13 Easy Upgrades Your Tuna Sandwich Deserves

Tuna sandwiches make great lunches because they're simple to put together, economical, and taste great. But it's easy to get stuck in a rut with the same old tuna sammie each day. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to transform your sandwich into something incredible. You can swap out ingredients to change the taste. You can add extra crunch with toppings or mix-ins. You can even upgrade the bread for an entirely new type of sandwich. Moreover, different ingredients can change the nutritional profile of tuna salad, adding extra protein or healthy fats.


The possibilities are basically limitless when it comes to this lunchtime staple. But where to begin? We have the answers. Whether you want to boost flavor, add a new texture, or improve your sandwich's nutrition, try one of these easy upgrades for a tuna sandwich that's sure to become a new favorite in your lunchtime rotation.

1. Upgrade your bread

Picking a different bread from the grocery store shelf can result in a whole new tuna sandwich experience. Try a hearty whole grain bread with more texture and heft, or something with a soft, pillowy inside that molds to your tuna. If you plan to load your tuna sandwich up with toppings, a thicker slice can also make it easier to hold the sandwich together. Consider something sweet like brioche or Hawaiian sweet bread for some unexpected flavor. You can even swap your standard bread for fresh baked rolls, ciabatta, or baguettes.


If you want to use the same bread but give it special treatment, pop it in the toaster before serving up your tuna sandwich. This adds extra crispiness, which works especially well with creamy tuna salad. Grilling or pressing your sandwich into a panini can also turn a basic tuna sandwich into a hot, melty meal. If you're used to a standard two-bread sandwich, switch to an open-faced sandwich to try something new. Consider trying something truly wild, like muffins, bagels, and even waffles, to create a one-of-a-kind tuna sandwich that gets you out of your boring old routine.

2. Use the best quality ingredients

This may seem like an obvious answer but you'd be surprised what a difference upgrading your ingredients can make. Choose the best mayonnaise or make your own for especially delicious flavor. Some mayos have added flavorings or spices that can change the taste of your tuna salad with one simple swap. Similarly, upgrade from basic relish to small batch options made with fresh ingredients. Fresh pickles can also add extra crunch as well as flavor.


Opt for the best canned tuna within your budget. As the centerpiece of the tuna sandwich, this is a key ingredient. Consider experimenting with different species of tuna, including albacore, yellowfin, skipjack, and big eye. Each has a slightly different flavor and texture worth exploring. Try tuna in oil or tuna in water to get different results — you might be surprised by what you like. You can also upgrade to wild-caught tuna for a fish with more complex flavors compared to farm-raised options. Finally, try solid tuna, which has larger pieces and fewer flakes compared to chunk tuna.

3. Make it a wrap

Use a tortilla or pita to transform your tuna sandwich into a tuna wrap. Tortillas, and pitas are sold with the bread and come in a variety of sizes. You can also find whole wheat, flour, and corn options, which each have slightly different flavors and textures. If you want to go gluten-free, try a tuna lettuce wrap instead. Boston bibb and romaine lettuce work well because they're large and strong enough to hold all the insides of your sandwich.


You can use all of the traditional tuna mix-ins, like mayo and relish, in a wrap. You can also try something new, like black beans and salsa paired with a corn tortilla wrap. Wraps are just as customizable as traditional sandwiches — the options are pretty much endless. Consider adding crunch by using both lettuce and a tortilla in your wrap. Layer large leafy greens over the tortilla, add your tuna salad, and roll. Cut the wrap into bite-sized pieces to share or keep it for yourself. Stick a toothpick in the wrap to keep it together if you're packing it to eat later in the day.

4. Top it with chips

If you've never added crunchy potato chips to your sandwich, you're missing out. This is the upgrade that your tuna sandwich has been waiting for, and it uses an extra ingredient you probably already have on hand. Smaller chips work best, because they bring the crunch you crave to each bite without making a mess. Add the chips right before eating to keep them as crunchy as possible — the last thing that you want is soggy chips mixing with your tuna. Most potato chips have added salt so you might need to adjust the salt used in your tuna mixture. 


