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Briny Caper Tuna Salad

Written by Rebecca Peters-Golden

I tend to be a wee bit obsessive. Just your garden-variety wears-the-same-outfit-for-a-month, watches-eight-seasons-of-TV-in-a-week obsessive.

You know how it goes: you find something and realize it fits perfectly with everything about you and so you must enfold it in your life.

Well, for years, the caper was missing from my life and I didn’t even feel its absence. Sure, I’d eaten them on the odd deli bagel platter at relatives’ houses, but I’d never really considered them.

caper tuna salad with lettuce
Photo: Casey Barber

Now? I’m obsessed.

Apparently, the caperberry was once thought to have an aphrodisiac effect; indeed, the Hebrew word for “caperberry” is similar to the Hebrew root of “desire.”

The caper bush is commonly found in circum-Mediterranean countries (capers are the flower buds of the bush), so Mediterranean cuisine uses them liberally.

They come packed in salt or in brine and both are delicious. Puttanesca sauce was my caper gateway drug and I have never looked back.

tuna salad in pita bread
Photo: Casey Barber

The combination of rich sweet tomatoes, tangy garlic, and briny capers is something I crave at least once a week.

But what about recipes that don’t usually call for capers? Over the last two years I have begun systematically adding capers to any likely dish—some just to see when the caper will finally fail me.

And you know what? It never does.

The variation that I’ve gotten the most mileage out of, though, is a caper tuna salad.

caper tuna salad with lettuce
Photo: Casey Barber

I’m always looking for easy ways to get good protein and, because I live alone, it can be hard to buy meat or fish when I go grocery shopping because don’t want it to go bad.

Tuna salad is a great solution to the problem because it’s quick to make, extremely inexpensive, and versatile: you can use it to make a sandwich, put a scoop on a salad, or snack on it with veggies or crackers.

But this recipe has completely invigorated tuna salad for me.

While you can still stick it on a sandwich or salad, it’s actually flavorful enough that I have no problem eating it on its own, something I’d never do with plain old tuna and mayo.

caper tuna salad with lettuce

The briny flavor of the capers goes exceptionally well with the fish, and using a little bit of the caper brine cuts down on the amount of mayonnaise you need to use (I’m not a big fan).

I use brine-packed capers for this reason, but I bet the ones packed in salt would be great too. If you use those, just omit the salt from the recipe below.

This caper tuna salad also makes for a killer tuna melt; I like it with thick wheat bread, thin-sliced tomato, Havarti cheese, and a piece of crispy bacon.

caper tuna salad with lettuce

Caper Tuna Salad

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Capers, scallions, sweet pickles, and garlic make this caper tuna salad the best and briniest you'll ever eat. Not kidding.

Ingredients

  • 2 (5-ounce) cans oil-packed tuna, drained
  • 4-5 tablespoons mayonnaise, Miracle Whip, or Vegenaise
  • 10 or so sweet pickle chips, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 heaping tablespoons capers
  • a drizzle of caper brine
  • salt to taste (unless you use salt-packed capers)
  • lots of cracked black pepper
  • red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Mix the tuna, mayonnaise, scallions, pickles, garlic, and capers in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Mix in the caper brine to loosen the tuna salad to your preferred consistency.
  3. Add the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Tinker until it’s your own personal briny perfection!
  4. Stored in an airtight container, the tuna salad lasts up to a week in the fridge.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 874Total Fat: 88gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 77gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 673mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 2gSugar: 8gProtein: 8g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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6 Comments

  1. This looks really good. Just looking at the picture, it looks as though corn is one of the ingredients. Haven’s made tuna in a while. Definitely trying this and pinning to keep up with the recipe….

    1. Sharon, those are diced bread-and-butter pickles in the tuna salad – I like ’em chunky!

  2. This sounds wonderful, and adding a bit of the brine is a great idea! (My mother always put capers on top of mustardy egg salad, which was also terrific.) Your caper tuna melt sounds heavenly!

  3. I didn’t think anything could top my boss’s tuna salad (her secret ingredient is a touch of honey), but this sounds divine. I totally HEART capers!

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