Classic Tuna Pasta Salad

This tuna pasta salad recipe is creamy and satisfying! It’s a protein-packed quick and easy dinner or make ahead lunch.

Tuna pasta salad

There’s a magical meal fix out there, and we’re here for it. It’s a can of tuna. That sounds a little 1960’s, right? But there’s a reason why canned tuna was so popular in previous decades. It’s a cheap protein that’s super shelf stable. And you can transform it into seriously tasty meals: like this nostalgic Tuna Pasta Salad! It’s creamy but not too rich, with a splash of white wine vinegar and a sprinkle of dried dill. It’s a seriously simple pantry meal that gives us cozy nostalgic vibes…and it works as a make-ahead lunch too. Here’s more about it!

Ingredients in tuna pasta salad

This tuna pasta salad is a retro style recipe with a modern spin! We tried to take all that’s good about tuna pasta salad of the past, without the gloppy, overly rich mayonnaise. This recipe uses about half the mayo than the 1970’s version, so it’s just creamy enough. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Tuna, packed in water
  • Pasta: short noodles of any type
  • Frozen peas
  • Mayonnaise
  • Red onion
  • Green onion (or substitute onion powder)
  • Mayonnaise
  • White wine vinegar
  • Dried dill
  • Feta cheese, optional

It’s so easy to make this recipe: literally just boil the pasta and mix together the pasta salad ingredients. It’s mind-blowingly simple and uses mostly pantry ingredients! The only refrigerated ingredient is the green onion, which is optional. A few notes on storage, though…

Tuna pasta salad

Make it even creamier, if desired

Love a super creamy tuna pasta salad? The amount of mayo we’ve used here is about 1/2 the amount of a traditional super creamy pasta salad. You can add one of two things to this pasta salad to get an even creamier texture:

  • Add 1/4 cup Greek yogurt. We love using Greek yogurt in combination with mayo to get extra creamy sauces with less calories (like our Ranch Dressing). Do this if you’re going to eat it right away. But if you’re planning on leftovers, don’t use the Greek yogurt! The texture gets gummy in the fridge (see below).
  • Add 1/4 cup sour cream. Sour cream has a nice rich texture that doesn’t get quite as gummy as Greek yogurt in the fridge. The downside? it’s got a few more calories. If you’re going for a splurge, it makes for a nice creamy texture.

Eat immediately, or use as a make ahead lunch

This tuna pasta salad is best immediately, in our opinion! We usually eat it for dinner with some sides (see below). If you’d like, you can make it ahead for lunches throughout the week! Here’s what to know:

  • Refresh the texture and flavor before serving. This pasta salad can become drier in the refrigerator. We suggest swirling in a little mayo or sour cream before eating, and refresh with a few pinches of salt if you like. The added sour cream option above is nice if you’re wanting creaminess to hold up over several days.
  • Allow it to come to room temperature before serving. This one is best at room temp; it’s not designed as a cold pasta salad.
Tuna pasta salad recipe

Make tuna pasta salad into a meal!

This tuna pasta salad is the perfect pantry meal: with a few simple items, you’ve got dinner! It’s especially perfect for snow days or evenings where you just don’t have the energy to think. Here are a few ways you can accessorize it for lunch or dinner:

More tuna recipes

Tuna to the rescue! Canned tuna is great for throw-together pantry meals. Here are a few more of our canned tuna faves:

Tuna pasta salad

This tuna pasta salad recipe is…

Pescatarian. For gluten-free, use gluten free or legume pasta.

Print
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Tuna pasta salad

Classic Tuna Pasta Salad


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (12 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x

Description

This tuna pasta salad recipe is creamy and satisfying! It’s a protein-packed quick and easy dinner or make ahead lunch.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 ounces pasta: shells or bowties (farfalle)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 green onions (or 1/4 teaspoon onion powder)
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 2 5-ounce cans tuna
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise*
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Optional: 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta (and peas): Start a pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is just al dente. Start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside; usually around 7 to 8 minutes. In the last 1 minute, add the peas. Drain the pasta and peas, then rinse with cold water. 
  2. Prep the remaining ingredients: Meanwhile, thinly slice the green onions. Mince the red onion. Drain the tuna and flake it with a fork. Place them in a large bowl with the mayonnaise, white vinegar, dill, and kosher salt
  3. Mix: Once the pasta and peas are cooked, add them to the bowl and mix. Taste and adjust flavors if desired, adding black pepper as necessary. Serve immediately. Store leftovers refrigerated for up to 3 days: before eating, allow to come to room temperature. You may want to add a swirl of mayo or sour cream and a pinch of salt to refresh the texture and flavor. 

Notes

*Make a super creamy pasta salad by adding 1/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream. Only use Greek yogurt if you’re not planning to save leftovers; the texture can become gummy in the refrigerator. For saving over several days, sour cream is the best option. 

  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Salad

Keywords: Tuna pasta salad, Tuna pasta salad recipe

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

2 Comments

  • Reply
    Stacey
    February 26, 2021 at 8:25 am

    Would this work well with canned chicken instead of tuna?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      February 26, 2021 at 12:01 pm

      Yes!

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