Tuna Pasta Salad

Tuna Pasta Salad is the perfect picnic lunch or anytime meal. With tender pasta, a creamy dressing and healthy tuna, this salad is tasty, filling and a definite family favorite.

Here is another great shareable salad that’s perfect for summer parties. It fits right in with other crowd-pleasing favorites like my Best Ever Classic Macaroni Salad and Mexican Street Corn Salad.

Tuna Pasta Salad in a bowl with a slice of lemon and a fork

If you’re looking for an easy recipe to bring to your next backyard barbecue, picnic or potluck, look no further than my super easy, delicious and flavorful Tuna Pasta Salad!

Tuna has heart healthy benefits

  • Omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce cholesterol.
  • Potassium, which aids in lowering blood pressure.
  • Immune system building anti-oxidants, which help fight disease.
  • Protein and nutrients, while being low in fat.

Tuna is not only tasty, but it’s actually good for you!

If you’re not quite ready to jump on the tuna bandwagon, this Tuna Pasta Salad is just the right starter for to get you in the Tuna camp.

Tuna Pasta Salad: perfect for picnics or potluck, lunch or dinner | Healthy meal idea | Side Dish | Weeknight dinner

What’s in Tuna Pasta Salad?

  • Small pasta, like shells or macaroni
  • Packaged tuna – even fresh will work if you have some.
  • Diced celery, for crunch
  • Pickle relish, crunchy and tangy
  • Diced red onion

Tuna Salad Dressing

  • Mayonnaise , for the creamiest dressing. You could swap out plain Greek yogurt for half or all of the mayo for a lighter dressing.
  • Mustard – just a little for tanginess.
  • Lemon juice – more tang, and it pairs really well with fish.
  • Garlic powder – just a little.
  • Fresh dill – you can use dried if you like, but fresh really adds a ton of flavor.
  • Salt and pepper – to taste

Ingredients for Tuna Pasta Salad

How to Make Tuna Pasta Salad

  1. Cook the pasta. To make this easy pasta salad, start by boiling some salted water and cooking your pasta. A nice, small pasta is best; I chose the shells because they reminded me of the ocean (ha!) but Rotini, Farfalle or even macaroni are great alternatives.
  2. Rinse and Cool. Once the pasta is cooled, rinse it with cold water. Cold pasta salads are the only time I recommend rinsing your pasta! This stops the cooking process and cools the pasta quickly so you can assemble your pasta salad without much wait time. Don’t worry if it sticks together, when you add the dressing it will separate just fine.
  3. Make the dressing. It’s fairly simple, with a mayonnaise base, a little mustard, lemon juice, dill, garlic, salt and pepper. Set this aside because dressing the Tuna Pasta Salad is the last thing you’ll do.
  4. Assemble the pasta salad. I like to use water-packed Albacore Tuna (aff) because it has less fat and I prefer the taste. Drain the water from the can and place the tuna into a large bowl, breaking it up with a fork. Stir this together with the dressing, then add the pasta, diced onion, celery and pickle relish. You could also use regular pickles (diced), peas or even hard boiled eggs.
  5. Garnish and serve. Once these ingredients are mixed together, fold in the dressing until the pasta salad is well coated. Garnish with some fresh minced parsley, lemon zest or freshly cracked black pepper.

This Tuna Pasta Salad makes a lot, so it’s great for feeding a crowd. I enjoy it as a lunch – it will last me several days in the fridge – or it will serve our entire family for dinner, and still have a lunch ready for the next day.

Tuna Pasta Salad being mixed in a bowl

Can I make this salad in advance?

If you want to make this recipe more than a couple of hours in advance, I recommend preparing the salad separate from the dressing, and just adding the dressing right before serving. Otherwise the pasta will soak up the dressing and you won’t get that creamy texture you really want.

If you must prep it up all ahead of time, you may need to add extra mayo when you’re ready to serve. The salad will keep for a few days in the fridge, tightly covered.

What to do with leftovers

Your cold tuna pasta salad will keep well in the fridge for a 3-4 days as long as it’s properly stored in an airtight container. You can add a little mayo to moisten it if it gets a little dry as the pasta will soak up some of the dressing. However, I do recommend eating this salad within 24 hours for maximum flavor and freshness.

