Tuna and white bean salad (fagioli e tonno) is a simple high protein (no cook) meal for any time of day ~ it’s the healthy Mediterranean diet in action!
It’s rare that such a healthy meal makes my mouth water, but there’s something so luxe about good Italian tuna, creamy white beans, fruity olive oil and soft cooked eggs. And those thin slivers of quick pickled red onion wake it all up. I hate to even use the word salad ~ this is a hearty meal, and a celebration of the iconic flavors of the Mediterranean. The health benefits? They’re off the chart! Experts are always telling us to eat more fish (yes, canned fish counts!) and beans are one of those Blue Zone Diet foods that help you live longer. So lots of reasons to smile when it’s tuna and white bean salad for dinner 🙂
tuna and white bean salad ingredients
You’re golden if you’ve got a well stocked pantry!
- good quality jarred tuna in oil
- common in Europe, jarred tuna is starting to show up on shelves here, too. Jarred tuna is premium tuna with a higher price tag, but still reasonable when compared to other forms of animal protein. Can you use plain old canned tuna? Absolutely! Take a minute to read the labels, there are lots of good quality canned tunas on the market now.
- white beans
- use canned unless you have lots of free time on your hands to soak and cook dried beans. There are lots of varieties of white beans, use great northern like I did, smaller navy beans, or large creamy cannellini (white kidney beans.)
- red onion
- mild whitevinegar
- champagne, white wine, or Sherry vinegar works well. Rice wine vinegar is good, too.
- these misunderstood little pickled berries add a great briny note.
- olive oil
- many would say to use the oil from your jarred tuna, and you can do that if you like. Personally I don’t find the oil from the tuna jars to be of good enough quality to use, but taste for yourself.
- fresh dill and parsley
- salt and pepper
why jarred tuna?
I try to think of animal protein as a luxury, and I’m happy to eat less but pay more for high quality sustainable products. Like the tuna ventresca below. According to Splendid Table “This tuna comes from the belly of the fish, that velvety chunk known in sushi bars as toro. It has deep, buttery, complex flavors and a creamy texture.” Tuna in jars is processed at lower heat than canned tuna, so the flavor is fresher.
quick pickled red onion
We’re technically quick pickling our slivers of red onion by soaking them in a small amount of vinegar while we assemble the salad. The vinegar brightens the onions and provides acidity in the salad to balance out the richness of the tuna. The quick soak also blunts the bite of the onions, allowing you to add as many as you’d like without fear of overpowering the salad. I got the idea from This is a good trick to use for regular green salads, too. You can quick pickle just about everything!
You can throw lots of extras into this salad, and it’s perfect for using up bits and bobs in your fridge. I also like to raid the supermarket olive bar, too.
Toss with baby arugula, chopped radicchio, or baby spinach
Add thin wedges of canned or marinated artichoke hearts
Other veggies like celery or cucumber add a nice crunch
Any type of olives would work well
Marinated peppers or tomatoes
Crumbled feta, goat cheese, or shaved Parmesan
For a little kick sprinkle on red pepper flakes
Hard cooked eggs
variations on tuna and white bean salad
Use leftover salmon or shrimp in place of tuna
Other canned or jarred fish can be used
You can basically add tuna to just about any bean salad to make a healthy meal.
Chickpeas or other beans can be used instead of traditional white beans
Tarragon, rosemary, or thyme work instead of dill
Tuna and White Bean Salad
quick pickled onions
- 1/4 small red onion, cut in thin slivers
- 3 tsp vinegar (this can be any vinegar you like, red, white, or cider vinegar)
- 15 ounce can of white beans, drained
- 1 clove garlic, minced. Shallot can also be used.
- 1 Tbsp capers
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- 4-6 ounces canned or jarred tuna fish packed in oil
- fresh dill snipped
- fresh parsley, minced
- Put the slivered onion and vingear in a small jar and toss to combine. Set aside.
- Put the drained beans in a medium bowl and add the garlic, capers, olive oil and lemon juice and toss gently. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the tuna to the bowl, gently flaking it apart with your fingers, along with the fresh herbs and onions. Note: I drain the onions, but you can also add a bit of the vinegar if you like.
- Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to enjoy. The salad will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge.