I grew up knowing tuna salad to be one thing: tuna + mayonnaise. There wasn’t even celery in the version my mom made me for countless lunches. While I loved the creamy combination then, too much of a good thing turned into something I very much dislike as an adult.

These days, mayo doesn’t come near my canned tuna. Instead, I prefer a tuna salad that’s bright and fresh-tasting rather than goopy. This tuna avocado salad is exactly that and more. It’s something I’ve been making regularly to tuck into a sandwich, pile on top of greens, or simply eat as-is for a quick, satisfying lunch.

Turn to Avocado for Creaminess

This mayo-free tuna salad utilizes buttery avocado to provide a touch of the signature tuna salad creaminess without overdoing it. I mash about half into the salad but keep the rest diced so that there’s still plenty of texture.

Beyond these two essential components of this salad, what really makes this recipe special is the addition of pickled jalapeños and their very flavorful brine. The jalapeños themselves lend a spicy kick while the brine provides tang to offset the savory tuna and rich avocado.

The brine also quick-pickles the red onion, which tames its raw bite. While chopped fresh cilantro is optional, if you have it handy, definitely toss it in as it gives this salad another layer of freshness.

How To Make My 4-Ingredient Tuna Avocado Salad

To make 4 to 6 servings (4 to 5 cups), you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup pickled jalapeño slices, roughly chopped, plus 3 tablespoons of their brine
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
  • 2 (5 to 7-ounce) jars or cans tuna, preferably oil-packed
  • 1 medium ripe avocado, diced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Place the chopped jalapeños and the brine in a medium bowl. Add the onion, toss to coat in the brine, and leave to quick-pickle for 10 minutes.

Lightly drain the tuna, leaving it still a little oil-slicked. Add the tuna to the bowl and flake it with a fork. Add the avocado and cilantro, if using, and toss to combine, mashing some of the avocado lightly while leaving some diced. Taste and season with salt as needed.

tuna avocado sandwich (cross-section facing camera)
Simply Recipes / Sheela Prakash

Tips For Making and Serving This Tuna Salad

This is a very flexible recipe, so tweak it to your tastes. Keep these tips in mind when mixing things up:

    • Seek Out Oil-Packed Tuna: Oil-packed tuna (ideally olive oil-packed—my favorite is Tonnino) is far and away more moist and flavorful than tuna packed in water. Using it means you don’t have to add any oil to the salad itself, so long as you go easy when draining. If you do use water-packed tuna, add a drizzle of olive oil to the bowl to keep the salad from being too dry.
    • If You Can’t Resist It, Add Mayo: If tuna salad really isn’t tuna salad for you without mayo, you have my permission to add a spoonful for extra creaminess. Mexican crema would also be a good choice.
  • Make It Spicer: This recipe comes with a pleasant but not overpoweringly spicy kick. After tasting, if you’d like it spicier, stir in additional pickled jalapeño brine.
  • Halve the Recipe: While this salad will keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days, the avocado will inevitably brown a bit with storage. This generally doesn’t bother me too much, but know that the recipe is very easy to cut in half if you don’t want too much leftover.