Close up overhead shot of Tuna Pasta Salad

For other delicious pasta salads, check these out:

And here are more delicious tuna and salmon recipes to try:

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Tuna Pasta Salad

My Tuna Pasta Salad is the perfect picnic lunch or anytime meal. With tender pasta, a creamy dressing and healthy tuna, it's the perfect meal for any time.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Dinner, Lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Calories 498kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 16 ounces uncooked small pasta like shells or farfalle
  • 17- ounces canned white albacore tuna packed in water, drained** (see notes)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • ½ cup pickle relish
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions
 

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt and the pasta. Cook to al dente (according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, garlic powder, lemon juice and fresh dill.
  • Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl. Season to your liking with salt and pepper.
  • Serve at immediately or chilled. Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Notes

17-ounces of tuna is approximate, depending on the size of the cans you purchase. I used one 5-ounce can and one 12-ounce can. Mix and match as much as you like.

Nutrition

Calories: 498kcalCarbohydrates: 47gProtein: 22gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 37mgSodium: 587mgPotassium: 318mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 84IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 27mgIron: 2mg
Keyword tuna pasta salad

Tuna Pasta Salad in a bowl with a slice of lemon and text title

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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Comments

  1. As much as I love Pinterest recipes, I have never once commented on one, even ones I’ve loved. I was looking for a pasta salad recipe but didn’t want to have to go to the store (quarantining and all), and I settled on this one because I happened to have the stuff to make it. Thank the Lord I did because this is probably the best, most satisfying pasta salad I’ve ever had. I had reservations about the tuna part, and the relish and dill, but this is pure DELICIOUSNESS. The flavors are incredible, and I’m not even joking when I say I ended up eating the entire thing, by myself, within a day. It was so good I was eating it every meal until it was gone. Thank you for this recipe!

    1. You are so welcome Becky! We so appreciate your positive feedback here at YellowBlissRoad.
      Thanks for taking the time.

    1. Serving sizes are approximate. This recipe will make about 6-1.5 cup servings. We are working on adding the nutritional content and hope to have all recipes updated soon.

  2. Super tasty! I love peas and mustard, but my husband hates them. So I exchanged the peas for diced English cucumber and left out the mayo using 3/4 mayo and 1/4 Miracle whip – was so tasty and refreshing! Thanks for posting!

  3. The men in my house are picky, picky eaters, but they love this dish. They ask for it every week. Perhaps because I’m a terrible cook and you can’t muck up this recipe. ? It is so easy. I can’t eat onions, so we go without. Still tastes good.

  4. Sounds delicious & could actually be a cool & lite summer meal . Can’t wait to try it . Thank you

  5. I like peas, so I added 1 c. thawed, rinsed frozen peas and it turned out really great.
    I also replaced the red onion with white onion and it has a nice, sweet flavor.
    Thanks for the great recipe!

    1. We are in the process of updating recipes to include nutritional information. However in the meantime myfitnesspal.com is an excellent resource.

  6. My family likes the addition of chopped walnuts in this. Also we’re not fans of sweet relish (too sweet), so we sub in dried cranberries.

  7. I’ve been looking for a lower fat tuna pasta salad for some time now, and I came across this recipe. I love the addition of lemon juice and the fact that you didn’t put any sugar in the dressing (the relish is sweet enough as is) 🙂 I used 2 average size cans of tuna, and it seemed to be enough for the boxed Rotini pasta that I used. I also used whipped dressing (Miracle Whip) as we like the tanginess of it, but I WILL try it with real mayonnaise the next time. I didn’t have any dill (nor do I use it on a regular basis), but the dressing tasted fine without. I love tuna pasta salad, and I think I’ve found my go-to recipe for the summer 🙂

    1. Maybe? I’m not sure how many cups that would be but I’m thinking if you increased the recipe by 50% at least you’d have plenty.

  8. I have a couple of questions: Miracle Whip or Hellmann’s (real) mayonnaise? Also, the pickle relish, sweet relish, I assume?

  9. I’m confused by the pasta measurements, do you mean 16oz (an absurd amount of pasta) or 2 cups (closer to 6oz for the pasta I’m intending to use)? I’ve never seen fluid ounces used for pasta before.

    1. It’s not fluid ounces. It’s based on the dry pasta amounts that you’ll find on the packaging. 16 ounces is one box of traditional pasta that you’ll find at the grocery store.

  10. Love this recipe! Made it today and it’s fantastic. I dislike peas so I was excited to try your recipe-first I’ve seen that didn’t include peas. I made it exactly as written, definitely will make again. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. 17 ounces is correct. I added a note to clarify. I actually used one 5-ounce can and one 12-ounce can and that was a good amount.