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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

Why You’ll Love This Cold Tuna Pasta Salad Recipe

  • Actually Delicious 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’s packed with veggies and fresh herbs, all tossed in a lemony Greek yogurt dressing.
  • Versatile. This tuna pasta salad is a great make-ahead pasta salad for parties and cookouts, but it’s also a nice choice for light dinners and meal-prep lunches.
  • Easy and Budget-Friendly. 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 so much easier than cooking your own tuna!
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 —

How to Make Tuna Pasta Salad

The Ingredients

  • Pasta. Use shapes that capture the dressing (like shells or penne). You can easily make this recipe gluten-free by swapping the whole wheat pasta for a gluten-free pasta.
  • Tuna. I prefer to use wild-caught albacore tuna, as it has a firmer texture and milder flavor. 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.
  • 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. No mayo here!

The Directions

Pasta noodles in a glass bowl
  1. Make the Pasta. Cook the pasta in a large pot, then drain and rinse.
Lemon zest being whisked into a bowl of dressing
  1. Prep the Dressing. Whisk the creamy dressing ingredients together.
Vegetables and herbs in a bowl
  1. Combine the Add-Ins. Add the tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, capers, and parsley to a large bowl.
Dressing being added to a bowl of noodles
  1. Add the Pasta and Dressing. Stir in the cooked pasta and dressing.
Healthy tuna pasta salad in a glass bowl
  1. Finish. 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.
The best tuna pasta salad in a white bowl

What to Serve with Tuna Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad Dos and Don’ts

  • 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.
A white bowl of easy tuna pasta salad

Tuna Pasta Salad

4.93 from 13 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 1/4 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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20 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

  4. I wasn’t expecting the medley of flavors! So freaking good! It’s even better after it’s been refrigerated overnight. I think I’m going to try adding some nuts the next time I make this for some extra crunch. Thank you for a fabulous recipe!5 stars

  5. Hi Erin! Thank you so much for your recipe! This was just the simple tuna pasta salad that I was looking for. My family really enjoyed this dish, especially my kids. Served it with toasted French bread with melted cheese.5 stars

  6. Truly amazing! I had leftover rotini pasta in the fridge that I needed to use before it went bad. I used a mixture of Mayo and plain Greek yogurt to increase the protein. My husband was skeptical as to if he would like it but he raved about it and asked me to make it again this weekend.5 stars