Tuna Quinoa Salad

May 26, 2015

Tuna Quinoa Salad

How much canned tuna can I safely consume a week?
I get asked this question a lot — particularly at this time of year.
When it’s hot outside and we don’t feel like cooking, nothing is easier than opening a tuna can and chopping some veggies to make a great salad.
Not to mention that tuna is pretty cheap and a good source of protein and omega-3s too.


The issue with eating tuna is that it has been found to contain high levels of many contaminants, especially mercury (which is harmful to our nervous system).
Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and can come from industrial pollution. Mercury falls from the air and can accumulate in streams and oceans, becoming methylmercury in the water.
Methylmercury is absorbed by micro organisms, that are then consumed by small macro organisms, and so on up the food chain until they reach big predators such as tuna.
Tuna eat a lot of other fish, which accounts for the high levels of contaminants built up in their bodies
Just to be clear, nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of methylmercury. However, larger fish that have lived longer have the highest levels of methylmercury because they've had more time to accumulate it. Which means that fish such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and - of course - tuna have the highest levels of methylmercury.

Tuna Quinoa Salad

Methylmercury accumulates in our bloodstream over time. Though it’s removed from the body naturally, it may take over 12 months for the levels to drop significantly.
The recommended amount one week's consumption of fish does not change the level of methylmercury in the body much at all. If you eat a lot of fish one week, you can cut back for the next week or two.

Tuna Quinoa Salad

To be honest, I know of only one person who got mercury poisoning.
This dude who use to come to my gym, ate 2 cans of chunk light tuna a day for 2 months.
He then started experiencing symptoms such as dehydration/heat exhaustion, nausea on standing, and dry/itchy patches of skin.
He went to the doctor and was diagnosed with mercury poisoning.
He was treated and recovered well, but I remember him telling me how scary the whole thing had been.
Just stick to the recommended amount, and you’ll be fine.

Tuna Quinoa Salad

After talking about tuna and mercury poisoning (and probably scaring you), let’s get to this Tuna Quinoa Salad.
First off, quinoa and tuna make a snappy pair. Wait, did I just said snappy? [ugh!]
They work so well together: a great mix of flavors and textures.
And then there's the fresh mint.
I know many of you like to tweak my recipes adding stuff you probably have lying around or changing one or two ingredients; but trust me on this one. The fresh mint is necessary, without it would be a bit of a snooze flavor-wise.
Also, this salad screams for acid. So lemon juice and lemon zest are also non-negotiable.
From a nutritional standpoint this dish is amazing. It's packed with protein, it’s gluten-free, and it’s delicious. A one-meal salad. Tasty, filling and healthy all at the same time.
So let’s all rejoice in our mercury levels and let's dive in!

Tuna Quinoa Salad

Tuna Quinoa Salad                                                                                                   Print this recipe!

Serves 4


1 cup / 6 oz / 170 gr quinoa
2 cups / 500 ml water
2 (5 oz / 140 gr) cans tuna in water, drained (I used Wild Planet wild albacore tuna)
1 cup / 5.3 oz / 150 gr cherry tomatoes, halved
½ red onion, thinly sliced
4 cups / 7 oz / 200 gr mesclun salad mix
2 large handfuls mint leaves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted


Juice and zest of one lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)


Place quinoa into a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse thoroughly with cool water for about 2 minutes. Rub and swish the quinoa with your hand while rinsing. Drain.
Place quinoa and water in a small saucepan and season with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and cover. Cook until all water is absorbed, about 16 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, fluff with a fork and let cool.
To make the dressing, combine olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes (if using) in a small bowl.
To make the salad, add the greens in a large bowl and toss them with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Add tuna, quinoa, tomatoes, onion, and mint. Toss through dressing and season. Scatter over pine nuts and serve!

Nutrition facts

One serving yields 471 calories, 27 grams of fat, 34 grams of carbs, and 24 grams of protein.


  1. Fresh mint and red pepper sounds just amazing on this! Love how health conscious you are, props to you! :)

  2. Quinoa and tuna is a "snappy" pairing indeed! So "snappy" I've never ever tried the two together before...and those nuts add a "snappy" textural element to this salad too! :)
    Happy Tuesday, my friend!

    1. I have the distinct feeling you're making fun of me... :(

    2. Never my friend! Just totally digging your use of "snappy" - the salad sounds awesmazing though!

  3. I've never tried pairing quinoa with tuna. A must try!

  4. Now you know two people who have had mercury poisoning, lol. I actually got mine from supplementation with unclean omega-3 supplements and had to go through years of chelation to remove it. It's something I don't mess with anymore. I would totally still make this with sardines though! :-)

    1. Oh really? I've read in the past about people getting mercury poisoning from supplements but I thought it was some sort of myth. Now I know better...

  5. geebuz, Tuna was a staple back in Australia because of how cheap it is (I can't believe how relatively pricey it is here compared to it!) so haven't had too much of it, but I did go through a can every 2 days or so- Definitely being wary now! What a great idea to pair with quinoa- Filling and delicious!

    1. Wait a sec, Australia is super duper expensive maybe tuna is the only thing that's less expensive there...

  6. Mike, a beautiful looking salad - so fresh and what a perfect pairing of the quinoa with the tuna. We do not eat a lot of canned tuna in these parts but I could see poached salmon in this recipe - a very informative post with lots of important information and a great recipe with fabulous pictures - always a pleasure to visit your lovely blog!
    Greetings from far away Bonn,

    1. I think poached salmon could work pretty well in this salad. Something I need to try though.
      Thank you for stopping by Andrea!

  7. This looks so delicious and light for summer. Never thought to add mint to a salad!

    1. Mint is fantastic in salads. Have you ever had tabbouleh? Da bomb!

  8. Such an easy and delicious salad Mike - and the perfect portable & healthy lunch for me to take to university. Yum!

  9. This looks amazing! I know what I'm making for dinner tonight!


  10. How have I never thought to mix tuna and quinoa together? I eat both so often, they practically run through my veins! This is TOTALLY going to be my next lunch. Pinning!

  11. This salad looks super delicious, Alpha. Like I could totally imagine eating it for lunch...just not every day of the week. I'm oddly partial to my non-itchy patches of skin. I've heard of mercury poisoning before, but I had no idea the cause behind it. I'm going to start calling you Dr. Alpha! #WolfpackMedSchool

  12. Great looking salad Mike, since we spend our summers in Oregon, we buy a whole seasonal fish at a time and split with friends. So far the ocean has been good to us. Lots of great information. Love this dish!

  13. Mike, my problem with canned tuna is that i never know which brand is really great to buy.

    I am always afraid I'll get something nasty - so to be honest.... I confess I never even tried canned tuna, which is a shame, such a nice and easy source of protein

  14. I personally loved the use of the word snappy, and this salad is going on a lot of my hikes this summer - it's the perfect workout food!

  15. I'm a huge fan of the tuna packed in olive oil (I even buy Genova brand from Amazon.com when I can't find it at the store) so this would totally work for me as a quick meal!

  16. Thank you for the recipe, it’s delicious. I made it several times for lunch at work. The mint and pine nuts are definitely essential. My personal tweaks: I added a small sliced apple, substituted lemon juice with pomegranate vinegar and olive oil with sesame oil.