein and additional nutrients to salad.
Tuna salad is often used in sandwiches, served atop mixed greens, stuffed into tomatoes or peppers and added to pasta dishes.
The lighter-colored meat from albacore tuna has a milder taste and a more steak-like texture than tuna labeled "chunk light" which contains a blend of different species of tuna, mainly skipjack and yellowfin. Tuna salad made with albacore tuna tastes less fishy and has a more dense texture than salad made with chunk light.
Tuna packed in oil has a considerably higher fat content than tuna packed in water. For those on a low-fat diet, choose water-packed tuna.
Excessive amounts of mercury can be toxic. While tuna contains trace amounts of mercury, most canned commercial varieties are below the 1.0 parts per million (ppm) standard deemed safe by the FDA. Albacore tuna has a slightly higher level of mercury than chunk light.