My Spicy Avocado Tuna Salad is a healthy, zesty alternative to the diner staple. Loaded with avocado, cilantro & green onions, then dressed in a creamy, garlicky jalapeño lime sauce, it tastes like a close cousin of guacamole. Eat it with chips, load it into a wrap or pile it on bread with some melted cheese; this bad boy can do it all.
Don't get me wrong - I'm all about eating regular tuna salad made with mayo and pickles. It's a classic! But this riff on the traditional recipe was too good not to share. It has all the lean protein of the original, but is considerably lighter, fresher and (dare I say?) even tastier than the stuff I grew up with.
About This Recipe
This recipe was a happy accident that came about when I realized I had used the last of my mayo for making a batch of my Peruvian-style green sauce. Per my previous estimation that said sauce tastes good on basically everything, it was a natural stand in for Hellman's. Turns out, this may be my new favorite tuna salad of all time.
The green sauce that I used as a stand-in for mayonnaise is actually made with mayo, so some of the creamy goodness and tart-salty balance remains. However, the mayo is loosened up considerably with the addition of herbs and peppers (both of which have a significant amount of water), plus the requisite squeeze of fresh lime juice for acidity.
As such, the creamy sauce is a less calorically dense option than straight mayo. Earthy, herbaceous cilantro, spicy jalapeño, tart lime juice and piquant garlic give all the flavors I associate with guacamole and add nutritional heft to the tuna.
As you can imagine, adding avocado to the mix was a no-brainer. Avocado adds healthy fats, plus a nice dose of fiber to the mix while furthering the summery vibes of the tuna salad. Fresh bits of cilantro and green onion add a bit of crunch, acting as excellent stand-ins for the typical onion and pickle mix.
Grocery Tip: If you have an Aldi nearby, keep an eye out for sales on avocado - I often find them for less than $0.70 apiece! Costco is also an excellent place to look; their 6-pack bags of (quite large) avocados are usually under a dollar per fruit.
All in all, this spicy avocado tuna salad takes just 5 minutes to throw together and is just as versatile as the OG version I grew up with. It is excellent eaten with chips or crackers as a snack; loaded into a tortilla or flatbread as a wrap; layered with crunchy lettuce and juicy tomatoes for a sandwich; or loaded on toasted bread and topped with cheese as a tuna melt.
The Best Canned Tuna
Whenever possible, I like to reach for canned tuna that has been packed in oil. While it is slightly pricier than some alternative cans, it usually more than makes up for it in quality, eco-friendliness and versatility.
I prefer to stock up on the Genova brand tuna sold at Costco, though I also really enjoy the Wild Planet brand that is cooked in the can and packed with its own juices. Get whichever is on deeper sale, and if you opt for Wild Planet, DON'T DRAIN THE LIQUID - that's where all the flavor is!
Whatever type of tuna you reach for, I implore you to only buy sustainably caught fish. Look for the MSC (Marine Stewardship Certification) seal or wording like "pole and line caught" or "troll caught" on the label. FAD Free is another good sign, though it is less popular than MSC accreditation.
Alternative Super-Budget & Vegan Option
If your wallet is feeling on the thin side, there is a great alternative to using canned tuna - CHICKPEAS! That's right, y'all. A can of garbanzo beans can stand in for tuna in this yummy sandwich spread.
A can of chickpeas costs just $0.55 at my Aldi, which is a pretty massive savings over the $2+ I'd spend on a can of tuna. With legumes, you also don't have to worry as much about environmental issues - chickpeas are quite sustainable!
To use chickpeas in place of tuna, give them a few quick pulses in the food processor (or mash them up a bit with a potato masher) prior to adding the remaining contents of the salad.
If you'd like the legume version to taste more like tuna, add a few tablespoons of crushed up nori (a few sheets worth of roasted seaweed snacks) and/or 1-1.5 tablespoons of umeboshi (sour plum) vinegar. If you aren't strictly vegan, a few dashes of fish sauce will achieve a similarly umami effect.
NOTE: If possible, check your international market for the vinegar and seaweed - they're generally much cheaper than at other grocery stores or purchasing online.
If you opt to buy canned chickpeas, don't forget about the amazing-ness that is aquafaba (i.e. that liquid in a can of chickpeas). It can be used as a vegan egg substitute in baked goods (like my vegan zucchini blueberry muffins), to make vegan mayo, meringues, and butter, and about a gazillion other ways to boot.
To save even more money, buy dried chickpeas and cook them yourself. If you opt to do this, make a big batch to maximize your time investment. You can either use them throughout the week, or freeze them for up to three months. If you want to use the aquafaba from your own batch of chickpeas, read this guide first.
How To Make
This simple tuna avocado salad is a snap to make, even if you need to make the Peruvian-style green sauce before starting. (Making the sauce is as simple as throwing everything in a blender! It literally takes 5 minutes including prep and cleanup.)
