Spicy Tuna Salad Recipe

Everyone needs a good tuna salad recipe and this one is the best. It’s dressed up with jalapeño, hot sauce, fresh cilantro and lime for a spicy tuna salad that makes an awesome tuna sandwich, great tuna melts and can even be tossed with cooked macaroni for an impromptu tuna pasta salad. Use canned tuna for this spicy tuna recipe.

Ingredients for making tunafish salad.

You might be wondering why I would bother sharing a recipe for tuna salad.  Most people make their tuna according to their own tastes – as it should be.  However, if you’re looking for inspiration, this fresh and flavorful spicy tuna recipe and it can easily be customized to your tastes.

Adding fresh celery, onions and jalapenos to the flaked canned tuna.

Ingredients for tuna salad

  • Canned Albacore Tuna
  • Celery
  • Green Onions
  • Jalapeno
  • Mayonnaise
  • Lime
  • Cilantro
  • Hot Sauce
  • Pepper

Use canned tuna (packed in water) for this recipe. Personally, I’m fond of Kirkland brand from Costco as there’s more tuna in each can than other brands on the market and it’s wild caught.

Mixing up the dressing for the tuna fish.

This recipe starts with a tangy, zippy, cilantro lime dressing. It’s made with mayonnaise, lime zest, lime juice, hot sauce (the hotter the better) and fresh chopped cilantro. Herbs, hot sauce and citrus, might sound like an odd combination, but it makes the best tuna salad sandwiches.

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For the spicy dressing:

  1. Combine mayonnaise, lime zest, lime juice, hot sauce and cilantro in a small bowl or 2-cup glass measuring cup.
  2. Whisk to combine.
  3. Taste for seasonings and adjust to the way YOU like it.
The dressing is a mayonnaise base with lots of seasonings and hot sauce.

About the hot sauce

In this recipe, I use a hot sauce that’s made from Caribbean Scotch Bonnet peppers — we’re talking HOT. But with the other ingredients, the heat is softens into a pleasant tingle on the tongue.

If you’re not into spice, you can skip it. Have a favorite hot sauce? Use it here — but keep in mind that all hot sauces aren’t created equal.

Therefore, it’s important to taste all along the way, to make sure it’s not too spicy or too mild… Like Goldilocks, you want it JUST RIGHT.

Combine the dressing with the tuna and vegetables.

How to make spicy tuna salad:

  1. Add the drained tuna fish to a large bowl and flake it apart with a fork to avoid big chunks of tuna fish in the salad.
  2. Add the celery, green onions and jalapeno and toss to combine.
  3. Pour the dressing over the tuna mixture and mix well.
  4. Taste for seasoning. 
  • Not creamy enough? Add more mayonnaise.
  • Want more spice? Add more hot sauce, jalapeño, black pepper (or all 3).
  • Want more freshness? Add more cilantro or a squeeze more lime juice.

That’s the beauty of easy tuna recipes; they’re meant to be fiddled with and adjusted to the way YOU like.

Ingredients for the ultimate tuna salad sandwich are spicy tuna fish salad, mashed avocado, melty pepper jack cheese and pickles on a brioche bun.


How long will tuna fish salad last?

You can keep tuna salad refrigerated, in a sealed container, for up to 5 days. (If the mayonnaise and lime juice separate after a few days, just stir it back together until it’s homogenized.)

Can I freeze tuna salad?

No. It’s got fresh vegetables (celery, green onion & jalapeños, which don’t do well in the freezer. They would end up leaking liquids into the salad mixture.

Can I use Miracle Whip?

I’m not a fan of that particular “tangy zip”, but if it’s your thing, go for it.

Spread the top bun with mashed avocado.

Pile some of this spicy tuna between two slices of bread, toast or English muffins for a quick tuna fish sandwich for brown bagging. Easy peasy.

Or go for the ULTIMATE tuna sandwich (below). It includes a soft brioche bun, pepper jack cheese, juicy ripe tomatoes, crunchy pickles and a healthy dose of mashed avocado. I’m telling you, it’s the tuna fish sandwich of your dreams.

Making the ultimate tuna fish sandwiches:

  1. Split the buns and place a piece of spicy pepper jack cheese on the bottom buns.
  2. Place the buns on a baking sheet and heat for a few minutes to toast the tops and melt the cheese.
  3. Mound a few scoops of spicy tuna salad over the cheese.
  4. Add pickled cucumbers and fresh tomato slices.
  5. Spread mashed avocado liberally over the top bun and assemble the sandwich.
Pile the bottom bun with pepper jack cheese, tuna salad and pickles.

