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 Tuna Pasta Salad yet.
A tuna pasta salad with veggies, a duo of fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, and a lemony Greek yogurt dressing, this creamy tuna pasta salad (like this Shrimp Pasta Salad) punches above its weight.
Standard pasta salads fill me with dread.
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 (same with all but this spectacular Healthy Potato Salad).
However, I will cheer for this Mediterranean tuna pasta salad to be a part of every summer cookout.
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 and good for you too.
How to Make Tuna Pasta
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, and you can enjoy it for nutritious lunches and dinners too.
- Tuna pasta salad tastes even better a few hours after it is made, so you can prep it in advance of a gathering.
- 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 meal-prep lunches.
- 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.
- 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 much vitamin C.
- Capers. While optional, I highly recommend adding capers to your tuna salad. They bring just the right about of salty, briny flavor.
- 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.
- Cook the pasta in a large pot, then drain and rinse.
- Whisk the dressing ingredients together.
- Add the tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, capers, and parsley to a large bowl.
- Stir in the pasta and dressing.
- Flake the tuna into the bowl, tossing to combine. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. ENJOY!
- To Store. Refrigerate leftover pasta salad in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, chop the tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, and herbs. Refrigerate each ingredient in a separate airtight storage container.
This creamy tuna pasta salad recipe is flexible.
- Stir in other fresh veggies, such as finely chopped broccoli or cauliflower, or diced celery.
- I don’t put eggs in tuna salad, but you could add diced hard-boiled eggs if you like.
- 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.
If you insist on making a tuna pasta salad with light mayonnaise, you can swap up to half of the Greek yogurt for it. You may want to add extra lemon since Greek yogurt is tangy.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Citrus Juicer. Juicing lemons and limes has never been easier.
- Salad Tongs. These are perfect for serving salads and more.
- Mixing Bowls. Ideal for preparing salads and even salad dressings.
Tuna noodle pasta salad, you’ve got a fresh, new look!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can easily make this recipe gluten free by swapping the whole wheat pasta for a gluten free pasta.
For fans of spice, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the Greek yogurt dressing.
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
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:
- 2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon about 1/4 cup juice and 1 teaspoon zest
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt plus additional to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper plus additional to taste
- 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.
- *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.
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