A few weeks ago our Lifetime Fitness location hosted a Culinary Night that was sponsored by Toyota, and Michael and I thought it would be fun to see the cooking demonstration, which featured dishes from the LifeCafe. There were plenty of samples to go around and everyone received a handout with recipes, so of course we decided to try some at home. Of all the things we sampled, our favorite was the popular Asian tuna salad, which the cafe serves on ciabatta rolls or as a green salad topping.
The tuna gets a little kick from Sambal Oelek, an Indonesian condiment made from very hot chiles, vinegar, and salt. Sambals vary between countries and regions, and use a variety of chiles, spices, and many other ingredients, so depending on what you have a taste for and what your local Asian grocery store stocks, you can spice up sandwiches and other dishes in dozens of different ways. Just be prepared because this is spicy stuff.
Other samples we tried included the Santa Fe Salad, Southwest Wrap, Turkey Avocado Sandwich, and the Chicken Pesto Pizza, so it’s a good thing we skipped dinner that night.
The recipe as distributed at the demonstration yielded a tuna that was much wetter than the version served in the cafe, plus it was much, much spicier, so we adjusted the ingredients amounts to hopefully come closer to the tuna we sampled. The flavor is very good and it makes a delicious stuffing for lettuce wraps, tortillas, tomatoes, on top of cucumber slices for an appetizer, as well as a salad topping. We’ve been stuffing our homegrown heirloom tomatoes with it, and the combination is terrific. Can you guess what kind of tomato is in the photo? It’s Michael’s favorite and we try to grow them every year. Because these tomatoes are sweet, we omit the honey in the tuna and really don’t miss it.
The tuna salad will keep for a day or so, but it tastes best on the day prepared.
Make It Gluten Free
Sambals are typically gluten free, though you will want to be careful and read the labels carefully to make sure the sambal you use is gluten-free.
[Disclosure: We are paying members of Lifetime Fitness, and the event was free and open to all members. This post is neither sponsored nor endorsed by Lifetime Fitness.]
Asian Tuna Salad (LifeCafe)
- 3-quart mixing bowl
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon gluten-free sambal oelek (Indonesian chili paste, or more to taste)
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- ½ tablespoon minced ginger
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 24 ounces canned tuna (drained and chopped (LifeCafe uses white tuna, we opted for light.))
- ½ cup finely chopped carrots
- ½ cup finely chopped green onions
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- In the large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, sambal oelek, sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, ginger, kosher salt, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes.
- Add the tuna, carrots, green onions, cilantro, and dried cranberries, then toss to mix well. Use as a stuffing for lettuce wraps, tortilla wraps, tomatoes, on top of thick sliced cucumbers, or on top of green salads.
Natalie (The Sweets Life) says
What a great recipe! I've made lots of tuna salads and I love trying new versions!
This is very original and interesting--and your pictures are beautiful--thank you.
Looks absolutely perfect Andrea! Love the addition of spicy to the tuna!
What a great alternative for that old standby, tuna salad. Loving this! I bet the sambal oelek adds great flavour.
PS: Thought that was a pumpkin in your picture until I read it was a tomato. Whoops.
jill kron says
i am THRILLED you have published the recipe for the tuna salad from lifetime! i have been trying to get it for two years!!!! i will let you know how mine turns out....
Bev M. says
Thank you for publishing recipe, the Asian Tuna salad is every bit as tasty as it is healthy. I'm off to the Asian market, thanks for the secret recipe
I half-assed it as i often do (left stuff out, made minor substitutions, eyeballed the measurements, etc.) but still wound up with a lovely dish. Thanks thanks thanks for the recipe! (You know it's a good recipe if it adapts well to my sloppy cooking ways!)
Thank you very much for this recipe. I eat this at lifetime a lot anf thought it would be great to be able to make this for my family who love spicey dishes. Do you have recipes for the Santa Fe Salad and the Chicken Pesto pizza?
Patricia Cornish says
I went to the Berkeley heights club yesterday and heard a women asking for asian tuna salad. Sounded good, tried it and fell in love. Do you use the mayo when making it for them?
Hi Patricia. Yes, we use the mayo when we make it at home.
I just ate this at Lifetime Cafe for the first time today - I was so happy to find this recipe - yea!
When I was a member at Lifetime Fitness I would always get the Spicy Tuna lettuce wraps. One day I asked them if I could have the recipe since I liked it so much, and they gave me a copy. I have now altered the recipe to suit my tastes better. I add in chopped celery and more carrots for more crunch, I highly suggest doing this, makes it much better. I leave out the dried cranberries, kosher salt, red pepper flakes and lime juice (that wasn't on the original recipe). I substitute light mayo (or light miracle whip instead of mayo, grape seed oil instead of sesame oil, and I double up on the Sambol Olek since I like it spicy and add in a bit more soy sauce since I take out the kosher salt.
Just a few tweeks on the original.
Where can I get the black sesame seeds? Or can I use a subsititute?
Hi Kathy. You can find black sesame seeds at international grocery stores, but of course you can substitute regular toasted sesame seeds.
Kelly K says
Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe. I had to use regular sesame seed and I did not have sesame oil, but it still turned our great.
Just made it! I used less mayo and added a tsp of rice vinegar and a dash of white pepper to make it a little more healthy and add a little kick. It is DANGEROUSLY good, and fun to make! Thank you for the recipe!
Thanks Annie, so glad you liked it!
I'm sitting here eating this now from Lifetime. Sooo glad you published the recipe 'cause I'm addicted. 🙂
I have eaten Lifetime's Asian Tuna Salad numerous times. I absolutely love it! I now use this recipe and it seems like an exact replica. Thanks!
So excited to try this. Buying the items tonight. I’ve been eating this at lifetime for so long. Excited to try it at home. Thank so much for the time to make suck a wonderful recipe.
2 Tablespoons of sesame oil is FAR too much oil. I think this recipe would be ok if you used maybe 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. But as it's written, I had to throw out what I made. It tasted way to oily. I don't think I've ever come across an internet recipe where I ended up having to throw away the food I made 🙁