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The Best Southern Tuna Salad Recipe

The Best Southern Tuna Salad Recipe is filled with simple ingredients for that classic recipe we all crave when we want a good tuna sandwich!

The Best Southern Tuna Salad Recipe

This southern-style tuna salad recipe was made up by my grandmother, and her ratios are just perfect for that classic southern tuna salad recipe.

You’re going to love this recipe if you love good, hearty tuna sandwiches, or you enjoy keeping tuna salad in your fridge for a quick and easy lunch any time of the week.

This recipe is filled with sweet pickle relish, hard-boiled eggs, lots of Vidalia onion, canned tuna, and just enough mayonnaise.

There’s a secret ingredient you won’t want to miss for the perfect recipe!

If you love egg salad and tuna salad, this recipe post is for you!

How to Make the Best Southern Tuna Salad Recipe

First, let’s gather the ingredients for this easy recipe.

classic southern tuna salad recipe

Canned Tuna — I prefer the tuna in the pouches, but use whatever tuna you like. Starkist tuna in water is what my grandmother always used, so that’s what I use! Some people love to use albacore tuna

Hard-Boiled Eggs — Toni has a specific ratio of eggs to tuna. For every can of tuna, use 2 hard-boiled eggs. So, if you’re using two cans of tuna, you’ll need 4 chopped eggs. I cheat and buy the pre-hard-boiled eggs! Then, I’ll run them over my box grater to “chop” them up.

ingredients for the perfect southern tuna salad

Vidalia Onion — here in the south, we love our sweet onions. But, if you’re a fan of red onion, use that! You might want to reduce the amount so it’s not too harsh. Or, you can soak the red onions in cold water for a few minutes to take away their bite. Vidalia onions are sweet, and can be chopped up and added right to the best tuna salad recipe!

Fresh Celery — you’ve got to have finely chopped celery. Just run your sharp knife down the celery stalks, to create 3-4 strips, then cut those into a fine dice. That crunchy bite of celery adds so much texture to this simple tuna salad recipe!

sweet relish in tuna salad

Sweet Relish — Y’all, it’s not tuna salad without sweet relish. I know people like dill relish, and if that’s what you want and love, great. But, it totally changes the recipe. I adore my Mt. Olive Sweet Relish, and nothing but this goes into this classic tuna salad recipe. If dill pickle relish sounds better to you, go for it! 

Duke’s Mayonnaise — you know I had to include a little mayo in this recipe! And, you’d be correct! I always think that tuna salad is heavy on mayo, more creamy than not. But, with this recipe, you use two tablespoons amount of mayonnaise for every 2 cans of tuna. And for a Southern tuna salad sandwich, that’s not a lot! And, this should go without saying, but only use Duke’s mayo if you want an authentic Southern tuna salad recipe. 

duke's mayonnaise in southern tuna salad

Fresh Lemon Juice — this is THE secret ingredient! And, if you wanted to be super secret, use the bottled lemon juice that my grandmother used, that little lemon-shaped juice bottle! I don’t buy that, but I do buy lemons, so a few squeezed lemon wedges add a bright flavor to the best-tasting tuna salad sandwiches in all the land. That acidic kick of a little lemon juice adds extra flavor and enhances every other ingredient in this recipe. ((And I don’t say that lightly!))

Salt & Pepper — sprinkle in plenty of kosher salt and black pepper. If you taste your salad, and it doesn’t taste fully awake, you’re probably missing a smidge of salt. Add it slowly, and before you add too much, allow the salad to chill and “marry the flavors” for half an hour.

Instructions for making this Tuna Salad Recipe

To a large mixing bowl, add your drained tuna. Give it a chop with a fork to break all the pieces apart.

southern tuna salad ingredients in a bowl

Add in your chopped eggs, onion, celery, sweet relish, and mayo. Using a spatula, stir everything to coat and evenly distribute each ingredient.

Squeeze in some lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and give another good stir.

​Use a spoon and taste everything to see if you get everything in one bite. A little relish, tuna, egg, onion, celery… with just enough mayo, lemon juice, and seasoning.

​Transfer your salad to an airtight container, and let it chill in the fridge for at least half an hour, the longer the better!

Serving this Classic Dish

classic tuna salad recipe

When you’re ready to serve this traditional tuna salad recipe you’ve got some options!

You can serve this on lettuce leaves, and either turn it into a lettuce wrap or eat like lettuce cups.

My favorite way is to make a tuna salad sandwich. Using Oatnut bread, and slathering Duke’s on each side of the bread.

Spoon out the tuna salad, and drizzle a little mustard. 

Close it up, and devour! 

​It might seem like a regular ho-hum tuna sandwich, but I can assure you it’s not!

This recipe also makes incredible open-face tuna melt. Spoon onto a slice of bread, top with a slice of cheese, and broil until melted. 

If you want to make this a meal, add cooked elbow macaroni to your salad, and serve with tomato slices on the side. 

southern tuna salad recipe

Other Recipes to Serve with this Dish

Classic French Fries would make this sandwich lunch a super yummy lunch!

Potato Chips are my crunch of choice, and I even like to add a few to my sandwich!

Raw veggies are nice, too. Ripe tomato, red bell pepper, and a bed of lettuce. Keep it simple! 

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The Best Southern Tuna Salad Recipe

  • Author: Sweetpea
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: salad
  • Method: no-cook
  • Cuisine: southern


The Best Southern Tuna Salad Recipe is filled with simple ingredients for that classic recipe we all crave when we want a good tuna sandwich!


  • 4 cans white tuna in water, drained well. (mash this up in the bottom of your bowl. This is Papa’s #1 job)
  • 12 stalks of celery, finely diced
  • 8 hard boiled eggs, peeled, and finely diced {You could run these over your box grater}
  • 1 small Vidalia onion, finely diced {I like to grate my onion — be sure to use that onion juice!}
  • 1/2 cup Duke’s mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup Mount Olive Sweet Relish
  • Squeeze one lemon <—- secret ingredient!
  • salt & pepper, to taste


  1. In a large mixing bowl, dump your four drained cans of tuna into the bowl. Use a fork to break the pieces of tuna apart.
  2. Add in your diced stalks of celery, 8 chopped hard-boiled eggs, small Vidalia onion chopped, 2/3 cups of Mt. Olive Sweet Relish, and 1/2 cup of mayo.
  3. Mix really well to evenly combine everything.
  4. Add in your lemon juice, 1/3 teaspoon of salt, and 1/3 teaspoon of black pepper. Mix really well.
  5. Taste your salad to see if you need some more salt, but also, let it sit in the fridge for half an hour before adding too much more. The flavors will develop as it sits.
  6. Serve as a sandwich, in lettuce, or just eat with a spoon!

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