Creamy tuna salad with mayo, Greek yogurt, or avocado dressing pairs well with crunchy, salty chips. Regular potato chips are a good option, but don't be afraid to experiment with other flavors and textures. If you're making a Tex-Mex tuna salad, add Fritos or tortilla chips. A citrusy tuna salad works well with lime-infused chips. You can even opt for thinly sliced veggie chips for some added nutrients.

5. Substitute dressing for mayo

Mayo may be the traditional choice for tuna salad, but choose a salad dressing, such as green goddess or Caesar, for a different kind of flavor. Creamy dressings work well because they have a similar base, often mayo or yogurt. You can use homemade mayo or substitute quality store-bought mayo to save time if you're making the dressing yourself. Salad dressings also often have herbs, citruses, and vinegars, adding even more flavor. Make sure to pay close attention to your salad dressing's ingredients and modify your fresh or dried herbs accordingly. If you're using green goddess dressing with a lot of basil and cilantro, for example, you probably don't need as many chopped herbs in the rest of your mixture.


Because most dressings are similar in consistency to mayo, you can substitute them one-for-one in any basic tuna salad recipe. But you might need to give the tuna salad an extra stir to reincorporate all of the ingredients before serving. Don't feel restricted to mayo-esque options, either: Get creative and use a vinaigrette or simple oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to bring out the flavors of the tuna and other ingredients.

6. Add crispy veggies

A little crunch from sliced or chopped veggies can take your basic tuna salad sandwich to new heights. Because tuna salad typically uses a creamy mayo-based dressing alongside flaky tuna and soft bread, adding some crunch will keep things interesting. Many tuna salad recipes call for chopped celery, but you can add other veggies to give your sandwich a boost. Most options work well with celery, because celery does not have a strong flavor that overpowers. It adds just a bit of crunch that is enhanced by other veggies.


Cucumber, green peppers, red onion, and lettuce are all great choices. These work well sliced or diced and added as toppings. Add these ingredients to your sandwich right before you plan to eat it to prevent the bread from getting soggy. You can also shred carrots or dice peppers to add directly to the tuna salad mixture. These should be small enough to meld well with the other ingredients — large pieces can be difficult to chew and don't get incorporated as well into the entire salad. If you do want a larger crunch, you can make them into the base for your sandwich: Consider making bite-sized sandwiches using cucumber slices as "bread."

7. Add curry powder

If you like fish curry with rice, you'll love the similar flavors of curried tuna sandwiches. Turn your regular mayo-based tuna salad into curried deliciousness with this simple addition. You can find this spice blend in the supermarket or make your own. Curry relies heavily on turmeric, which gives it a yellow color and smoky flavor, but it stains; be careful when you're adding it and try not to use a porous dish. Raisins complement curry powder well and make another nice addition to this type of tuna salad.


A little bit of curry powder goes a long way, so start with a light hand when adding this spice directly to your tuna mixture. Give a few shakes directly into the dressing and mix it to blend well. Taste the tuna salad and add more if it's needed. Like most spices, curry incorporates more over time, so you may want to make it ahead and let the tuna salad sit in the fridge overnight before taste testing. You'll probably find that the curry flavor is even stronger the next day.

8. Top with cheese

Something about tuna and cheese just works. Adding a slice of mild cheese and broiling your sandwich to create a tasty tuna melt can be transformative. Cheddar cheese is the go-to option for a classic tuna melt: It has a sharp taste that works well with solid tuna. But American cheese, Swiss cheese, and pepper jack also make delicious additions. Toppings that work well on this sandwich include tomato slices, pickles, and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. Be sure to toast the sandwich to let the cheese melt — it's not called a tuna melt for nothing, after all.


Upgrading the bread in a tuna melt can result in a truly spectacular sandwich. A tuna melt on an English muffin is especially delicious, because the cheese melts into all the little holes and crannies inside of the muffin. You can use them as-is or toast them for a little extra crispiness. Try shredded cheese to get melty goodness into every bite of your sandwich.

