Today I’m excited to share with you one of my paleo meal planning lifesavers: tuna salad.
I’m a big fan of the “weekly cookup” concept made popular by the fabulous Melissa Joulwan of The Clothes Make The Girl. This means I designate Saturday or Sunday afternoons to cooking big-batch dishes that I can refrigerate and have at-the-ready to bring to work throughout the week.
I usually make big pots of soup or curry, or roast a few pounds of meat and veg in the oven. I’m kind of a weirdo in that I can enjoy a hot stew pretty much any day of the year, so this system works well for me. But also, for a long time I assumed it was the only way eating paleo could be done if I didn’t want to eat a raw veggie salad at every meal. Which I didn’t.
But after discovering how to make mayo without the junky processed oils (also thanks to Melissa Joulwan), the world of paleo “meat salads” was opened up to me, and my life was forever changed.
The basic meat salad formula is one every paleo eater should have in their repertoire. It’s classic, it’s forgiving, and there’s usually no cooking involved. It’s a great paleo/non-paleo crowd pleaser, too. Best of all, whether you’re using canned tuna or king salmon, it’s pretty much always good.
Here’s my formula for meat salad perfection:
PROTEIN + BINDER (FAT) + TANG + CRUNCH + EXTRAS
In this recipe, I use:
Tuna + homemade mayo + lemon juice and mustard + carrot + cilantro and scallion
But the options are endless! Here are a few more:
- PROTEIN: egg, salmon (canned or fresh), sardines, chicken, turkey
- BINDER: avocado, homemade yogurt, homemade ranch dip
- TANG: lemon juice, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, mustard
- CRUNCH: roasted nuts, sunflower seeds, celery, grapes, cucumber, apple
- EXTRAS: bacon (duh), onion, basil, chive, tomato, mint, red pepper, dried fruit, parsley
My version of tuna salad is creamy and filling thanks to the homemade mayo, and it’s got the perfect balance of sweetness and tang thanks to the carrots and mustard. I usually mix it with some raw spinach and a few slices of cucumber or tomato, but it makes a great lettuce wrap filling or cracker topping, too. (Try it with The Paleo Mom’s delicious plantain crackers.)
- 4 3.5-oz cans tuna packed in water
- 1½ cups fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 2 medium-sized carrots, grated or chopped in a food processor
- 1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped
- ¾ cup homemade mayonnaise
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp whole grain mustard (I like the spicy kind)
- 1 Tbsp cumin
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Start by dumping each can of tuna into a colander in the sink. Once drained, place tuna in mixing bowl.
- Throw in your chopped cilantro, scallions and carrots along with the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper.
- Mix well.
- Share with those you care about.
This salad is AMAZING with a few handfuls of chopped, roasted almonds thrown in. The crunch is irresistible. Unfortunately, my FODMAP intolerance has forced me to steer clear of nuts for the time being, but they’re definitely worth including if you can tolerate them.
A note for the extra adventurous:
Every time I make this salad, it comes out a little differently, and my absolute favorite version resulted when I threw in a can of Trader Joe’s smoked sardines. Their deep, complex flavor gave the salad an unexpected richness. If you’re a sardine fan like I am, you HAVE to give it a try. You won’t regret it.