I have no qualms about mixing mayonnaise with an item and declaring it “salad.” Indeed, I love a good bacon pickle salad any day. However, for the past year or so, I’ve been making tuna sans mayo. Not for any aversion to the creamy emulsion, but because I made a good niçoise once with a dijon vinaigrette and stuck to it. But I’ve discovered that tuna salad can taste fantastic with even less fuss, and (much to my surprise) less oil. To make a flavorful tuna salad, just pour on the brine, baby.

Tuna shines when it’s paired with a little lemon, but recently I forgot to grab one from the store. I was making a salad of tuna and cabbage coleslaw mix–the kind of meal that usually happens when you realize how few ingredients you have in your kitchen. I could have eaten raw, unseasoned cabbage, but I didn’t want to. My replacement-lemon options were vinegar, which would likely be too astringent, or olive brine. I was adding olives to my tuna anyway, so in it went. I was hoping for something that tasted alright, but I was prepared for a dry, crunchy, plain tuna salad. It wasn’t OK; the marriage of ingredients was fantastic. The tuna was complemented by the salty, mellow acidity, and the coleslaw added some much-needed bulk and crunch. I was surprised at how olive juice was able to make even raw, shredded cabbage taste wonderful without obliterating it like pickling can do. I pushed the jar of olive juice over to my boyfriend, and suddenly, we were adding coleslaw and pouring olive brine like it was the most natural way to eat tuna salad.

Any brine will work. It’s likely that if you enjoy the pickled item itself chopped into tuna salad, the brine will be a welcome dressing. You don’t need much, and depending on the brine, you might want to start with one spoonful, toss the ingredients and taste it. Then add more if you want to. I made the same coleslaw tuna salad with chopped sour dill pickles, and dressed it with a tablespoon or two of pickle brine; it was just as bright and satisfying as the green olive version I made.

For ingredient suggestions, here are my favorite picks:

This is a great recipe for anyone who’s not into mayonnaise for any reason, or if you’re just looking for a switch-up. Don’t ditch the coleslaw mix—just trust me on this one. It’s sturdier than lettuce, not watery like celery, it lightens up the tuna mixture, and makes the whole dish into more of an event. The following recipe uses olives and the same brine, but you can use pickles or pickled jalapeños (for a little heat).

Mayo-less Tuna Salad With Brine


  • 1 can or jar of tuna (about 5 ounces), drained
  • 4 jalepeño stuffed olives, chopped in rings
  • 1 cup of raw cabbage coleslaw mix
  • 1-3 tablespoons of olive brine

In a medium bowl, break up the tuna chunks. Add the chopped olives and coleslaw mix. Toss everything together, and add the brine. Toss again until evenly coated. Enjoy as-is or with a hunk of chewy bread.

#Replace #Mayo #Brine #Tuna #Salad

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