Skip to Content

Tuna Pasta Salad

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my privacy policy.

Tuna Pasta Salad is light, healthy, and delicious featuring canned tuna, lightly sauteed vegetables, and a simple dressing. It’s great to make ahead and as leftovers, making it versatile enough for lunch or as a side for entertaining.

This post and recipe card updated May 24, 2020
overhead shot of finished tuna pasta salad in a white bowl with a fork on the side

My parents never cooked with tuna when I was growing up, so I never ate it. In college I began eating it a little more often, mainly in tuna fish sandwiches or occasionally in a salad.

For a while I had a bad habit where I bought tuna, put it in the pantry, and completely forgot about it. I’ve gotten much better about that, and make my Open Faced Skinny Tuna Melt regularly for lunch. Tuna Tetrazzini is the perfect casserole, and I love to make Tuna Cakes with Fresh Tomato Salsa in the summer when tomatoes are at their best.

One of my very early creations is Tuna Pasta Salad

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
  • It’s ready in about 20 minutes
  • You can make a big batch, and have it for lunch during the week
  • It’s a delicious summer salad, perfect for entertaining
close up shot of finished tuna pasta salad in a white bowl
INGREDIENT TIPS FOR TUNA PASTA SALAD

My favorite tuna is White Albacore, and I always get it packed in water. I also look for wild-caught options. Yes, Albacore does have a higher mercury content than chunk white tuna, but I prefer the texture and taste.

I alternate between Elbows and Cellentani pasta (also called Cavatappi), a corkscrew elbow macaroni shape. Any short-cut pasta will do, so use your favorite.

For vegetables, I use carrots, celery, and red onion. I originally kept them raw, but now I saute them, along with a little garlic, for a greater depth of flavor. I also add frozen peas and fresh asparagus for the last few minutes of cooking.

To bring everything together, I make a very simple dressing. Mayonnaise and Spicy Brown Mustard are the base, and you can use full-fat or Avocado Oil Mayo. For another kick of heat I also add Hot Sauce. Salt, pepper, and fresh-squeezed lime juice are the perfect finish.

overhead angled shot of finished tuna pasta salad in a white bowl with parsley in the background
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS

Add mayonnaise, mustard, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and lime juice to a bowl. Whisk to combine well, and set aside.

overhead process shot: dressing mixed together, in a glass bowl

Cook pasta in a pot of boiling, salted water according to box directions. Drain pasta and set aside.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, and red onion and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add asparagus and cook for 3 minutes. Toss in peas, and cook for 1 minute.

overhead process shot: all vegetables cooking in a black skillet

Add tuna to a bowl, and flake larger pieces with a fork. Drain pasta and add to the bowl. Add cooked vegetables

overhead process shot: pasta, tuna and vegetables in a glass bowl

Add dressing and fresh parsley, and combine well.

An optional final touch is a drizzle of high-quality Balsamic Vinegar. I’ve made both with and without it, and love it both ways. If you’re making Tuna Pasta Salad ahead, I recommend drizzling with the balsamic immediately before serving.

close up angled shot of finished tuna pasta salad in a white bowl
MAKE-AHEAD, SERVINGS AND LEFTOVERS

Tuna Pasta Salad is perfect to make ahead, and for leftovers. When I make it for lunch I’ll make it immediately before eating. But I’ll also make a larger batch and have it for lunch over a couple of days.

If you’re making Tuna Pasta Salad to serve outdoors:

  • Place the bowl of Tuna Pasta Salad inside a larger bowl with a layer of ice on the bottom
  • Don’t put out the salad more than 15 minutes before serving
  • Don’t leave the salad out for kore than 2 hours
  • If you make a really large batch, only put out some, while leaving the rest in the fridge until needed
overhead shot of finished tuna pasta salad in a white bowl with a fork on the side
MORE SUMMER RECIPES
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? COMMENT AND RATE BELOW, THEN TAKE A PICTURE AND TAG ME ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM: @KARYLSKULINARYKRUSADE

FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM AND PINTEREST FOR MORE RECIPES! 
overhead shot of finished tuna pasta salad in a white bowl with a fork on the side

