My version of the Tunacado Sandwich, the viral sandwich that has taken social media by storm. A whipped tuna mousse, spicy pesto, and thinly sliced avocado are stuffed between two perfectly sliced pieces of crispy bread to create this internet sensation. Even if you don't live close to a Joe & The Juice shop, you can still enjoy this delicious take on a tuna sandwich right in your own kitchen.
Have you heard of a Tunacado Sandwich? I first caught wind of it in a viral TikTok post about a year ago showing how to make one. Intrigued, I did a little research and learned that the Tunacado is a popular sandwich served at Joe & The Juice - a coffee, shakes, and sandwich chain restaurant that can be found all around Europe and in parts of the US. (Sadly, not in Colorado.)
The sandwich, as you might expect, is basically a tuna salad and avocado sandwich. However, a few standout ingredients and preparation methods give it a unique twist. Not to be deterred by the lack of a Joe & The Juice chain near me, I decided to make my own version. My tunacado sandwich recipe differs just a little bit from the original sandwich, using a spicier basil pesto, sourdough bread, and some extra flavors in the tuna mousse. The end result is pretty fantastic, in my opinion, and is a great alternative if you can't get the real thing. I was in love at first bite.
Why This Recipe Works
This is my new favorite lunch item. Here's why:
- Delicious. First and foremost, this sandwich has some serious game. Unlike typical tuna salad found in most tuna sandwiches, this one is blended into a mousse-like consistency and incorporates a variety of flavors. And a spicy pesto sauce gives it just the kick it needs to balance out the creamy tuna texture. These two spreads are added to lightly grilled sourdough, and then topped with sliced tomato, onion, and sprouts, giving it an irresistible crunch with every bite.
- Healthy. The tunacado is chock full of healthy fats, and proteins, meaning not only does it taste delicious, but it keeps me full afternoon. Tuna is a great source of fatty acids (hello heart and brain health!) and avocado has lots of fiber, healthy fats, and magnesium. Plus, the tomato, onion, and sprouts are loaded with antioxidants, making this a super healthy meal.
- Easy. This is not a hard sandwich to make, and it's super easy to customize it to what you have on hand. So don't worry if you don't have a Joe & The Juice located near you - you can totally DIY this sandwich (as evidenced by the thousands of people who have made their own version of the viral tunacado sandwich on social media!)
- Caned tuna. The star of the show! Be sure to buy tuna packed in water (not oil), and get the best quality you can.
- Avocado. Creamy avocados give the Tunacado its signature Tunacado texture and add a dose of healthy fats to the sandwich.
- Pesto. You can make your own homemade pesto, or just use a jarred version. I did sort of a combo here by taking a jarred pesto and adding a bit of a sweet and spicy kick with some sriracha, honey, and crushed red pepper which was super delicious.
- Sourdough bread. You can use any type of bread here you want, but the signature tunacado bread is typically thinly sliced and perfectly toasted for a nice crunch. Choosing sturdy bread is key since it helps to keep this sandwich together (it can be a bit messy!)
- Lemon juice & dill. These bring brightness and depth, ensuring the tuna mixture is anything but ordinary.
How to Make a Tunacado Sandwich
As mentioned above, no worries if you don't live near a Joe & The Juice location. This spicy tuna sandwich is easy to make at home in just a few simple steps.
- Start by making the tuna mousse. Start by transforming your drained tuna into a smooth, creamy consistency worthy of the finest coffee shops. A food processor or a high-speed blender does the heavy lifting here, blending the tuna with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, capers, lemon juice, and dill. Chilling it in the fridge while you make the rest of the sandwich will help these flavors blend.
- Make the spicy pesto sauce. This pesto mix is a bit different from the one used in the Joe and The Juice tunacado sandwich, and may just be one of my favorite things about this stunner of a sandwich. Mix your prepared pesto with a fiery trio of crushed red pepper, sriracha, and a touch of honey. This isn't your average pesto; it's a spicy tunacado twist that sets this sandwich apart.
