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If “light,” “bright,” and “I need a second helping, please!” don’t come to mind when you think of canned tuna, it’s because you haven’t made this delightful Tuna Pasta Salad yet. It’s the perfect blend of fresh veggies, tuna, pasta, and a creamy, herby Greek yogurt dressing.

A white bowl of tuna pasta salad

I’ve had enough bland, goopy, and ho-hum piles of mayo-slicked pastas at potlucks to last me the rest of this life and into the next.

However, I will cheer for this Mediterranean tuna pasta salad (and this Shrimp Pasta Salad) to be a part of every summer cookout. It:

  • Is packed with veggies and fresh herbs.
  • Incorporates fresh and sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Uses a healthy, lemony Greek yogurt dressing that makes this the best tuna pasta salad recipe in the world (at least I think so).

If you are still hesitant about canned tuna, please give this recipe (and this reader favorite Chickpea Tuna Salad) a try.

Paired with bold, citrusy, and briny ingredients, canned tuna can actually taste good.

It’s budget-friendly, fast, and good for you too!

Creamy tuna pasta salad in a bowl

5 Star Review

“Can’t get over how good this is. Will be a go-to lunch for me now!”

— Danielle —

Pasta Salad Dos and Don’ts

  • DO Pick the Right Shape of Pasta. For creamy pasta salad, I recommend using a small, whole wheat pasta noodle that will capture the sauce, such as shells, farfalle, orecchiette, or rotini. You can also use elbow macaroni to make this into a tuna macaroni salad.
  • DO Rinse the Pasta. Cold water will stop the pasta’s cooking so it stays nice and al dente. It also removes some of the starch, so the pasta noodles don’t clump together.
  • DON’T Overcook the Pasta. No one likes mushy pasta!
  • DON’T Overdo the Dressing. If you add too much dressing, your pasta salad will be gloopy. You can always add more dressing, but if you put on too much, you can’t go back.
  • DO Let the Pasta Salad Rest. While you can serve it right away, pasta salad tastes even better after being refrigerated for at least an hour to allow the flavors to marry.
  • DO Taste for Seasoning. If the pasta has been refrigerated, give it a stir and taste to make sure it doesn’t need an extra pinch of salt.
  • DON’T Leave Your Pasta Salad Out Too Long. 2 hours is the maximum amount of time your pasta salad should sit out, less if it’s in the sun.

How to Make Tuna Pasta Salad

Inspired by similar bright Mediterranean ingredients that are so yummy in Italian Tuna Salad, this creamy tuna pasta salad will redeem soggy, bland pasta salads (and poor canned tuna experiences) of the past.

  • It’s a great make-ahead pasta salad for parties and cookouts.
  • It’s also healthy (this is a tuna pasta salad without mayo) and filling (thank you whole grains and protein), making it a nice choice for light dinners and meal-prep lunches.
A cutting board with vegetables

The Ingredients

  • Pasta. The addition of whole wheat pasta makes this salad a hearty, tasty, crowd-pleaser with extra fiber. Use shapes that are perfect for capturing the dressing too (like shells or penne).
  • Tuna. Canned tuna is an easy and nutritious way to add protein, healthy fats, potassium, and vitamins. I prefer to use wild-caught albacore tuna, as it has a firmer texture and milder flavor.

Substitution Tip

You can also use fresh tuna in this recipe. Cook and flake it, then use it in this recipe as directed. (For another seafood-based salad with fresh fish, don’t miss Salmon Salad.)

  • Red Onion. Adds a pleasant bite to the salad.
  • Tomatoes, 2 Ways. A mix of cherry tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes creates the ideal Mediterranean-inspired combination. The juicy cherry tomatoes burst with sweetness, and the sun-dried tomatoes add rich, concentrated flavor.
  • Red Bell Pepper. For a crisp, fresh element, plus vitamin C.
  • Capers. While optional, I highly recommend adding capers to your tuna salad. They bring just the right amount of salty, briny flavor to the other tuna pasta salad ingredients.
  • Fresh Parsley. What’s a Mediterranean tuna salad without fresh herbs? You can use fresh parsley, basil, or dill.
  • Greek Yogurt Dressing. This salad uses a light and bright Greek yogurt dressing with lemon, honey, mustard, and spices. Black pepper, salt, and dried oregano are what spices go with tuna pasta and this Greek yogurt dressing.

What About Mayo?

It isn’t the healthiest option to put mayonnaise in tuna salad, as it adds excess calories and fat without nutritional benefit. Greek yogurt provides the same creamy goodness, but is high in protein and calcium, and lower in calories, cholesterol, and saturated fat.

If you insist on making a tuna pasta salad with mayo, you can swap up to half of the Greek yogurt for it. You may want to add extra lemon since Greek yogurt is tangy.

The Directions

Pasta noodles in a glass bowl
  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot, then drain and rinse.
Lemon zest being whisked into a bowl of dressing
  1. Whisk the creamy dressing ingredients together.
Vegetables and herbs in a bowl
  1. Add the tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, capers, and parsley to a large bowl.
Dressing being added to a bowl of noodles
  1. Stir in the cooked pasta and dressing.
Healthy tuna pasta salad in a glass bowl
  1. Flake the tuna into the bowl, tossing to combine. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. ENJOY!