First, prep the tuna. If you are using tuna packed in olive oil or water, drain the excess liquid off. If using Wild Planet tuna, simply flake the tuna with the liquid in the can - that's just the natural juices from the fish itself.
NOTE: If you are draining your tuna, consider giving it to your pets. My doggies LOVE getting a little extra flavor on their kibble, and I'd bet your furry friends would like it too!
Add the avocado and mash a bit with a fork to break up the pieces.
Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
Season with any extra salt, pepper or lime juice as needed. Enjoy!
This tuna avocado salad can do anything regular tuna salad can do. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Serve with crackers or tortilla chips as a dip, or atop Wasa crispbread or rice cakes as a snack.
- Make a sandwich on toasted ciabatta with lettuce and juicy tomato.
- Slather it on a piece of sourdough toast and melt some cheese on top for a zippy tuna melt.
- Wrap it up in a tortilla or roti with crunchy cabbage, shredded carrots and sliced bell peppers.
- Add it to a cheese quesadilla; rice or grain bowl; or a basic green salad to boost your protein content.
The options are basically endless. If you find a winner, let me know in the comments below!
Optional Add Ins & Substitutions
Per usual, there are a ton of ways to customize this spicy tuna avocado salad to your needs. Here are some ways to switch it up:
- Add chopped bell peppers for some sweet crunch, or chopped jalapeños for a spicier version.
- Make it vegan by swapping in cooked and drained chickpeas that have been lightly mashed and using vegan mayo for the green sauce. A little dried seaweed, umeboshi vinegar or fish sauce will all add some umami flair.
- Swap in parsley and lemon for the cilantro and lime, in both the salad and the green sauce.
- Add some red pepper flakes for heat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Because avocado has a tendency to brown when exposed to air, I wouldn't recommend completely assembling this salad too far in advance. If you want to make it for meal prep, combine everything except the avocado up to three days in advance. Lightly mash the avocado and add it just before serving.
Yes! If you don't have lime on hand, lemon will certainly do the trick. You can also feel free to swap in parsley for the cilantro, if you prefer. (Lemon and parsley can also be used to make a riff on the green sauce!)
While I always recommend that you consult with a registered professional for any dietary advice, by most measures this tuna avocado salad is pretty darn healthy. It is low in carbs, rich with healthy fats, high in protein and filled with good-for-you vitamins and minerals.
Heck yeah! If you're on a seriously tight budget, are afraid of ingesting too much mercury or are simply looking to eat more plant-based options, I can't say enough good stuff about "Chickpea of the Sea" style faux-tuna salads.
To make this a vegan avocado tuna salad, simply drain a can of garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas) and toss them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade. Pulse 4-5 times to mash them a bit, then transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients and season to taste.
NOTE: If you're vegan, you should obviously also make the Peruvian green sauce with your favorite vegan mayo alternative.
For a more tuna-y flavor, add a few crumpled up sheets of nori (roasted seaweed) and/or 1-1.5 tablespoons of umeboshi vinegar when you process the chickpeas. If you aren't strictly vegan, a few glugs of fish sauce will also do the trick!
Other Pantry Recipes
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Spicy Tuna Avocado Salad
- 1 can Tuna Packed in Olive Oil drained. Sub any sustainable canned tuna or a drained can of chickpeas - read notes below.
- ¼-1/3 C Peruvian Green Sauce
- ½ - 1 Lime juiced, to taste
- 1 Avocado cubed and lightly mashed
- 3 tablespoon Scallions both greens and whites, chopped
- 3 tablespoon Cilantro leaves and stems, chopped
- Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste
- Prep the tuna: If you are using tuna packed in olive oil or water, drain the excess liquid off. If using Wild Planet tuna, simply flake the tuna with the liquid in the can - that's just the natural juices from the fish itself.NOTE: If you are draining your tuna, consider giving it to your pets. My doggies LOVE getting a little extra flavor on their kibble, and I'd bet your furry friends would like it too!
- Add the avocado and mash a bit with a fork to break up the pieces.
- Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Season with any extra salt, pepper or lime juice as needed. Enjoy!
- To make this a vegan avocado tuna salad, simply drain a can of garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas) and toss them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade. Pulse 4-5 times to mash them a bit, then transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients and season to taste. For a more tuna-y flavor, add a few crumpled up sheets of nori (roasted seaweed) and/or 1-1.5 tablespoons of umeboshi vinegar when you process the chickpeas. If you aren't strictly vegan, a few glugs of fish sauce will also do the trick!
- To make ahead, you can mix all ingredients together except for the avocado and keep in the fridge for 3-5 days. Add avocado (lightly mashed) prior to serving. Season with salt and pepper to taste.