Mediterranean tuna salad with creamy feta dressing

Mediterranean tuna salad in a bowl

A tuna salad unlike any other you’ve had before! Tabbouleh vibes with a creamy feta dressing, loaded with bright Mediterranean favourites like lemon, olives, tomato, cucumber and red radish. Eat in a bowl with a spoon. Or stuff into pita bread. SO GOOD!

Mediterranean tuna salad in a bowl

What I really love about this salad: Chopping everything up so the salad has a spoon-able tabbouleh-like texture that acts like a mop for the creamy-lemony feta dressing. So you get a bit of everything in every single mouthful!

Mediterranean tuna salad

This is one of those recipes that was created with a specific goal: to make a healthy salad using canned tuna that was actually, properly I want to eat that tasty, not just meh, ok, I guess I have to make do with the canned tuna type meal, or even worse – but it’s healthy, so I’ll suffer through something bland.

No. I can’t. I just can’t sacrifice enjoyment of meals for the sake of low calorie eating. Life is too short to eat miserably, even for skinny jeans!

But, really tasty meals that also happen to be low carb, gluten-free, low calorie and economical are special.

Today’s Mediterranean Tuna Salad is one such recipe. I hope you love it as much as I do!

Mediterranean tuna salad in pita pockets

Ingredients for this Mediterranean tuna salad

Think: a loaded tabbouleh. Except with tuna, a creamy feta dressing, added bulk and nutritional goodness from kale, plus olives, capsicum and red radish.

Hmmm…reading that back, it really doesn’t sound similar to tabbouleh at all! But you get my drift. It has a tabbouleh like spoon-able texture. But it’s more substantial so you can have it as a meal.

THE CREAMy FETA DRESSING

This salad gets good flavour from the tuna tumbled all throughout so the dressing itself doesn’t need a ton of ingredients. Also, the feta does a lot of heavy lifting here!

  • Danish feta – This is the creamy type of feta. The texture is halfway between a crumbly Greek feta and soft goats cheese. It crumbles but in a smeary way and it can be used to toss through salads but also easily purees into a creamy dressing.

    If using Greek feta, the more crumbly type (ie your fingers don’t get smeary when you crumble it), the dressing will take a little more blitzing effort to make it smooth and a dollop of yogurt to help make it creamy wouldn’t go astray either.

  • Lemon juice – Fresh and tangy! The dressing is bright and tangy, reminiscent of tabbouleh but not as sharp (tabbouleh is usually just lemon). The lemon tang offsets the creaminess of the feta.

  • Extra virgin olive oil – The better the quality, the better the flavour!

  • Salt and pepper – For seasoning.

CANNED TUNA – CHOOSING

Not all tuna is created equal and not all tuna is sourced responsibly!

Use a tuna in olive oil for a tastier option, and choose:

  • best – skipjack tuna pole and line caught

  • acceptable – FAD-free purse seine caught skipjack tuna (most common at large Australian grocery stores)

Do not buy bluefin and big eye tuna (endangered), or tuna that is caught using FADs with purse seine nets, gillnetting and longlining (high cost to marine life). Opt for skipjack tuna, and eat less albacore and yellowfin tuna.

Check the canned tuna label to determine tuna species and fishing method. For recommended brands and more information on choosing responsible canned tuna, read this post: Choosing sustainable canned tuna.


THE SALAD STUFF

OK! And lastly the leafy green and vegetable stuff that goes inside this tuna salad. Pro tip: Curly kale is easy to chop into little pieces because it practically “self crumbles” once you start chopping!

  • Kale – I use curly kale in this salad because it’s easier to chop into little pieces thanks to the shape of leaf which lends itself to “crumbling” as you chop (as long as it’s fresh and perky not old and floppy). However, tuscan kale (aka cavolo nero/black or lacinato kale) can be used in a pinch.

    Other options – baby spinach, cabbage or other greens sturdy enough to finely chop.

  • Red radish – For perky freshness and lovely little pops of pink! Substitute with red onion or green onion.

  • Red capsicum – A medium or large size one. Yellow would also be great and add to the kaleidoscope of colour here!