More ways to garnish a spicy tuna salad sandwich:

  • Quick Pickled Onions
  • Boston Bibb Lettuce
  • Pickled Jalapeños
  • Fresh Cilantro Leaves
  • Sliced Radishes
  • Avocado Tomatillo Salsa
  • Melted Swiss or American Cheese (white preferred to yellow)
  • Crunchy potato chips (weird, but good).

More recipes like this:

Assemble the top and bottom portions of the sandwich and enjoy.

More canned tuna recipes you’ll love:

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A spicy tuna salad sandwich on a brioche bun.
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4.75 from 24 votes

Spicy Tuna Salad For Sandwiches and More

This spicy tuna salad recipe is chock full of fresh ingredients like cilantro, lime, hot sauce and jalapeños. This mayonnaise based tuna salad is perfect for tuna sandwiches, tossed with pasta for a quick tuna pasta salad and makes awesome tuna melts.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword canned tuna, sandwich
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 8



  • 28 ounces tuna packed in water well-drained, flaked with a fork (I like Kirkland Brand) I used 4, 7-oz cans.
  • 2 stalks celery finely diced
  • 1 bunch green onions finely diced
  • 1 jalapeño stemmed, seeded, minced
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise according to your tastes
  • 1 lime zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon habanero hot sauce (or more or less — according to your tastes)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup cilantro roughly chopped


  • 8 brioche buns
  • 1 ripe tomato sliced crosswise
  • 2 ripe haas avocado peeled and mashed with a fork
  • 8 slices spicy pepper jack cheese (sandwich slices from the deli)
  • 1 recipe Quick Pickled Cucumbers



  • Open the cans of tuna and drain the water from them very well. Transfer the flaked albacore to a medium bowl and break it apart with a fork.
  • Add the chopped celery, green onions and jalapeno to the tuna and toss to combine.
  • Measure out about 3/4 cup of mayonnaise in a 2 cup glass measure. Add the lime zest, lime juice, hot sauce, black pepper and cilantro. Whisk to combine.
  • Pour the mayonnaise mixture over the tuna salad and toss until well combined. If the tuna is too dry for your tastes, Add more, 1 tablespoon at a time until it’s the way you like it. Adjust seasonings if necessary.


  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Open the brioche buns and place them on a baking sheet. Place a slice of pepper jack cheese on the bottom portion of each bun and transfer to the oven to toast the top bun and melt the cheese. (About 5-8 minutes).
  • Remove the buns from the oven and top each slice of melted cheese with a mound of tuna fish, pickled cucumbers and a tomato slice.
  • Spread the mashed avocado over the top bun and top the sandwich with the avocado half. Enjoy


(I used Kirkland brand– I think it actually has more tuna in it than some of the national brands — go figure)


Calories: 671kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 49g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 11g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.04g | Cholesterol: 171mg | Sodium: 701mg | Potassium: 359mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1265IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 224mg | Iron: 2mg

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  1. 5 stars
    I’ve made this a couple of times now, and am going to make it again today. We absolutely love this recipe! I don’t change a thing!

  2. Warren Parker says:

    5 stars
    This is really good and I like to spice it up a little bit.
    I’ll dice up and add 2 habaneros and instead of using pickle chips I’ll take some grillo hot pickles and dice them up and add them to the mix rather than setting them atop the sandwich. I’ll replace a tablespoon of lime juice with a tablespoon of the pickle brine for a nice kick too.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Elise Nikolov says:

    5 stars
    This was so easy and delicious! A new menu favorite at our house! We used pretzel buns because that’s what we had on hand and I recommend.

  4. 5 stars
    Delicious recipe will definitely make it again

  5. 5 stars
    Tuna is one of my favourite things to have for lunch, this looks so good!

  6. 5 stars
    I love the flavorful ingredients you used in this one. Something different.

  7. 5 stars
    You can’t beat a tuna salad, it’s one of my favourite sandwich fillings.

  8. This looks like lunchtime comfort food at its finest–I can see why your family loved it!

  9. 5 stars
    I love anything spicy…and the idea of spicy tuna? Totally yummy!

  10. 5 stars
    I am very excited to try this at home