- Toast the bread. Toast slices of sourdough to crispy perfection. Whether you're using a panini press or a skillet, your goal is for the bread to become a rich golden brown color with a sturdy crunch that will hold up to the generous fillings.
- Assemble the tuna avocado sandwiches. Spread pesto on one half of the bread, then layer the other with scoops of tuna mousse, thin slices of avocado, tomato slices, red onion, and sprouts. The final step is the most satisfying—combining both halves to complete your masterpiece. (And of course that first delicious bite!)
Variations and Substitutions
This tuna salad sandwich is divine, but there are lots of ways you can put your own new twist on it. Give one of these variations a try:
- Bread choices. Not a fan of sourdough? A crispy flatbread can offer a good alternative and may be similar to Joe's classic bread, which is a mixture of wheat and Nordic grain rye and also incorporates sunflower seeds and flax seeds giving it a nutty flavor.
- Vegan options. Swap out the tuna for a chickpea-based salad and use vegan mayo and vegan pesto to cater for a vegan tunacado sandwich.
- Add more greens. Fresh basil, spring onion, or even a sprinkle of fresh parsley can add new layers of flavor.
- Change up the tuna. Try other tinned fish, such as sardines, to change up the flavor of this sandwich.
- Make it even spicier. Add a few dashes of hot sauce to the tuna mousse to add a bit more kick to the sandwich.
Frequently Asked Questions
A high-speed blender can work (I just used my Vitamix) for that smooth consistency. Or you can mix by hand for a chunkier texture (and a more traditional style tuna salad. The key is to integrate the flavors thoroughly.
Stored in an airtight container, the tuna mousse can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Perfect for meal prep!
Of course! Homemade pesto is great, but store-bought pesto is a great time-saver. Just add the additional spices to tailor it to this recipe's needs.
While I wouldn't assemble the sandwich until you're ready to serve it (it would get too soggy), you can certainly prepare the pesto sauce and the tuna mixture ahead of time. Then, just assemble everything when you're ready.
It's no wonder this tunacado sandwich has become such a viral recipe. If you try this version, let me know what you think in the comments below, and don't forget to tag me @frontrangefed on Instagram so I can see your masterpiece!
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How To Make A Tunacado Sandwich (Joe & The Juice Copycat)
For The Tuna Mousse
- 12 oz tuna packed in water, drained
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoon capers drained
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon dried dill (or 2 tablespoon fresh dill)
- salt and black pepper to taste
For The Spicy Pesto Sauce
- ½ cup pesto sauce (homemade or storebought)
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ½ teaspoon sriracha sauce
- 1 ½ teaspoon honey
For The Toppings
- 8-12 slices sourdough bread (or other type of crispy bread like flatbread)
- 1 avocado thinly sliced
- ¼ red onion thinly sliced
- 1 handful alfalfa sprouts
- 1 tomato thinly sliced
- Make the tuna mousse. In the bowl of a food processor, or high-speed blender combine the tuna, mayo, dijon mustard, capers, lemon juice, dill, salt, and pepper. Pulse in 20-second increments until the mixture takes on a mousse-like consistency. Chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
- Make the Pesto Sauce. Combine the prepared pesto with the crushed red pepper, honey and sriracha and set aside.
- Toast the bread. In a large skillet, toast both sides of bread, for about 1-2 minutes on low-medium heat for each side. (You can also just use your toaster for this.)
- Assemble the sandwich. Spread the pesto on one side of the bread slices. On the other piece of bread, add the chilled tuna mousse, lay avocado slices on top, and top with the slices of tomato, onion, and sprouts. Add the other piece of bread to complete the sandwich.
- This recipe makes 4-6 sandwiches, depending on how large your bread slices or pieces of flatbread are.
- Choose a sturdy bread that won't fall apart with the weight of this sandwich. Sourdough is a good option, but a nutty flatbread would also work very well (and is similar to Joe and the Juice's tunacado sandwich).
- Assemble just before serving. This sandwich has a lot of moist parts so letting it sit for too long on the slices of bread will cause the sandwich to become soggy.