Sack Lunch: Beans and Tuna Salad Recipe

Sack Lunch: Beans and Tuna Salad Recipe

Last month there was a great thread here about “What do you bring to eat at your desk for lunch?” As interesting as the responses were, I was chagrined to discover near-universal condemnation of people who enjoy tuna salad in the air they share with their co-workers. Whoops! I definitely ate lots of tuna salad at my office job; but then, my colleagues weren’t exactly scared to stink up the place, so I guess I felt it was my right as much as theirs. The woman in the next cubicle used to microwave incredibly pungent curries around 3 p.m., and a woman in a nearby office would attempt to eliminate the odor with room perfume, leaving me in the middle of a knock-down, drag-out Jo Malone vs. cumin death match. Another woman spent hours preparing elaborate feasts in the teeny area meant for adding milk and sugar to your coffee. I guess my tuna fish didn’t seem so obtrusive to me, but now I wonder if people were retching as they passed my desk.

If it weren’t for the scary mercury thing, I would probably eat canned tuna for lunch five days a week. I actually love the way it smells, whether it’s mixed up with mayonnaise and packed onto bread (yum) or gussied up with olive oil, beans, and herbs. Here is Marcella Hazan’s recipe for beans and tuna salad. It’s good, but I usually don’t use a recipe when I want this for lunch; I just combine a can of tuna (oil-packed, or add olive oil to the finished salad), a can of white beans or chickpeas, a tablespoon of nonpareil capers (I like capers, so adjust accordingly), some black pepper, and a dash of red wine vinegar. If I am feeling fancy, maybe some parsley or minced red onion. That makes enough for two lunches, no bread needed. And now that it’s nice outside, you can go eat it on a bench, doing unto the curry lady of your office as you wish she would do unto you.

  • Yield:4


  • 1 cup dried cannellini beans, soaked, cooked, and drained, OR 3 cups canned cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/2 medium onion, preferably a sweet variety such as Bermuda red, Vidalia, or Maui, very thinly sliced (and soaked in several changes of cold water, if you are up for it…I am not)
  • Salt
  • 1 seven-ounce can imported tuna packed in olive oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Choice quality red wine vinegar
  • Black pepper, cracked fairly coarse


  1. 1.

    Put the beans and onion into a serving bowl, sprinkle liberally with salt, and toss. Drain the tuna and add it to the bowl, breaking it into large flakes with a fork. Pour on enough oil to coat well, add a dash of vinegar and a generous quantity of black pepper, toss thoroughly, turning the ingredients over several times, and taste and correct seasoning.