Recipe Variations

This creamy tuna pasta salad recipe is flexible.

  • Add Veggies. Stir in other fresh veggies, such as finely chopped broccoli or cauliflower, or diced celery.
  • Add Eggs. I don’t put eggs in tuna salad, but you could add diced hard-boiled eggs if you like.
  • Add Peas. This is a tuna pasta salad without peas, as I felt they distracted from the other Mediterranean elements. That said, feel free to take a note from this Italian Farro Salad and toss frozen peas in if you like.
A white bowl of easy tuna pasta salad

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Tuna pasta salad can last in the fridge for up to 2 days. Store it in an airtight storage container. Serve the cold tuna pasta salad with an extra squeeze of fresh lemon juice to wake the flavors back up.

Meal Prep Tip

Up to 1 day in advance, chop the tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, and herbs. You can also boil, drain, and rinse the pasta. Refrigerate each ingredient in a separate airtight storage container.

What to Serve with Tuna Pasta Salad

Here are a few side dish options that we enjoy pairing with tuna pasta salad:

The best tuna pasta salad in a white bowl

Tuna noodle pasta salad, you’ve got a fresh, new look!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Make Gluten Free Tuna Pasta Salad?

Yes, you can easily make this recipe gluten free by swapping the whole wheat pasta for a gluten free pasta.

Can You Make Tuna Pasta Salad the Day Before?

While you could prepare the entire salad a day in advance, I would recommend just prepping the ingredients instead. Waiting to assemble the salad will ensure it looks and tastes its best. See the “Meal Prep Tip” box above for ideas.

How Can I Make My Pasta Salad Spicy?

For fans of spice, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the Greek yogurt dressing.

Can Tuna Pasta Salad Be Frozen?

No, I do not recommend freezing this pasta salad. It will become very mushy and visually unappealing once thawed.

Can I Swap the Tuna for a Different Canned Fish?

While we love this salad with canned tuna, you could try swapping in canned sardines or salmon instead (if you love salmon and pasta together, don’t miss my Salmon Pasta recipe).

Tuna Pasta Salad

4.89 from 9 votes
The best creamy tuna pasta salad without mayo! Light and bright with vibrant Mediterranean-inspired ingredients, it's a perfect pasta salad.

Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 1 hour 45 minutes

Servings: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients
  

FOR THE TUNA AND PASTA:

  • 8 ounces uncooked whole wheat pasta such as shells, rotini, or elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion about 1 small
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes*
  • 1 red bell pepper cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 tablespoons capers rinsed and drained (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3 (4-ounce) cans wild caught albacore tuna

FOR THE DRESSING:


Instructions
 

  • Cook the pasta in well-salted water to al dente according to the package instructions. Drain in a colander, then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Shake off as much water as possible. Let the colander with the pasta sit in the sink or on a towel to continue draining while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  • Place the red onion in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit at least 5 minutes, then drain and pat dry.
  • In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the dressing ingredients: Greek yogurt, lemon zest (zest it right into the bowl), lemon juice, honey, Dijon, salt, oregano, and pepper.
  • In a large serving bowl, place the cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, capers, and parsley.
  • Shake the pasta once more, then add it to the bowl.
  • Top with the dressing and stir gently to combine.
  • Flake the tuna into the bowl in big pieces, then toss gently to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired (depending upon your tuna, you may need a few additional good pinches of salt).
  • For the best taste, refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving to allow the flavors to marry and develop. Enjoy directly from the fridge or at room temperature.

Notes

  • *You can use either dry-packed or oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes. For dry-packed, rehydrate them by covering them with very hot water and letting soak for 5 minutes, then drain and pat dry. For oil-packed, use a paper towel to blot of excess oil first.
  • TO STORE: Refrigerate leftover pasta salad in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 6)Calories: 275kcalCarbohydrates: 38gProtein: 23gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 25mgPotassium: 734mgFiber: 6gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 1278IUVitamin C: 51mgCalcium: 65mgIron: 2mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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12 Comments

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  1. I made this but had to compromise for sundried tomatoes and dijon mustard i used english mustard.This recipie was still a hit.So yummy lovely lemony tang with a little kick from mustard.My boyfriend loved it too.Definately on my summer list of recipies thankyou so much.5 stars

  2. This was delicious!! I used mayo as I didn’t have yogurt and it turned out just fine. Thank you for sharing your recipe, I’ll be saving this one to make it many more times.5 stars

  3. This is a tasty lunch. I didn’t have sun dried tomatoes, so I added a few diced Kalamata olives. Also used a small shallot as red onion is too much. The dressing was a bit too sharp for me, so I mixed in about 2 tbsp of mayonnaise. This added a bit of richness and mellowed out the sharp taste of the lemon and yogurt. Thanks for the tip on soaking the onion – that helped a lot.5 stars