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This tasty Italian tuna bean salad, or insalata di tonno e fagioli as it’s known in Italy, features fresh tuna fish steaks and cannellini beans as the main ingredients. Italian fresh tuna salad makes a satisfying lunch, or you can enjoy the Mediterranean flavors by enjoying it as a side dish with a main course or a snack. 

An Italian tuna white bean salad in a bowl.

Simple ingredients combine to make this Tuscan classic. Juicy fresh tuna pairs with beans for a Tuscan tuna white bean salad everyone will enjoy. It makes a tasty meal, whatever the season.

If you want to cram more healthy veggies into your diet, what about trying smoked elote or perhaps Mediterranean quinoa salad? These recipes with frozen vegetable are good or perhaps you’d prefer a cheesy vegetable casserole!

Overhead view of a large bowl full of Italian tuna bean salad.

Why You’ll Love Fresh Tuna White Bean Salad

Delicious:  Canned tuna features in many salads, but this recipe calls for fresh tuna steaks for a superior flavour. The addition of cannellini beans makes it even more delicious!
Simple to make:  All you need to do to prepare Italian tuna bean salad is cook the tuna and combine it with the other ingredients.
A true taste of Tuscany:  Beans are widely used in Italy and are one of the country’s pantry staples. Seafood is also dear to Italian hearts, and this delicious rustic dish combines both and is a real Italian classic salad.

Beans and tuna being mixed for a salad recipe.

Tuna and Bean Salad Ingredients

So what ingredients do you need for the perfect insalata di tonno e fagioli? 

Ingredients to make a tuna white bean salad that is popular in Italy.

Well, first of all, you need good quality tuna, and it’s worth skipping the imported Italian canned tuna packed in olive oil and buying fresh tuna steaks instead for the freshest taste. You can use canned tuna if you want, though. 

A salad with white beans, arugula, tuna and onion.

Dried cannellini beans, shallot, and arugula also go into the salad. The tuna is brined in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, shallot, and salt. The other ingredients you need for this classic Italian salad are red wine vinegar, basil, and fresh parsley.

Mixing the Tuscan white bean and tuna salad.

How to Make Fresh Tuna and Beans Salad

For more detailed instructions with weights and measurements, jump to the printable recipe card.

Marinate the beans:  Let the white beans sit in a large bowl in water, oil, vinegar, rosemary, shallot, and salt for an hour.
Prepare the tuna:  Season it, then cook and break it into flakes before adding more salt, pepper, and garlic.
Finish the salad:  Mix the beans and tuna with the other ingredients and serve immediately or refrigerate until required.

Cooking tuna steaks for a fresh tuna salad.
An Italian tuna white bean salad in a bowl.

Substitutions and Variations

There are different types of tuna to choose from, including albacore tuna, skipjack tuna, tuna belly, and even canned tuna if you’re in a rush to make this salad. I recommend using fresh tuna, though. Make sure you choose chunk light tuna.

Overhead view of a large bowl full of tuna steak white bean salad, which is a favourite in Tuscany.

Instead of the dried cannellini beans, you can use canned beans if you want, and anything from great northern white beans, garbanzo beans, and kidney beans to black beans would work; each type of canned beans will add its flavour and character to the dish. This Italian bean salad is versatile!

Close view of a tuna white bean salad.

Swap the shallot for red onion, the vinegar for fresh lemon juice, or even the parsley for fresh basil. 

You can even add more flavour with capers and olives. Change the peppery arugula for Belgian endive, radicchio di Treviso or baby spinach if you want. Cherry tomatoes could be added on top for a bit of colour.

Overhead view of an Italian tuna white bean salad in a bowl.

You will find that anything goes, so if you’re looking for a tweak-able alternative to cobb salad, tuna pesto pasta, Southern style tuna macaroni salad or veggie macaroni salad, give this one a try.

What to Serve with this Salad

Enjoy this Italian white bean salad with crusty bread or just by itself as a snack. It makes a great side dish for any summer meal, picnic, or BBQ.

Close view of a Tuscan tuna white bean salad.

Storage Instructions

Store: As you probably expect, this salad is best served as soon as you’ve made it, although you can cook the tuna up to 2 days in advance.
Freeze: They aren’t suitable for freezing because they will get soggy.

A Tuscan tuna white bean salad in a large bowl.

Tuna Steaks Salad FAQs

Why do you have to brine the beans?

The brining process is for both flavour and texture. It adds extra flavour to the beans and also keeps them firm.

Can you use any kind of onion in this salad recipe?

The classic choice in Tuscany would be “russa lunga de tropea,” but those heirloom torpedo onions can be hard to find outside Italy. Shallots are the closest in terms of taste, or you could use red onion that you’ve soaked in water to tame the bold flavour a bit.

Overhead view of a Tuscan tuna white bean salad in a large bowl.

Italian Tuna and White Bean Salad Recipe

5 from 48 votes

Italian Tuna White Bean Salad

By: Bella Bucchiotti
Want a delicious Italian salad recipe? Try Italian tuna white bean salad. Fresh tuna and cannellini beans make this Tuscan classic a hit!
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

  • 2 Cans cannellini beans
  • 1 Pound Tuna, steak
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons basil, cut into ribbons
  • ½ Teaspoons pepper
  • 2 Cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 Cups arugula

Brine

  • 2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Sprigs rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon shallot
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt

Instructions 

  • Drain then rinse the beans then put them a large mixing bowl. Fill with water until the beans are covered. Add olive oil, red wine vinegar, rosemary, chopped shallot, and salt. Refrigerate for one hour.
  • Next, prepare tuna. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and swirl to coat.
  • Brush tuna with 1 tbsp olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add to the pan and cook for 5 minutes per side. Lower the heat and cover. Cook 10 minutes, or until internal temperature has reached 145 degrees F.
  • Add tuna to a bowl and toss with a pinch of salt, pepper, and minced garlic. Use a fork and gently press the tuna to flake. Cover, then Refrigerate for 15 minutes to cool.
  • Drain the beans and discard the liquid. Combine the beans with the tuna, arugula, shallot, and basil in a bowl.

Notes

  • Brining the beans in cold water allows them to soak in the flavour and prevents them from getting mushy.  
  • To easily slice basil into ribbons, stack basil leaves, starting with the largest leaf on a cutting board. Tightly roll the basil into a log, then make thin slices with your knife.

Nutrition

Calories: 265kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.002g | Cholesterol: 27mg | Sodium: 1647mg | Potassium: 194mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 351IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 121mg | Iron: 5mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

Italian tuna bean salad is made with tuna steaks and cannellini beans. It’s one of the best Italian tuna steak recipes and is packed with protein. It’s too good to only enjoy during the summer months, and any time of year is great for enjoying fresh tuna salad recipes.

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Bella Bucchiotti

Bella Bucchiotti is a Canadian-based syndicated food, travel, and lifestyle writer, photographer, and creator at xoxoBella. She founded xoxoBella in 2015, where she shares her love for food, dogs, sustainability, fitness, crafts, outdoor adventures, travel, and philanthropy to encourage others to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places, and stand for a cause. Bella creates stress-free and family-friendly recipes for weeknight dinners and festive feasts.

 

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7 Comments

  1. This recipe sounds wonderful but I am confused as you mention dried canneillini beans but the recipe calls for two cans of beans and you say to soak but you never say drain the beans. So if you use canned do you still do the brining?
    Thanks for any help as this sounds like something we would love.

    1. Hi! I use canned beans and drain them and then leave them in the soaking mixture for a while. You need to drain the liquid off before mixing the beans with the other ingredients. I edited the recipe for clarity.