There is no better tuna salad than New York deli-style Tuna Salad. With a few simple ingredients, it’s so easy to make and is perfect for lunch or dinner. Whether you serve it on toast, scoop it on salads, or eat it plain, you can’t go wrong!

New York deli tuna salad on white toast with lettuce.


There is nothing quite like a New York deli; from the vast array of sandwiches to the plethora of salads, the flavors found in the New York deli are unmistakable and hard to match.

Having worked in several delis I picked up a few tricks so this tuna salad tastes exactly like one you’d get at a New York deli.

For the full New York experience, serve this tuna salad on a round roll with a side of deli macaroni salad!

Recipe Ingredients

All ingredients for this recipe are shown in the pic below and special notes are made in this bulleted list to assist you.

Ingredients shown: celery salt, soy sauce, relish, mayonnaise, onion, celery, and canned tuna.
  • Tuna. While many delis use a combo of chunk light and solid albacore, I prefer to use all solid because it’s better quality. I still get the same consistency because I use my hands to mix as you’ll see below. Water-packed tuna should be used. Save the high-end olive oil-packed yellow fin tuna for recipes like pasta al tonno.
  • Relish and soy sauce. Some delis will use these, some won’t, but I’ve found these two additions really boost the flavor and body of the tuna salad.
  • Mayonnaise. Delis in NY usually use a thicker Hellman’s mayo or thicker generic mayos sold at restaurant supply stores. Often referred to as decorator mayo, these thicker mayos are one of the keys to the deli flavor, however, you can definitely get away with using Hellman’s sold in the grocery store. Opt for Hellman’s over Duke’s or Miracle Whip if you want to replicate the NY flavor.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. Finely dice 1/2 cup worth of onion and 1/2 cup of celery. Drain very well four 5-ounce cans of water-packed solid white albacore tuna, then place the tuna in a large bowl along with the celery and onion. Add 1 teaspoon of celery salt, 2 tablespoons of sweet relish, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and mix thoroughly. Your hands make the best mixers for tuna salad. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. (Photo #1)
New York deli tuna salad process collage group one showing mixing of tuna, celery, and onion in a bowl and mixing in mayonnaise.
  1. After 10 minutes, add 1 1/4 cups of mayonnaise and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Photo #2)
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Note: You can certainly eat it now, but it is way better after overnight! (Photo #3)
Recipe collage group two showing covering tuna salad and mixing on second day.
  1. The next day, strain the tuna salad of all the accumulated water and add more mayo as needed. Serve on toast, rolls, crackers, salads, or enjoy by itself! (Photo #4)

Top tips

  • Let it sit. While you can definitely eat the tuna salad right away, I recommend letting it sit overnight so you can drain it of excess water. The flavor will also be so much better the next day! I recommend doing this with many of my deli salads, including the shrimp salad.
  • Use your hands. I highly recommend using your hands to mix the tuna and break up all the pieces. This will ensure a smooth deli-like consistency.
  • The mayo. Hellman’s mayo will give you the best authentic NY deli flavor.

Tuna salad on plate with butter lettuce.

More New York deli recipes

Here are a few more of my tried and true New York deli salad recipes. I hope you love them!

  • Chicken salad – smooth, creamy, deli-style salad that’s great on sandwiches or by itself.
  • New York deli potato salad – briny and slightly sweet with that unmistakable deli flavor.
  • Coleslaw – shredded cabbage and carrots in a sweet vinegar brine with mayo.

If you’ve enjoyed this New York Deli Tuna Salad Recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and tell us about it in the comments below.

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New York Deli Tuna Salad

4.77 from 13 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
This classic New York deli style tuna salad is so easy to make and is perfect for sandwiches, salads, or even by itself.

Ingredients 

  • 4 5-ounce cans solid water-packed tuna well drained
  • 1/2 cup onion finely diced
  • 1/2 cup celery finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 2 tablespoons sweet relish
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups mayonnaise plus more as needed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions 

  • Drain the tuna cans of their water as much as possible.
  • Place the tuna, celery, and onion into a large bowl and thoroughly mix in the relish, celery salt, and soy sauce and let sit for 10 minutes before adding the mayo.
  • Add the mayonnaise and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  • The next day, strain the tuna of all the accumulated water. Add more mayo as required and serve. Enjoy!

Notes

  • It is recommended to refrigerate overnight. The flavor will be much better and the tuna salad can be thoroughly drained to remove excess water.
  • Leftovers can be saved in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 509kcal | Carbohydrates: 38.5g | Protein: 32.9g | Fat: 26.2g | Saturated Fat: 3.6g | Cholesterol: 88mg | Sodium: 935mg | Potassium: 454mg | Fiber: 1.4g | Sugar: 15.9g | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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34 Comments

  1. Pam says:

    4 stars
    The only thing I like that he didn’t do.
    Cuz I make sure my tune is not in any chunks and shut it up really well before adding anything to it. But that may just be my taste I don’t like tuna chunks

  2. Craig says:

    4 stars
    I liked this, although having frequented the salad bars in NYC delis many times when working in Manhattan I’m not sure about the soy sauce component. The tuna salad works great in a sandwich, but when you are eating this by itself the soy sauce seems to be a little too forward in the taste. I may try using less next time, or substitute with a squeeze of lemon.

  3. Arlene MCCORMACK says:

    5 stars
    Will sure make this.

  4. roy says:

    4 stars
    This was very salty, almost too salty to eat. If i make it again i will halve the celery salt and soy.

  5. Nina says:

    Use your potato ricer to squeeze out the water from the tuna. It works like a charm. You’re welcome!

    1. Tara says:

      Great idea, thanks Nina!

  6. Dennis says:

    5 stars
    Life long Islander but moved to Delaware 6 years ago….your NY deli recipes have brought harmony to the house……..Thank You

  7. Thomas Poccia says:

    5 stars
    James-
    I use your tuna salad recipe albeit using only one can of tuna….I did however add a tablespoon of Dijon mustard…for a little tang..try it you’ll like it

    Still waiting for the book….keep up the great work!

    Tom

  8. Carol Darling says:

    Everything but onion. No onion in my tuna salad. It’s a celebration of white albacore tuna, celery, lots of finely diced celery, & a good brand mayo. Sort of like my potato salad potatoes, hard boiled eggs, celery, good mayo!
    But going to try yours minus the onion as that’s all I taste when it’s got onion in it of any kind.

  9. Pam in Santa Fe says:

    Many thanks for your tuna salad recipe. It is perfection. For those who don’t find Hellman’s mayo at their grocer’s, I found that Hellman’s is bottled under the Best Foods label in some parts of the country. Same company, same mayo, different names. Worth checking out.