Firecracker Tuna Salad

There’s something very lunch-y and comforting about tuna salad — which explains why I’ve been experimenting with it so much lately. It just feels so easy to grab a can from the pantry, then dig through the fridge for ideas. (Plus I’ll take any excuse to eat homemade mayo.) My husband Dave usually requests pickled jalapenos in his tuna, but today I was inspired by the glossy fresh peppers in the fridge. And unbidden, the name Firecracker Tuna popped into my head.

I turned to the spice cabinet to look for other hot-ish seasonings that would add depth of flavor along with the pop of heat. I landed on mustard powder, cayenne, and Aleppo pepper. Don’t be put off if you don’t like hot food; you can cut back on the quantities, if you like.

This tuna came out more flavorful than sizzling — and you can always use fresh raw veggies as fire extinguishers, if necessary.

Firecracker Tuna Salad

Serves 2 | Prep 10 minutes | Whole30 compliant

  • 1/2 to 1 large jalapeno pepper, finely minced

  • 4 scallions, green & white, sliced thin

  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (can substitute crushed red pepper flakes)

  • pinch cayenne pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

  • 2 cans tuna (I like this kind)

  • salt & black pepper, to taste

  • 2-3 tablespoons homemade mayo


In a medium mixing bowl, combine the jalapenos, scallions, mustard powder, Aleppo pepper, cayenne, vinegar, and tuna. Mix well with a fork, breaking up any large clumps of tuna. Taste for seasoning.


With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the mayo so the salad becomes creamy, but the mayo doesn’t devolve into its component parts.


Pile on a plate with raw veggies — I like cucumber slices, jicama sticks, green pepper strips, and carrots because they’re cool and sweet in contrast to the spicy tuna.

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  • Kelly R. says:

    Hey Mel! Have you ever experimented with celeriac? I had the most amazing celeriac puree last night at a local restaurant and I am inspiried to try it out at home. I’m just wondering if you have any tips before I start!

  • sarah says:

    all of these look great – I hope that one of your next tuna experiments won’t include mayo! I want to incorporate more tuna into my diet, but with my lack of cooking creativity and dislike of anything looking like/tasting like mayo (even paleo mayo), I have no idea where to start.

    • Mel says:

      Challenge accepted! I’ve been kicking around a tuna idea that uses a vinaigrette and some unusual vegetables, so look for it soon!

      • Mel says:

        Also… you can take any of the tuna recipes on my blog and replace the mayo with a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of either lemon juice or a mild vinegar (like cider or raspberry). It won’t be creamy, but it will taste really good. Give it a shot!

        • Kathy says:

          I shunned mayo at all costs when I was a kid. My mom made my portion of tuna salad by subbing butter for the mayo. At room temp, the consistency is about the same. You just have to adjust the flavoring a bit to get the “mayo tang”, if that’s your thing. She also did that with deviled eggs. Yeah, she loved me!

      • sarah says:

        Yaaaay! I’m looking forward to it. I will try your recommendation of extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice, that sounds delish. Thank you!

        • PT says:

          One of my favorite mayo substitute when I’m out of homemade mayo is one avocado mashed with juice of 1 lemon. It works like a charm in tuna/egg/sardine/chicken salad.

  • Janet says:

    I am so going to try this recipe – I am going to attempt to make the mayo too! I actually like to add a bit of hard boiled egg into my tuna salad. I usually just cook the egg, then slice it in the egg slicer in both the long and short directions and mash it all in with the tuna!

  • Jenny Nagel says:

    Another fine reason to pull out the food processor and make some mayo!

  • Tracie says:

    Could I pretty please substitute canned chicken breast or even just chopped up chicken? I can not for the life of me stand seafood. *GASP* I know.

  • N says:

    YUM! I made this for lunch today and it rocked! I love your work! Big fan! Hope CR was amazing. Trying to get there for xmas.

  • Allison says:

    Hi Mel,

    Got to you through an interview on Love the idea of this salad. Like you, I put red wine vinegar in my tuna. I usually forego mayo (not really a fan) and substitute with horseradish dijon mustard, plus pickle relish. I’ll have to try it with this kick though! Looks awesome!

  • Buttoni says:

    I’ve been thinking about trying jalapeno in my next batch of tuna salad. You beat me to it. So glad to hear it is GOOD this way. I like to put a little shawarma spice mix into my homemade mayo that goes into tuna salad, too. I think BOTH might be good in my next batch!

  • Mud Angel says:

    I roasted my jalapenos & added 1 cup of minced asian pear for some sweetness – it is excellent!!!

  • Jennifer says:

    So my Mayo tanked — twice and I bailed for “store” (gasp!)because after 20 mile bike ride I was STARVING and couldn’t wait on another set of egg/oil combo to get to room temp. But that aside, this was the best tuna salad I’ve had in a long time. I believe my “Third Time Mayo” (chilling in the fridge) will work for next time tho. Dang that stuff is persnickity.

    • Mel says:

      The homemade mayo can be persnickety, but it gets easier with practice — I promise! Glad you liked the tuna recipe. Be sure to read the other comments — there are lots of great suggestions for mayo alternatives, too. YAY!

  • Melissa says:

    this stuff is the shiz. Holy crap is it good.

    Dan and I love spice. I was scared when I was making it, that it may kill me when I ate it, but it was PERFECT!

  • Lauren says:

    I made this last night for Day 4 of whole 30. me and joey both taste-tested before bed time – YUM! really looking forward to lunch today! going to eat it with carrots and raw green peppers!!

  • Veronica Pearl says:

    Wow! So yummy. Found this gem on Pinterest. Thank you for this..definitely a keeper. My hubby and I are munching on it as I type this. I used a little non-fat greek yogurt to make it a little creamier. Perfection!

  • Sireesha says:

    Thanks for the recipe! Can I substitute a spicy mustard for the mustard powder?

  • Lincoln Schleifer says:

    try the Bumble Bee Tonno in Olive Oil- I like it even better than the Genova Tonno-

  • Cindy Jones says:

    My husband made this for lunch today with some leftover tuna steaks from last nights dinner. It was fantastic! Thanks for sharing this amazing creation.

  • Brandi Whitson says:

    I purchased the Well Fed mag at Sprouts a while back and have many pages bunny eared and keep them on repeat! I recently started MyFitnessPal and I’m trying to compile a nutritional profile for the firecracker tuna salad. Do you have the information before I start trying to determine it? LOVE THIS MAGAZINE!!!!