9. Add mustard to your sandwich

You can add Dijon mustard right into your tuna salad mixture, or slather it on your sandwich bread before topping it with tuna. Either way, this extra kick of spice is sure to be a hit if you like bold, zesty flavor. Because mustard has a similar consistency to mayonnaise, it can be substituted one-for-one in the dressing of tuna salad. But be mindful of the type of mustard that you use. Spicy Dijon has a much stronger flavor than yellow mustard. Grainy mustard adds a bit of texture to the mixture. All are delicious, but create very different experiences.


If you want to add just a touch of mustard, slather it on your bread rather than mixing it into the dressing of the tuna salad. This works well if you're making sandwiches for a crowd with varying tastes. You can use the same strategy to upgrade your sandwich with other ingredients, such as chutney, spicy jelly, or pickles. Let people customize with the flavors that they love without altering the basic tuna sandwich structure.

10. Add jalapenos for spice

Transform your tuna sandwich into an explosion of Tex-Mex flavor with diced jalapenos. You can mix them into the tuna salad or pile them on the sandwich as a topping. Jalapenos can get quite spicy, so remove the seeds if you want less heat. Make sure not to rub your eyes or face after handling jalapenos to prevent the oil from burning your skin.


Canned pickled jalapenos add a vinegary bite as well as subtle heat. If you add pickled jalapenos, you may want to go lighter on the relish or pickles to avoid too much vinegar flavor. They can also be a bit juicier, depending on how much brine you add. Adjust the amount of dressing you use to get the desired consistency. As with most additions, it's best to start small and taste frequently to make sure you don't add too much heat.

11. Sub Greek yogurt for mayo

Get a tangy bite from Greek yogurt in your tuna salad. You can use a 50-50 mixture of mayo and Greek yogurt for a more subtle taste, or swap out all of the mayo for Greek yogurt instead. If using Greek yogurt in place of mayo, make sure that you get plain, unflavored Greek yogurt for a similar taste and texture — no one wants a shot of caramel flavoring in their tuna sandwich. Greek yogurt is also thicker than regular yogurt, and has a much tangier taste. Be careful not to mix them.


Using Greek yogurt can boost the protein content of your sandwich. Plain, low-fat Greek yogurt has around 20 grams of protein in each 7 ounce container, while mayo only has around 2 grams of protein. You don't even need to completely substitute Greek yogurt for mayo to get the benefits of extra protein. Even swapping out some of the mayo for Greek yogurt can make your tuna salad more filling.

12. Add soy or fish sauce

Soy and fish sauce boost the umami, or savoriness, of a tuna sandwich. Fish sauce is made with salted fish, usually anchovies or shrimp, but doesn't have a strong fishy taste. Instead, it enhances the other flavors around it, giving them a bit more oomph. Soy sauce is made with fermented soybeans, water, and salt. It performs a similar function in just about any dish it's added to.


Both fish and soy sauce work well, but make sure to add them a little bit at a time and taste test frequently to get the balance just right. A little bit goes a long way. They are more liquid than mayo or other dressing ingredients, so don't overdo it or you might end up with a runny sandwich filling. Sprinkle a couple of dashes in, then mix the tuna salad thoroughly. Taste and adjust as needed. You might also be able to use less salt if you include fish sauce or soy sauce in your recipe because both have salt already included.

13. Add avocado to tuna salad

Mash up a ripe avocado and mix it into your tuna salad to make it taste like heaven. Avocado has oil just like mayo, but it tastes much lighter and brighter. It's also a good source of many vitamins and other nutrients, including vitamins C, E, folate, potassium, and others. One cup of mashed avocado typically has around 34 grams of fat but the majority of these are monosaturated "good fats" that are healthy for your heart. A similar amount of mayo has 165 grams of fat, and around 26 grams of these are saturated fat.


You can use avocado in place of mayo, or add it to your existing recipe for extra creaminess. Mashed avocado can also be used as a spread underneath your tuna salad for some extra lusciousness, flavor, and nutrition. Make sure that the avocado is ripe and soft enough to mash with a fork. Mash it separately in a bowl to the desired consistency, making sure to get rid of any large chunks. Mix it in with the other dressing ingredients and seasonings, then add the tuna and veggies for crunch. Sliced avocado also makes a nice topping for tuna salad inside the sandwich.