Tuna Pasta Salad

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Tuna Pasta Salad is light, healthy, and delicious featuring canned tuna, lightly sauteed vegetables, and a simple dressing. It’s great to make ahead and as leftovers, making it versatile enough for lunch or as a side for entertaining.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to box directions in a pot of salted, boiling water
  2. In a medium bowl, add mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Whisk well to combine and set aside.
  3. Add tuna to a large bowl and flake well with a fork. Set aside
  4. Melt butter in a medium skillet
  5. Add onion, carrots and celery to skillet. Sautee for 3-4 minutes, until onions are just translucent
  6. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  7. Add asparagus and cook for 3 minutes. If you want the asparagus a little softer, cook for another 2 minutes.
  8. Toss in peas and cook for 1 minute.
  9. Add vegetables and pasta to the bowl with the tuna. Stir until combined
  10. Add dressing and parsley, and fold together until well mixed.
  11. Taste, and add a little more salt/pepper, if desired
  12. OPTIONAL: drizzle with balsamic vinegar

Notes

I prefer to use White Albacore tuna packed in water, and I always look for a wild-caught option. You can certainly use chunk white tuna. I do not recommend tuna in oil, as it will make the salad too greasy.

Use your favorite short-cut pasta. I use elbows or Cellentani (also called Cavatappi).

I've done the carrots/celery/onion both raw and cooked, and I prefer the more mellow bite of the sauteed vegetables. But the choice is totally yours. Either way, make sure to cook the asparagus!

For the dressing you can use full-fat mayonnaise or avocado oil mayo. This dish is light enough that the real thing won't hurt.

If you really like heat, you can kick up the spice by using jalapeno mustard. To me, the spicy mustard and hot sauce add just enough kick. You could also serve hot sauce on the side, for guests to add what they want.

NOTE: if you're making this ahead, don't add the balsamic vinegar until right before serving. Or, have it on the side for guests to add to their preference.

OUTDOOR SERVING INSTRUCTIONS

  • Place the bowl of Tuna Pasta Salad inside a larger bowl with a layer of ice on the bottom
  • Don’t put out the salad more than 15 minutes before serving
  • Don’t leave the salad out for kore than 2 hours
  • If you make a really large batch, only put out some, while leaving the rest in the fridge until needed
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 337Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 566mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 4gSugar: 5gProtein: 25g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, etc

Thai Chicken Meatball Lettuce Cups - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade
Previous
Thai Chicken Meatball Lettuce Cups
overhead shot of finished corn avocado tomato salad in a white bowl with a fork and napkin on the side
Next
Corn Tomato Avocado Salad

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Derek Campanile

Monday 3rd of April 2017

Lovely colors in this dish! I've never done tuna in a pasta salad before, but this looks so good - I have to try it!

Karyl

Wednesday 5th of April 2017

Thank you Derek! This is one of my favorite salads and quick lunches. And you can eat a bunch because it's healthy :) Thanks for stopping by

Allison Hanson

Sunday 2nd of April 2017

Yum, love the addition of asparagus, I would not have thought of that. Thanks for sharing!

Karyl

Wednesday 5th of April 2017

Thanks Allison! I think the first time I added asparagus was just by chance, because I needed to use it up. Now I make sure I use it every time. Thanks for stopping by

Jacqueline Piper | PiperCooks.com

Saturday 1st of April 2017

I have two cans of tuna in the cupboard right now and they've been there a while. Don't know why I always forget about them! This pasta salad looks like the perfect use for it though!

Karyl

Wednesday 5th of April 2017

Haha I hear you on that Jacqueline! I tend to forget about mine too. I hope you get the chance to make this recipe. Thanks for stopping by!

Amy

Saturday 1st of April 2017

Such a colorful and delicious looking salad! I'm the same as you - I forgot about the tuna in the pantry too often! I like the idea of using the red onion for color but I might also sub green onions instead because I love their flavor with tuna.

Karyl

Wednesday 5th of April 2017

Yes Amy, I think green onions would be a wonderful substitute. I really like the subtle flavor of green onions. Thanks for stopping by!

Sarah James @ Tales From The Kitchen Shed

Friday 31st of March 2017

Your tuna salad looks delicious, I like how you've added balsamic vinegar and a touch of hot sauce. This looks perfect for me to take to work to have at lunchtime. Thanks for sharing :-)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to Recipe