  • Tomatoes – Unlike many salads where tomato is chopped into small pieces, we are not deseeding it today. Scrape all the watery seeds into the salad – it forms part of the “dressing”!

  • Kalamata olives – Whole pitted olives that we will cut into four pieces. I like doing that because you get these little juicy briny bits of olives littered throughout the salad. Pre-sliced olives don’t have quite the same meaty little bite to it, though you can absolutely use it for convenience.

  • Parsley – For herby freshness, and a nod to the tabbouleh-aspiration.

  • Cucumber – I use what we call Lebanese cucumbers here, the ones that are around 18cm / 7″ long. If you are using the long telegraph cucumbers (about 30cm / 12″ long), you’ll need just over half.


How to make this fabulous tuna salad

One of the more technical recipes on this website:

  1. Blitz the dressing

  2. Toss everything together

(Forgive me, sometimes I have to find ways to amuse myself during long days working at home alone!😂)

1. MAKE Creamy feta dressing

I find it easiest to use a stick blender for this dressing. There’s not enough volume to use a regular size food processor though a small one would work. A blender is a bit of a pain for small volume creamy dressings, I find. Too hard to scrap it all out.

  1. Blitz the feta, lemon, oil, salt and pepper until smooth.

  2. Adjust the thickness if needed using a teaspoon of water at a time. Goal: Thick drizzle-able consistency. ⚠️ Don’t make it too watery because the juices from the vegetables will dilute the dressing when it all gets tossed together.

2. TOSS SALAD

I haven’t included step photos for chopping the vegetables because it doesn’t really matter what shape or how you chop them, as long as they are small spoon-able size. However, I demo the vegetable chopping in the recipe video below.

  1. Toss in stages – Put the kale, capsicum, tomato (scrape in all the juices too), cucumber, radish and olives. Pour over all the dressing and toss well. Crumble in the feta and toss again – it will smear which is a good thing!

  2. Tuna chunks – Then add the tuna. Break it up gently into chunks as you gently toss it through. I personally like having chunks rather than tiny crumbly bits of tuna which is why I add the tuna last.

And you’re done – time to eat!

Making Mediterranean tuna salad

Stuffing pita pockets with Mediterranean tuna salad

Ways to eat this tuna salad

It’s pretty well documented in the decade of recipes contained on this website that I’m a big fan of salads you can eat with a spoon rather than a knife and fork (proof here and here and here). Somehow just makes salads seem more satisfying as a meal, rather than a bowl of wimpy leafy greens that has me reaching into the cookie jar half an hour after dinner. (I can literally *hear* my mother rolling her eyes as she reads this, telling me to grow up! 😂)

Anyway, all that was leading to the ground-breaking instruction to serve this salad in a bowl and eat it with a spoon.

Or – stuff it into pita pockets for the best tuna sandwich of your life. – Nagi x

PS Mmmm, that might be a bit of an excessively grandiose statement! Let’s say it’s equal best with the classic Tuna Sandwich. I have a very big soft spot for that one. And also see below the recipe card for some more canned tuna recipe options that I’m proud to say all continue to receive rave reviews, even from canned tuna skeptics! 😇


Watch how to make it

Mediterranean tuna salad in a bowl

Print

Mediterranean tuna salad with creamy feta dressing

Recipe video above. A tuna salad unlike any other you’ve had before! Tabbouleh vibes with a creamy feta dressing, loaded with bright Mediterranean favourites like lemon, olives, tomato, cucumber and red radish. Eat in a bowl with a spoon. Or stuff into pita bread. SO GOOD!

Low cal, nutritious, low carb, economical, filling and outstandingly delicious. It’s a home run!

