Sesame Tuna Salad

$3.09 recipe / $1.55 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.70 from 10 votes
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Canned tuna is a lot more versatile than I think many people realize. In other words, there’s a lot more you can do with it than just mixing with mayo and slapping it between two slices of bread. 😅If you’re tired of the traditional mayo-based tuna salad, give this lighter, brighter, Sesame Tuna Salad a shot. It’s savory with a hint of sweetness and deep nutty undertones, and can be served several ways. Scroll down to see ideas for substitutions and add-ins, as well as a few different ways you can gobble up this tuna salad.

Simple Sesame Tuna Salad

A bowl of Sesame Tuna Salad surrounded by crackers, cucumber slices, and red pepper slices

Red Bell Pepper Substitutes:

If needed, you can substitute the red bell pepper with one shredded carrot. The carrot will supply a similar mild sweetness and a decent amount of crunch. Use a large-holed cheese grater to shred the carrot.

What is Toasted Sesame Oil and Can I Substitute It?

Toasted sesame oil is the ingredient that brings most of the sesame flavor to this recipe, so I don’t suggest substituting it. You can find a photo of my toasted sesame oil (purchased at Aldi) in the step by step photos below. Toasted sesame oil is pressed from sesame seeds that have been toasted first, so it has a very strong toasted nut flavor.

Unfortunately, toasted sesame oil isn’t always labeled as “toasted” but you can differentiate it from regular sesame oil by the color. Un-toasted sesame oil, which has a very mild flavor, is a light straw color similar to canola oil. Toasted sesame oil, on the other hand, has a deep amber color. You can usually find it in major grocery stores in the International foods aisle, near the Asian ingredients.

If you’re not into toasted sesame as a flavor or can’t source this ingredient, try my Sweet and Spicy Tuna Salad as an alternative.

Other Add-in Ideas:

There are other fun things that you can add to this Sesame Tuna Salad, if you have them on hand. Edamame would be a great way to stretch the tuna salad, while adding both protein and fiber. Chopped water chestnuts would also make a fun, fresh, and crunchy addition, as would slivered almonds. If you like a little spicy kick you can always add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.

How to Serve Sesame Tuna Salad

I love this recipe because of all the different ways you can serve it. As shown in the photos, it’s great on crackers or cucumber slices. You can also serve it over a bowl of rice with a few cucumber slices as a nice bowl meal, or use it to fill lettuce wraps (with or without rice). You could even use it to make a more American style wrap sandwich in a large wrap with baby spinach. And lastly, this sesame tuna salad would be a great topper to any bed of greens.

Meal prep container filled with Sesame Tuna Salad, crackers, and cucumber slices

Find these glass meal prep containers in my Amazon shop.

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Sesame Tuna Salad

4.70 from 10 votes
This fun spin on canned tuna is savory, sweet, and nutty. Sesame Tuna Salad is great on crackers, sliced cucumber, in lettuce wraps, or on salad greens.
A bowl of Sesame Tuna Salad surrounded by crackers and cucumber slices
Servings 2 about 1 cup each
Prep 10 mins
Total 10 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp soy sauce ($0.04)
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil ($0.20)
  • 2 tsp brown sugar ($0.03)
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds ($0.02)
  • 2 5oz. cans chunk light tuna in water ($1.58)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper ($0.50)
  • 2 green onions ($0.22)

Instructions 

  • In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, brown sugar, and sesame seeds.
  • Drain the tuna well, then add it to a bowl. Dice the red bell pepper (I served the other half on the side with the tuna salad) and slice the green onions. Add the bell pepper and green onion to the bowl with the tuna.
  • Pour the prepared sesame dressing over the tuna and vegetables in the bowl. Carefully fold the ingredients together until everything is coated in dressing. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to eat.

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Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 218.6kcalCarbohydrates: 9.8gProtein: 28.55gFat: 6.8gSodium: 607.45mgFiber: 1.9g
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Scroll down to see the step by step photos!

A cracker topped with sesame tuna salad held close to the camera

How to Make Sesame Tuna Salad – Step by Step Photos

Bottle of toasted sesame oil

This little bottle is where all the magic happens. Toasted sesame oil has a VERY strong nutty-sesame flavor. This brand labels it as “toasted” but sometimes the bottles just say “sesame oil.” You can tell it’s toasted vs. un-toasted by the color. Toasted sesame oil is a deep brown/amber color. Un-toasted sesame oil, which has a very mild flavor and is better suited for cooking, is a light straw color, like canola oil.

Sesame dressing in a small bowl

Prepare the sesame dressing first. In a small bowl, combine 2 tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp toasted sesame oil 2 tsp brown sugar, and 1 tsp sesame seeds. 

Tuna, diced red bell pepper, and sliced green onion in a bowl

Drain two 5oz. cans of chunk light tuna in water, then add them to a bowl. Dice 1/2 of a red bell pepper and slice two green onions. Add the bell pepper and green onion to the bowl with the drained tuna.

Sesame dressing being poured into the bowl with tuna

Give the sesame dressing another quick stir, then pour it over the ingredients in the bowl.

Finished sesame tuna salad in the bowl

Carefully fold the ingredients together until everything is coated in dressing. Don’t stir so vigorously that the tuna completely shreds.

A bowl of Sesame Tuna Salad surrounded by crackers and cucumber slices

Serve the Sesame Tuna Salad immediately, or refrigerate until ready to eat. The tuna salad will be good in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days, and you’ll probably want to give it a stir before serving if it’s been stored in the refrigerator. :)

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  1. This was awesome! I am pregnant, and avoiding tuna, so I made with salmon instead. It is delicious with veggies and crackers as a quick lunch, and I think it would be great thrown over some soba noodles and veggies too! 

  2. This looks delightful! I don’t have any tuna, could I use canned salmon instead? Would it be good?

  3. Absolutely amazing! I despise mayo and this was so refreshing. Going to be a go to lunch for the foreseeable future

  4. I decided to whip this up during our 107-degree Seattle heatwave. Chilled it in a big bowl in the fridge and took turns with my roommate scooping bites out with sea salt pita chips – delicious, refreshing & made everything so much more bearable! It’s a phenomenal pre/post-workout snack too.

  5. I was originally looking for a way to use my Asian Sesame salad dressing with tuna, and since the ingredients in it are much the same as the ones in your dressing, I just used that and added a bit of sesame oil (I unfortunately did not have toasted) and some sesame seeds.

    The only real other modifications to your recipe that I made were twofold: first, I used pink tuna instead of white since I feel that the white is too dry and lacks taste, and also the olive oil it comes in adds a bit of flavor after most of it has been drained; second, I ate this more as a pure salad than something to put on crackers, so I added some corn, based on another salad I had done previously.

    You can also add either one more green onion or some radish if you like the extra crunch and like the onion taste. Since you have another recipe that uses sriracha, have you ever tried using a small quantity with this salad? I’m just wondering if it would be any good.

  6. We made this today with a few modifications based on what ingredients we had on hand. We did 2 cans of tuna with 4 times the dressing. It was very dry initially with 1x the amount of sauce. We didn’t have any green onions so we used a white sweet onion and added chopped cilantro in addition to the red bell pepper. It was very good. We also tried it with a small amount of mayonnaise & chili garlic sauce. All versions were great and a nice change for tuna salad.

  7. Fantastic! I used the suggested carrot substitution for the red pepper and it turned out great

  8. So good, so easy – a perfect meal prepped lunch. Added a couple of squirts of mayo to address the dryness concerns. Enjoyed on a sandwich with cucumber + a little more mayo on the bread but next time I’m going to try skipping the mayo and adding some mashed avocado to the bread.