Lunch is my Everest. It doesn’t matter how carefully I plan or how much prep I do beforehand, I always end up having a sad bagel at least once a week. It’s even worse when I decide to pack my own lunch. For some reason, I just never want to have the healthy lunch that I packed once noon rolls around.
To further complicate things, after going on a low-carb diet for about three months, I noticed that it does make a difference when I have a big sandwich for lunch. I often end up feeling sluggish and tired right after I eat, which is the worse feeling when you still have four hours of work ahead of you.
Still, having a salad with no protein in it, even if it’s huge and delicious, never leaves me feeling completely satisfied. I usually end up having an unhealthy snack in the middle of the afternoon, which completely defeats the purpose of having that healthy salad for lunch.
Enter tuna. I’ve always loved canned tuna because we eat a ton of it in Costa Rica. My fall back lunch (and dinner) for years has been making a super simple tuna salad (mayo, some herbs, and a squeeze of lime juice) and eating it on crackers. This inspired me to try to make the ULTIMATE tuna salad in the hopes that I would want to have it at least once a week. It had to be easy enough to throw together in a hurry but also flavorful enough to keep me from getting sick of it after a week.
The answer? Chipotle mayo. Many groceries now sell a pre-made version of it, but making your own is really simple. Chipotles in adobo, they key ingredient in the mayo, are cheap and easy to get. They add a subtle smokiness and spiciness to any dish, and they keep really well in the fridge in a small plastic container. I chose a chipotle mayo because it works surprisingly well with tuna, which can be a bit bland when packed in water rather than oil. To create a balance of textures, I also decided to add sliced cucumber and fried capers for some crunch. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that fried capers are now my new favorite snack. Seriously, those things are addictive.
What is your favorite low-carb lunch? I would love to hear your ideas!
Tuna Salad with Chipotle Mayo
This easy tuna salad gets a kick from homemade chipotle mayo and some crunch from fresh cucumbers and fried capers.
- For the chipotle mayo:
- ½ cup good-quality mayo
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 2 chipotles in adobo, roughly chopped
- A squeeze of lime juice (from half a lime)
- Salt to taste
- For the fried capers (optional):
- 1 tablespoon of capers, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- For the salad:
- 2 cans of good-quality albacore tuna, drained
- 1 small shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup of chipotle mayo (or to taste)
- 2 big handfuls of your favorite salad mix (I used a mixture of baby spinach and Spring greens)
- Half a cucumber, seeded, peeled, and cut into half moons
- A squeeze of lemon
- A drizzle of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of fried capers (optional)
- Salt to taste
- Step 1 To make the chipotle mayo: put all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined. Taste and add salt if necessary. Set aside while you prepare the salad.
- Step 2 To make the fried capers: dry the capers well using a paper towel. This will prevent them from splattering too much when you add them to the hot oil, and it will help them to crisp up faster.
- Step 3 Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the capers and stand back for a few seconds because they will still splatter a bit. Fry them in the oil for 1-2 minutes. They should go from a deep green to a brownish green color when they are ready. Be very careful not to burn them. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
- Step 4 Set aside while you prepare the rest of the salad components.
- Step 5 To make the tuna salad: empty the tuna into a medium bowl and use a fork to brake it into chunks. Add the shallot and 1/2 cup of the chipotle mayo and mix well. If you would like the salad to be wetter, keep adding more chipotle mayo by the spoonful until you obtain the right consistency. `
- Step 6 To assemble the salad: In a medium bowl, combine the two handfuls of salad mix and the cucumber. Add a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of salt and mix well. Divide the salad greens and the cucumber equally among two plates. Top with the tuna mixture and sprinkle everything with some of the fried capers. Serve immediately.
If you decide to pack this salad for lunch, I would suggest keeping the components separate and assembling the whole thing when lunch rolls around. Adding the lemon and the olive oil to the greens beforehand will make them wilt. You can definitely make the tuna salad in advance and keep it in a container in the fridge, but I would use it within 3 days to make sure that it stays fresh.
Any leftover chipotle mayo will go great on burgers, sandwiches, or even fish tacos. It keeps for 4-5 days in the fridge.