Lebanese Tuna Salad with Pine Nuts and Tahini

(2011) My mother’s kitchen cupboards never changed. Her unwavering brand loyalty and devotion to grocery shopping maintained a perpetual pantry that was never bare. I continue this tradition.

Heinz Ketchup, French’s mustard, Hellman’s Mayonnaise, Vlasic Pickles, Keebler Saltines, Jif Peanut Butter, Smucker’s Strawberry Jam, Jell-O Gelatin, and Star-Kist Tuna still have their place on her shelves.

Saturday after shopping lunches always featured something between two pieces of bread or on a bun. Lunchmeat from the local delicatessen, thick burgers made from ground chuck, Flint Koegel’s Vienna hot dogs that popped when you bit them, sloppy Joes, and tuna salad were always on the menu. My mother never made peanut and jelly sandwiches; she considered them a ‘do it yourself’ snack.

Her tuna salad was made with Star-Kist Chunk Light Tuna packed in oil, chopped jalapeno peppers, cubes of tomato and dill pickles, chopped celery, sliced green onions, and lots of Hellman’s Mayonnaise.

One of my younger brothers liked her tuna salad so much my father nicknamed him ‘Tunie’, a name that has stuck with him since. I always assumed he was given the name because he was a gifted musician.

When I moved to Cincinnati, my Jewish wife turned me on to Tuna Salad from Marx’s Bagels located in our Jewish neighborhood Roselawn. Their Kosher spin on Tuna salad used white albacore tuna, chopped celery, shredded carrots, and just enough Mayonnaise to bind it all together. My own spin on their spin added minced red bell pepper, horseradish, capers, finely minced fresh dill and cilantro, capers, a dash of Tabasco and, like Marx’s, just enough mayo to bind all the ingredients. This tuna salad was on my catering menu for decades, always appeared on our family’s Yom Kippur menu, and was featured in my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah ‘Jewish Delicatessen’ menu as she requested.

Many years later my Italian friend Inelda gave me her signature Tuna and Cannellini Bean Salad made with olive oil packed tuna, white kidney beans, red onions, parsley and balsamic syrup. It is still in my repertoire and always reminds me of her.

Today’s Lebanese Tuna Salad with Pine Nuts and Tahini changes with the season. In the summer it includes celery, carrots, chives, scallions, sweet bell peppers, or hot chilies. After and before the growing season it includes only stored red onions, toasted pine nuts, and parsley.

Stuff this creamy salad into pitas accompanied by Mixed Pickled Vegetables (posted November 14, 2016). Kettle chips only make it better.

Lebanese Tuna Salad with Pine Nuts and Tahini

Serves 4- 6

Cook’s notes: Tuna packed in Olive Oil and Toasted Pine Nuts are available at Trader Joe’s.

12 ounces Tuna packed in Olive Oil (from 3- 4 ounce cans), drain and reserve the liquid from the cans

1/4 cup finely minced Red Onion

1/3 cup Pine Nuts, toasted

1 cup Parsley, finely minced


¼ cup Tahini

Reserved liquid from Tuna (1/2 cup or to taste)

¼ cup Fresh Lemon Juice

6-8 Garlic Cloves preserved in Olive, smashed (recipe posted January 29, 2017) or 2 cloves finely minced Fresh Garlic or to taste

¼ teaspoon Cayenne or Aleppo Dried Pepper, or to taste

Salt and Ground Black Pepper to taste

In a bowl, whisk together the tahini and the reserved liquid from the tuna. Add the garlic and cayenne.

Whisk in the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Salt and pepper to taste.

Fold in the tuna, onion, pine nuts, and parsley.