Light & Lively Open-Faced Tuna Sandwich

Not quite the tuna sandwich you grew up on!

Tuna sandwiches were a mainstay in our house growing up. They were simple, just canned tuna, mayonnaise, diced onion, a little celery. If we had unexpected company at lunch time, my mom could make an amazing number of sandwiches with just one can of tuna! She would add extra mayonnaise, extra onion, and celery, and even mix in chopped up iceberg lettuce if she had to extend it further. My sister and I joked that this was our mother’s miracle of the loaf and fish, but nobody complained. There was always room for one more plate on the table.

Let’s swap a vinaigrette for the mayo

      Lightening this up was really fun and delicious. A vinaigrette base is much lighter than mayonnaise, and you can add different herbs as you like, and even vary the olive oil. I made this with yellow onion, but if I’d had a shallot in the house, I would have used that instead.

Chose the tuna wisely

      I’m always careful about the tuna I purchase. Some of the brands now tell you they have been mercury tested and line caught, better for our bodies as well as the rest of the fish in the sea that can get caught up in net harvesting. It is more expensive by a long shot, but it is worth it, and sustainable. Look for wild with no-salt added, so you can control how much. I’ve used tuna in water here because I wanted to choose the olive oil, but you can use tuna packed in oil if you like.

A delicious bread is the best base

      Use a favorite whole grain bread with lots of texture. I used a multi-grain bread from a local bakery and it was perfect grilled with just a bit of char on the edges. Your tuna sandwich will be an experience and not just a forgettable lunch, a miracle in itself! If you get unexpected company, you can stretch this by adding some minced lettuce to the mix; you never know who is going to stop by!

Light & Lively Tuna Sandwich

  • 8 oz. no-salt-added tuna in water, plus water
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • ¼ cup favorite extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 heaping tsp. French mustard
  • ½ tsp. finely minced fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • Pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper
  • ¼ medium onion, sliced as thin as possible
  • Toasted or grilled whole-grain bread

      Open tuna and drain, saving the water. Break into large chunks and set aside.

      In a mixing bowl, combine the dressing ingredients: lemon zest, juice, olive oil, mustard, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper. Whisk and thin with a bit of the tuna water. I used about 2 tbsp. Add the onion and mix well, set aside for ten minutes or so to soften the onion while you toast the bread.

      Add the tuna to the dressing and gently toss. Heap on the charred bread slices, and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. This is also delicious served in little lettuce cups.

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52 Comments Add yours

  1. Yum! It sounds delicious, especially on my homemade sourdough bread. I never thought of adding the tuna water!

    1. Thanks! If I can avoid throwing away flavor, that’s what I’ll do! Mom usually bought tuna in oil, and she usually added it to the mayo if she needed to extend the dish!

  2. brwbmm says:

    I’ve always loved a tuna (or salmon) salad sandwich. Until a few years ago when I tried making the salad with fresh baked or grilled tuna or salmon. Now canned tuna tastes like cardboard to me – I’m never going back. I also use a mix of mayo, plain yogurt and sour cream for the binder.

    1. I love yoghurt in a traditional tuna sandwich. It adds a lovely tang!

  3. Chef Mimi says:

    I love this! Tuna with an onion and parsley salad! Brilliant.

    1. Thanks Mimi! I love parsley, and sometimes I even throw a little more in!

  4. Ally Bean says:

    Yum. I like all things tuna.

    1. I do do, fresh, canned, jarred. Even in a wiggle!

  5. Bernadette says:

    I was raised a Catholic, so this was a Friday mainstay for lunch. If I had been served tuna like you prepared in this recipe, I would have looked forward to lunch on Friday. Did you know tuna salad sandwiches were Julia Child’s favorite lunch?

    1. I didn’t know that Bernie! I wonder how she made hers. I’ll have to look it up!

  6. Love tuna. Love sandwiches This looks like a winner.

    1. Thanks Jovina! This one is really tasty!

  7. Marylou says:

    Canned tuna is such a great ingredient for an emergency meal .. l love open faced sandwich like this, I can see the beauty of the sandwich:)

    1. Thank you Marylou! It really is handy to have around!

  8. Gail says:

    It’s been awhile since I bought (and ate) canned tuna. Now you’ve got me thinking….🤔💦🐟

    1. There’s always a can on my shelf, although I do prefer fresh for most purposes. I also love the tuna in oil packed in jars.
      Sometimes, you just want a tuna sandwich!

      1. Gail says:

        Agreed! It’s like me and Egg Salad! 😜🍃🥚🍞

  9. Ronit says:

    This is really such a nice refreshing take on tuna salad. 🙂

    1. Thanks Ronit. It is much lighter, and I think the tuna flavor isn’t buried in mayo!

  10. Mary says:

    Your Tuna salad Sandwich sounds delightful but I do not like canned Tuna. It tastes like cotton wool. But I’m sure this would be lovely with canned salmon too.

    1. I’ve actually made a similar version with wild canned salmon as well, and it is really good!

  11. NativeNM says:

    I never could pass up a good tuna sandwich! This looks so good!

    1. You and Julia Child! Thanks Jan. We love them too!

  12. Hi, Dorothy – This sandwich looks delicious. I haven’t had a tuna sandwich in years (my husband is not a fan). Thank you for mentioning that you’ve made a similar version with canned salmon. That he would eat! 😀

    1. It’s lovely with the canned salmon, and in reality, didn’t taste a whole lot different!

  13. Eha says:

    *smile* Very much my style of sandwich! Being Estonian-born my sandwiches, and they are made virtually daily, are always open ones . . . also mayonnaise is used but once in a blue moon in this house. Very much agree about the tuna, but methinks smoked eel or kippers would do very nicely also! Inviting photo . . . oh well, my supper is almost due . . .

    1. Thanks Eha! I adore open faced sandwiches. There is less bread proportionally, and I guess I just love to see all the ingredients and arrange them just so.
      Smoked eel or kippers would be great here, love the smoke!!!!

  14. Nancy says:

    Never thought of using the tuna water and parsley gives it such freshness. Yum!

    1. All around raves for this one. You know I like to salvage every bit of flavor I can, and the tuna water added to the orchestra!

  15. Back in the day, I took tuna sandwich to school every Friday. I would open that sandwich, and the bread would be damp, but the sandwich was always tasty. I had tuna sandwich this week as a matter of fact. Good eating however you do it.

    1. Tickles all those memories doesn’t it Judy?

  16. You’re giving my mister a run for his money! His tuna salad is excellent … and the only thing he can prepare in the kitchen besides a mess! 😊

    1. Ha ha! My husband is just the opposite. He cleans up MY mess, but he doesn’t cook at think sadly!

  17. nancyc says:

    I love tuna sandwiches!!! I never thought of using a vinaigrette instead of mayo, but I love the idea and will have to try it! I’m sure it adds a wonderful flavor!

    1. Thanks Nancy! It’s an entirely different dish using the vinaigrette, and the possibilities are many!

  18. Absolutely mouthwatering 😋 I love tuna sandwiches 😋 sometimes I like to add also capers in vinegar or replace the mayonnaise with Greek yogurt 😋😉 There are really endless ways of making the tuna sandwiches 😋😉

    1. I’m with the capers! lovely little spark of saltiness!

  19. The family consensus is six cheers for the open face tuna sandwiches, and one dissent, Nono only likes mayonnaise with his tuna! But he’s 85 and “slightly” set in his ways. And now I’m hungry. Love this one, hugs, C

    1. Thank you Cheryl! We’ll let Nono have his mayonnaise!

  20. Carolyn Page says:

    A small can of tuna (any way it comes) makes for a great sanga (Aussie slang) with a little of this and that plus avocado. (If I’m making a sandwich just for me, Pebble (puppy wuppy) gets a little bit of tuna too! I’m guessing she hopes I’m only making a sanga for me… 😀

    1. LOL! They love those little treats!
      Avocado atop this sanga would be great! Thanks for the very cool word!

  21. Thank you for the suggestion on the tuna. I’m looking for a healthy alternative as I love tuna.

    1. I love tuna too, fresh, canned, lightly seared, raw even. We just have to keep paying attention and reading those labels! It does help.

  22. Oh that does look tasty, Dorothy. Right up my tasting alley with tuna and wholegrain breads. I am a bit more conscious of the heavy metals present in most seafood now. It is getting harder to get pure food.

    1. We really have to pay attention, don’t we Amanda? Sometimes it is not easy. I make a point of getting to know and trust the local fish mongers, even then, their knowledge can only go so far.
      Tuna is tricky, there is so much deviation from fish to fish, but I do look for companies that at least test for mercury. As with anything, the consumer needs to demand it.

  23. You are right Dorothy, not the tuna my mom made us! I love the onions you added too.

    1. This didn’t feed a houseful of company either!

  24. Kevin says:

    I love a tuna mayo brown bread sandwich, and your recipe sounds delicious.

    1. When you crave them, nothing else will do Kevin!

    1. Thank you for reposting!

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