Barbie’s Main Dish Tuna Salad

I like tuna salad, but in my house it’s a lunchtime thing eaten in sandwich form. Barbie serves hers with lettuce and a few extras in an attempt to elevate this tuna salad into a satisfying entree.

The cookbook’s structure suggests that Barbie wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of tuna salad as the star of dinner though; despite claiming “Main Dish” status right in the recipe’s title, Barbie’s Easy-As-Pie Cookbook lists it under Sandwiches, Salads, and Snacks instead of putting it in the Most Delicious Main Dishes chapter. Is this a covert acknowledgement that tuna salad is not, in fact, a dinner-worthy main dish? Or does Barbie think that it is a main, just not one of the “most delicious” ones? Read on to take a look at this dish and decide for yourself.

Main Dish Tuna Salad


      • 2 5-ounce cans of tuna fish
      • 1 cup chopped celery
      • 1/2 cup peas (see tips)
      • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
      • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
      • lettuce leaves
      • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
      • 2 hardboiled eggs
      • salt & pepper to taste

Blend lemon juice, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper, and set aside. Open the can of tuna and drain off the water or oil it was packed in. Put the tuna in a bowl and flake it with a fork.

Finely chop celery, and then add celery and peas to the tuna. Add the mayo mixture; then stir until everything’s combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary, cover the bowl, and chill it in the refrigerator until it’s time to eat.

To serve, wash whole lettuce leaves and pat dry. Peel boiled eggs and cut them in half. Then line 2 plates or shallow serving bowls with lettuce leaves. Heap the tuna salad into the center of each dish, and add the tomato pieces and boiled eggs.

Serves 2.

-Adapted from Barbie’s Easy-As-Pie Cookbook 

Barbie’s published version of this recipe was, like many of the things we’ve come across in Easy-As-Pie Cookbook, desperately under-seasoned. In fact, Barbie would have you believe that a tuna salad needs no salt at all! Part of me wants to assume that “add salt and pepper to taste” is so common sense that Barbie tends to leave it out, but many of these dishes do include a very small amount of salt (and when they get really wild… there’s a couple of dashes of pepper in them too).

The suggested portions of this dish also confirmed my opinion that it’s meant as a side plate and not a main. The original cookbook version calls for one 7-ounce can of tuna and claims to feed four. The average single-serving tuna can you find today is 5 ounces that, when drained, gives you 4 ounces of tuna. Using two of those gives you a bit more than Barbie’s original 7-ounce suggestion, but there’s no way that will stretch enough to work as a four-person entree even with the added peas and celery.

In order to make this more of a meal, Jim converted his into a couple of sandwiches with olives and red onion.

Easy-As-Pie already does include a nearly identical tuna salad recipe served in sandwich form, but that’s a post for another day…

Extra Tips:

  • Barbie’s recipe suggests you use canned peas that are well-drained, and for one-step convenience that may be the way to go. If you have frozen peas on hand though, you’ll want to steam or boil them a little. There’s no need to thaw them first, just chuck ’em in a steamer basket or small pot of boiling water and cook until they’re just barely tender. Be careful not to overcook these; as little as two minutes may be enough. I’d suggest making them a bit ahead of time (or even popping them in the fridge while you put the rest of the tuna salad together) so you don’t put hot peas in a cold salad.
  • I make boiled eggs by pressure cooking them on high in an Instant Pot for 4 minutes, releasing the excess pressure 4 minutes after the cook time, and then putting them in an ice bath to cool. Barbie suggests you add room temperature eggs to a saucepan of boiling water, turn the heat down, and simmer for twenty minutes before rinsing each egg under cold water. You’ll definitely want to start these well before dinner time so they can cool down a little.
  • The original Easy-As-Pie Cookbook version of this recipe included olives. And, sorry Barbie, but no. If you love olives, you should add some though!

Final Thoughts:

Personally I didn’t feel strongly one way or the other about the peas, but the lemon juice gave this tuna salad a much brighter flavor than my usual mix of tuna, celery, mayo, and seasonings. Mixing the mayonnaise and lemon juice before adding it to the tuna made for a thinner dressing that coated well without a ton of extra stirring. We don’t always have fresh lemons on hand, but when I have an extra one around, I’ll definitely squeeze one to perk up my low-effort lunchtime meals.

I still don’t see this becoming a regular dinner entree in my house though.

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