Course Lunch, Main, Side
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword canned tuna recipe, mediterranean salad, Tuna Salad
Servings 3 – 4
Calories 421cal
Author Nagi

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 3 tightly packed cups finely chopped curly kale (~6 – 7 kale stems, yes really!) (Note 1)
  • 2 tomatoes , chopped into 1 cm / 1/3″ squares (use the juices too!)
  • 1 red capsicum / bell pepper , chopped into 8mm / 1/3″ squares
  • 1 cucumber , cut lengthwise into 6 or 8 wedges, the chopped into 8mm/1/3″ pieces
  • 1 cup roughly chopped parsley leaves
  • 8 red radish , chopped into 8mm / 1/3″ squares (sub 1 small red onion or 2 green onion stems)
  • 1/2 cup whole pitted kalamata olives , cut into quarters
  • 50g/ 1.5 oz Danish feta (the creamy sort, not crumbly Greek feta) (Note 2)
  • 425g/ 15 oz canned tuna in oil , drained (Note 3, choose responsibly)

Dressing:

  • 100g/ 3.5 oz Danish feta (Note 2)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp cooking salt / kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp water , if needed

Serving option:

  • Pita bread pockets , warmed, cut in half
  • Also see Dressing extra flavour options (Note 4)

Instructions

  • Dressing – Put all the ingredients EXCEPT the water in a jug just large enough to fit the head of a stick blender. Blitz until smooth. Add water 1 tsp at a time until it’s a thick drizzle-able consistency (don’t dilute flavour too much). Then taste and add more salt if needed (feta saltiness varies by brand).
  • Salad – Place all the salad ingredients EXCEPT the feta and tuna in a large bowl. Pour over the dressing, toss. Crumble feta in, toss (it will smear – we like!). Add the tuna and gently toss, trying to keep some chunks rather than it all crumbling into tiny pieces.
  • Taste and add more lemon if desired (I enjoy this on the tart side – tuna can take it!).
  • Serve in bowls with spoons for digging in! Tuck warm pita pockets on the side, or use the tuna salad to stuff inside the pita (it’s sooooo good!).

Notes

1. Kale – Goal here is to chop it up like you would parsley for tabbouleh or garnishing! Curly kale is easier to chop because the shape of leaf lends itself to “crumbling” (as long as it’s fresh and perky, not old and floppy). However, tuscan kale (aka cavolo nero/black or lacinato kale – photo here) can be used in a pinch.

Finely chopped kale (watch video) Grab the base of the kale stem and run your hand up the stem to strip the leaves off. Discard tough stem (or add to vegetable stock). Bundle the kale leaves tightly then finely chop like you would parsley leaves! I run my knife through to cut finely into strips, then I chop 90° the other way. Or – use your food processor 🙂 (Though the pieces will get a little smaller). To measure, pack tightly into cups. You really will need 5 large or 6 to 7 medium stems!

Substitute – baby spinach, cabbage or other greens sturdy enough to finely chop.

2. Danish feta – the creamy type, blends effortlessly into a creamy dressing. If using Greek feta, the dressing will take a little more blitzing effort to make it smooth and a dollop of yogurt to help make it creamy wouldn’t go astray either.

3. Tuna in oil is tastier than tuna in brine / spring water!

Sustainable choices – read the can label and opt for: skipjack tuna that is pole and line caught ie no nets (best) or FAD-free (next best). Avoid: Bluefin and bigeye tuna. Eat less: Yellowfin and albacore. See Choosing Sustainable Canned Tuna for my guide.

4. Extra flavouring options – This salad gets flavour and salt from tuna so the dressing doesn’t need wild flavours. If you want to use this dressing on a side salad, suggest adding one or all these options to give it a flavour boost (else you might find it a little plain):

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
1/8 – 1/4 tsp finely chopped garlic (use with caution, raw garlic flavour can be harsh)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Extra salt

Leftovers holds up well for 2 days because kale doesn’t turn into a soggy mess even once dressed. It does get a little watery though (from tomato and cucumber juices) so if you intend to make ahead or keep leftovers, I would add a little extra feta in the dressing and skip the water to make it thicker (like mayo consistency) to anticipate the dilution.

Nutrition per serving for 4 people.

Nutrition

Calories: 421cal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 37mg | Sodium: 1208mg | Potassium: 709mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 5621IU | Vitamin C: 100mg | Calcium: 254mg | Iron: 3mg

For canned tuna skeptics

Read the rave reviews! So many skeptics converted!

Life of Dozer

You’d swear they were big hunks of beef, the way he was eyeing off those (un-opened) cans. 😂

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