California Avocado Tuna Salad

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2013-11-11 09.10.27Until recently, I never understood the appeal of tuna; let alone tuna salad. The smell is very putrid and the flavors are very much bland. I tried tuna steaks and they weren’t much of an upgrade from canned tuna. Ever since I’ve been exposed and taught many creative techniques to enhance the flavors and appearance of tuna, I occasionally treat myself to a tuna salad for lunch. After all, tuna salad is a lunchtime comfort food.  No matter how creative or spontaneous or inventive I try to be with my weekday lunches (which normally consist of Israeli salad or a garden salad. It doesn’t take extensive culinary experience nor knife skills to chop up a few vegetables), at some point I always end up craving for simple low-fat tuna salad. Only this time, I decided to throw in an exotic California twist. Normally, tuna salad is drenched in a liberal amount of mayonnaise. This recipe doesn’t require any. It has enough natural fat from avocado. I borrowed this recipe from a California grilled chicken salad recipe. I swapped chicken for canned tuna. Perhaps I should have called this recipe Cheater’s Avocado Tuna Salad. I contemplated about using tuna steaks but I was on the run and had no time to marinate the tuna steaks, grill them, and clean up the mess. I needed something quick with limited hassle. Canned tuna had to suffice for now. If you would rather use fresh tuna steaks, by all means do so. Just marinate them in fresh lemon or orange juice and mustard for 30 minutes to an hour. Season them with salt, pepper, a bit brown sugar, and cayenne pepper. Sauté each side on a preheated grill or grill pan for 2 minutes on each side. Cut them into cubes and toss them in a salad bowl with the rest of the vegetables. Truthfully, that idea sounds more appetizing. But the flavors in this tuna salad recipe are just as vibrant and exotic.  If using canned tuna, I highly recommend using the water-packed canned starkit tuna.  It has a cleaner tuna flavor and it’s lower in sodium content as opposed to the brine-packed canned tuna. If you don’t like eating tuna salad on it’s own, you can make a sandwich out if it or toss it in with some cooked pasta. I stuffed mine in a pita just the other day. Tuna salad doesn’t have to be mundane and soggy. While I have settled on this particular combination of ingredients for my tuna salad, the beauty of this dish is how different and delicious it can be when you are creative with the ingredients you use. I welcome you to share your tuna salad ideas 🙂

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 5 oz. cans of water-packed starkit tuna
  2. 2 small cucumbers diced
  3. 1 red bell pepper diced
  4. 1 large ripe avocado diced
  5. 1 scallion chopped
  6. Handful of seedless raisins (optional)
  7. Juice from 1 lemon or orange
  8. 1/4 cup of grape-seed or olive oil
  9. 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  10. 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper


Drain tuna of liquid. Transfer to a salad bowl and mash with a fork.  Add vegetables. In a separate bowl, whisk juice, oil, and spices together. Pour over salad and toss lightly. Throw in some raisins if you like. Serve.

Yields about 2 cups



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