The best tuna sandwich

March 28, 2010

Tuscan Tuna and White Bean Sandwich

I sometimes daydream about owning a little bakery cafe. In my next life. A friendly place where everyone knows your name. Bob would stroll in at 6:05 am for a black coffee, a slice of banana bread and a newspaper. Kate would stop by at 1:30 for a lemonade, a sandwich and a chat. Susan would call ahead twice a month to order roasted beet salad or rolls for her next dinner party. It would have butter yellow walls and crisp white trim, mismatched chairs, chalkboard menus and vintage style dishes. (Ok, perhaps I daydream about this a bit too much.) We’d be that place in the neighborhood with the best latte. The best cinnamon chip scone. The best sweet potato bisque. The best tuna sandwich.

In a world where the standard menu tuna sandwich too often promises soggy mayo-laden mush scooped between some limp white bread, this Tuscan Tuna and White Bean Sandwich deserves praise. It’s mayo-less! It has flavor! It has texture! It has lemon and basil and kalamata olives and white bean spread! Seriously, what’s not to love about this sandwich? My taste buds did a happy dance. When I own that little cafe (wink), you’ll see some variation of this sandwich on the chalkboard menu.

Tuscan Tuna and White Bean Sandwiches

(Adapted from Gourmet)

For beans

  • 1 (14- to 15-oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For tuna salad

  • 2 (5-oz) cans Italian tuna in oil, drained (2 T oil reserved)
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 2 T finely chopped red onion
  • 1-2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

For sandwiches

  • 8 slices hearty whole grain bread (3/4 inch thick)
  • Fresh arugula

Prepare beans:
Coarsely mash beans with a fork in a bowl, then stir in garlic, lemon juice, oil, basil, salt and pepper.

Make tuna:
Flake tuna in a bowl with a fork, then stir in basil, olives, celery, onion, reserved oil, lemon juice and pepper until combined.

Assemble sandwiches:
Spoon one fourth of bean mixture on 1 slice of bread, then top with one fourth of tuna salad, some arugula, and a slice of bread. Make 3 more sandwiches in same manner.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

15 Comments
  1. AnnE

    March 28, 2010 at 11:17 am


    This sounds delicious…maybe you should send this recipe to replace the infamous “tuna sandwich” at the Silver Bullet.

  2. Sara

    March 28, 2010 at 12:29 pm


    I love this! Not only because your writing was just so perfect (and I dream about the SAME thing) but bc I also agree that tuna and white beans are a perfect compliment. Thanks for the reminder and great recipe!

  3. Kyla

    March 28, 2010 at 2:33 pm


    YUMMY!! I wish I didn’t just return from my weekly Whole Foods shopping adventure. Oh, who cares. I’m going back out to get the ingredients. PS – I want you to open this little cafe you day dream about!

  4. Kristin

    March 28, 2010 at 5:33 pm


    alright! i’ve been wanting to spice up my tuna sandwiches. can’t wait to try this one out. good work as always, carolyn!!

  5. Sarah

    March 29, 2010 at 8:36 am


    My mouth is watering this right now. I cannot wait to try this! I am hoping you open up a restaurant in Toledo, OH!

  6. Stephanie

    March 29, 2010 at 8:39 am


    Do it. I’m all for your cafe idea.

  7. Tracy

    March 29, 2010 at 2:10 pm


    Tuna and white beans. You are a genius. Really. I LOVE this recipe.

  8. allison from "a for aubergine"

    March 29, 2010 at 4:07 pm


    i love that it has no mayo! i haven’t had a good tuna sammie in awhile, so i’ll def have to make this sammie soon. thanks girl!

  9. Kyle

    March 29, 2010 at 7:38 pm


    Let me qualify…I only eat tuna if it is sushi grade or a well prepared steak. Call me particular, but tuna out of can just seems wrong and smells bad.

    Correction – I will only eat sushi grade tuna or a well prepared steak if this is not an option. Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot get enough of this (hence my two sandwiches yesterday afternoon). I mean really, who knew canned tuna could be so good?

  10. Kaitlin

    March 30, 2010 at 2:23 pm


    Yum. Oh dear God, yum. This sounds waaaay better than the typical tuna sandwich!

    I love your photos. Especially that first one; the selective focus is perfect!

    Oh, and I definitely daydream about owning a bakery too. Someday… Maybe….

    :D

  11. Carolyn

    March 30, 2010 at 2:27 pm


    Kyle’s comment: Ha! True story! I about died when he asked for another one. And yes, I made them for him. I figured it was only fair considering I totally rubbed this revised no-canned-tuna policy in his face. Love being right! ;)

  12. M.

    March 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm


    I like your dream….why not do it in this life?????
    This recipe would be perfect for your cafe…..healthy and delicious…. :)

  13. Kevin (Closet Cooking)

    April 8, 2010 at 8:44 pm


    What a tasty tuna salad sandwich!

  14. kim

    May 4, 2010 at 8:51 am


    i love this…made it last night and everyone loved it…including my bean phobic husband. smooth, creamy, yummy…perfect.

  15. carmel

    May 18, 2012 at 8:23 pm


    I love tuna and beans together! I just wrote a blog post about a tuna wrap with a white bean paste. Live outside the mayo box….er, jar.

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