The Perfect Tuna Pasta Salad Recipe 

 Last Update March 6, 2024

By Jenny Zhang

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As the summer season reaches its peak, it's the perfect moment to embrace invigorating and satisfying meals that are light and refreshing. When it comes to healthy and versatile options, few dishes can rival the delightful fusion of flavors found in a tuna pasta salad. Bursting with vibrant colors, this dish offers a delightful combination of textures and tastes that is sure to tantalize your taste buds while providing a nourishing and wholesome meal.

Whether you're seeking a quick lunch option, a vibrant side dish for a backyard barbecue, or a go-to dish for picnics and potlucks, a tuna pasta salad is an excellent choice. It not only offers a refreshing change from traditional pasta dishes but also presents an opportunity to incorporate various nutritious ingredients into one vibrant bowl.

In this blog post, we'll share how to create a healthy and satisfying tuna pasta salad that will leave you craving more. From selecting the perfect pasta to exploring an array of colorful vegetables and flavorsome herbs, we'll guide you through each step to help you craft a delicious and balanced dish that caters to your taste preferences and dietary needs. After you have tried this tuna pasta salad recipe, it may just be one of your favorite pasta salad recipes.

Cold Tuna Pasta Salad Recipe

Prep Time
5 minutes

Cook Time
15 minutes

Rest Time
30 minutes

Total Time
50 minutes

  • Cooking Method: Boiling
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean
  • Servings: 8
  • Calories: 345
  • Courses: Main Dish
  • Best Season: Any


  • 8 ounces (226 grams) of whole wheat pasta (such as penne or fusilli)
  • 2 can of tuna, packed in water or olive oil (drained)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup black olives, sliced
  • 1/4 cup canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1. Follow the instructions on the package to cook the pasta until it reaches the desired al dente texture. Once cooked, drain the pasta and give it a quick rinse under cold water to lower its temperature.

2. In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, drained tuna, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, black olives, garbanzo beans, capers, and fresh dill. Gently mix the ingredients together to ensure they are well combined.

3. Combine the extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl, whisking them together to create the dressing for the pasta salad. Add salt and pepper according to your taste preferences.

4. Drizzle the dressing onto the pasta salad and gently toss until all the ingredients are evenly coated.

5. Taste the pasta salad and make any necessary adjustments to the seasoning. If desired, feel free to add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice based on your personal preference.

6. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, harmonizing the flavors.

7. Prior to serving, thoroughly mix the salad to ensure all the ingredients are well combined. You can garnish it with some additional fresh dill.

Tuna Pasta salad

Tips & Notes

Use high-quality tuna: Choose a good-quality tuna packed in water or olive oil for the best flavor and texture. You can use solid or chunk tuna, depending on your preference.

Drain and rinse the tuna and garbanzo beans: This step helps remove any excess sodium or unwanted flavors from the canned ingredients.

Chop ingredients uniformly: Cut the cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olives, and dill into similar-sized pieces. By doing so, you will achieve a consistent distribution of flavors and textures throughout the salad, ensuring a delightful eating experience.

Allow flavors to meld: Chilling the salad for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to serving allows the flavors to meld together, resulting in an enhanced overall taste. However, if you prefer, you can also enjoy it immediately without refrigeration.

Nutritional Facts

Nutrition Facts

Servings: 8



% Daily Value*

Total Fat 9.1g


Saturated Fat 1.4g


Cholesterol 14mg


Sodium 133mg


Total Carbohydrate 47.1g


Dietary Fiber 6.8g


Total Sugars 1.6g

Protein 20.6g

Vitamin D 0mcg


Calcium 31mg


Iron 5mg


Potassium 303mg


*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Tuna Pasta Salad Ingredients

Whole wheat pasta

Opting for whole wheat pasta instead of refined white pasta offers a healthier choice. Whole wheat pasta is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, providing additional nutritional benefits. If whole wheat pasta is not available, you can substitute it with other types of whole grain pasta like brown rice pasta or quinoa pasta.

Feel free to choose any type of pasta that suits your preferences. We opted for the macaroni to create a delightful tuna macaroni salad in this particular recipe.


Tuna adds protein and a savory flavor to the pasta salad. Wild-caught tuna tends to be more nutritious and has a better omega-3 fatty acid profile compared to farm-raised tuna. It is generally considered a healthier option.

Canned tuna is typically available packed in either water or olive oil. Opting for water-packed tuna reduces the added fat content and calories. If you prefer the taste and texture of oil-packed tuna, choose those packed in olive oil for their heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

Be sure to read the ingredient list and avoid tuna containing unnecessary additives such as artificial flavors, preservatives, or high sodium levels. The ingredient list should ideally be minimal and contain only tuna and water or oil.

If tuna is unavailable or you prefer a vegetarian option, substitute it with canned chickpeas or white beans for added protein.

Cherry tomatoes

Incorporating cherry tomatoes into the pasta salad introduces a delightful burst of sweetness and freshness. Furthermore, they contribute vibrant colors and a pleasing texture to the dish. If cherry tomatoes are not available, you can use regular diced tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes for a different flavor profile.


Including cucumber in the pasta salad brings a revitalizing and crisp component to the dish, complementing the other flavors harmoniously. If cucumber is unavailable, you may substitute it with zucchini or bell peppers, which offer a comparable crunch.

Red onion

Red onion adds a mild sharpness and a touch of color to the tuna salad. It offers a pleasant contrast to the rest of the ingredients, adding a distinctive touch. If red onion is unavailable, shallots or scallions can be used as alternatives, providing a milder onion flavor.

Black olives

Black olives contribute a briny and salty flavor to the tuna pasta salad. They also add richness and depth. If black olives are unavailable, you can use green olives or Kalamata olives for a different taste.

Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

Garbanzo beans provide additional protein, fiber, and a creamy texture to the tuna pasta salad. They make the tuna pasta salad more filling. If garbanzo beans are not available, you can use other types of beans like cannellini beans or kidney beans.


Capers are small, tangy buds that add a burst of briny flavor to the tuna pasta salad. They complement the tuna and olives well. If capers are not available, you can omit them or use chopped dill pickles for a similar tangy taste.

Fresh dill

Fresh dill adds a bright and herbaceous flavor to the tuna pasta salad. It pairs well with the other ingredients. In the event that fresh dill is unavailable, dried dill weed can be used as a substitute, although it may impart a slightly different flavor profile.

Extra virgin olive oil

The dressing is crafted using olive oil, which imparts a luxurious richness and a velvety texture. It enhances the flavors and provides healthy fats. If olive oil is not available, you can use another type of vegetable oil, like avocado oil or canola oil.

Fresh lemon juice

Incorporating fresh lemon juice into the dressing infuses it with vibrant acidity and a refreshing quality. This balances the flavors and adds brightness to the tuna pasta salad. Bottled lemon juice can be used as a suitable substitute in the absence of fresh lemons.

How to elevate this tuna pasta salad recipe

Add roasted vegetables

Roasting vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, or eggplant can add depth of flavor and a slightly smoky taste to the tuna pasta salad. Coat the vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then proceed to roast them in the oven until they reach a tender consistency. Ensure that they are allowed to cool before incorporating them into the tuna pasta salad.

Include fresh herbs

In addition to dill, you can experiment with other fresh herbs like basil, mint, or cilantro to enhance the flavors of the tuna pasta salad. Finely chop the herbs and generously sprinkle them over the tuna pasta salad to infuse it with a vibrant burst of freshness.

Make a tangy dressing

Enhance the dressing by incorporating a hint of Dijon mustard or a splash of balsamic vinegar into the mixture of olive oil and lemon juice, elevating its flavor profile. This will give the dressing a tangy and complex flavor profile.

Use different types of pasta

Instead of whole wheat pasta, try using alternative pasta varieties like tri-color rotini, farfalle (bowtie), elbow macaroni, or fusilli. These variations can add visual interest to the salad and provide a different texture.

Toast the garbanzo beans

For an extra crunch, toast the garbanzo beans in the oven before adding them to the tuna pasta salad. Coat them lightly with olive oil, sprinkle a pinch of salt and your preferred spices, and proceed to roast them until they turn delightfully crispy. This will add a delightful texture to the tuna pasta salad.

Incorporate nuts or seeds

Incorporating toasted pine nuts, slivered almonds, or sunflower seeds into the tuna pasta salad introduces a delightful crunch and imparts a pleasant nutty flavor. Sprinkle them on top just before serving.

Add a creamy element

For those desiring a creamy tuna pasta salad, simply incorporate a dollop of Greek yogurt or a few tablespoons of mayonnaise into the dressing. This addition will lend the tuna salad a smooth and creamy texture, accompanied by a subtle tangy undertone. In addition, you can add an avocado to the tuna pasta to create a healthy creamy pasta salad.

Garnish with lemon zest

Before serving, grate some lemon zest over the salad for an extra pop of citrus flavor. It adds a bright and fragrant touch.

Experiment with spices

Enhance the flavor profile by adding a pinch of paprika, cayenne pepper, or dried herbs like oregano or thyme to the tuna pasta salad. By doing so, the overall taste profile will be enhanced with added complexity and depth.

Add frozen peas

Adding frozen peas to the tuna pasta salad can be a great way to incorporate more vegetables and add a burst of sweetness and vibrant color to the dish. When utilizing frozen peas, it is advisable to incorporate them into the pasta during the final few minutes of cooking. This will allow the peas to cook and soften slightly while maintaining their bright green color and crisp texture.

How To Store Leftover Tuna Pasta Salad

Place the tuna pasta salad in a clean, airtight container. For optimal freshness, it is recommended to consume tuna pasta salad within 2-3 days when stored appropriately in the refrigerator. Prior to enjoying any remaining salad, carefully examine it for any indications of spoilage, including unpleasant odor, mold formation, or sliminess. If any of these signs are present, it is advisable to discard the salad immediately.

Due to the ingredients and texture of the tuna pasta salad, freezing is not recommended. Freezing may cause the tuna pasta salad to become watery and the ingredients to lose their texture and flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I use fresh tuna instead of canned tuna?

Certainly, fresh tuna can be utilized if desired. Simply cook the fresh tuna until it reaches the desired level of doneness, then flake it and incorporate it into the tuna pasta salad. However, it is important to note that canned tuna is more commonly employed in this dish due to its convenience and widespread availability.

Can I make the salad in advance?

Absolutely, tuna pasta salad can be prepared in advance. Simply store all the ingredients, including the dressing, separately until ready to combine. Mix everything together just before serving to maintain the best texture and flavor.

Can I add other vegetables or ingredients to the salad?

Absolutely! Tuna pasta salad is versatile, and you can customize it to your liking. You have the flexibility to incorporate additional vegetables, such as bell peppers, grated carrots, or blanched broccoli, according to your preference. You can also incorporate ingredients like corn kernels, chopped hard-boiled eggs, or feta cheese for additional flavor and texture.

Is this tuna pasta salad healthy?

Yes, this tuna pasta salad can be a healthy option, especially when prepared with whole wheat pasta and a focus on nutritious ingredients. Opting for whole wheat pasta instead of refined white pasta brings a nutritional boost to the dish, as it introduces valuable fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Whole wheat pasta is less processed and provides more nutrients and sustained energy.

Tuna is a lean protein source and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, promoting heart health and overall well-being. It provides essential amino acids and can contribute to a balanced diet.

Adding vegetables like cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and peas (if included) brings important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to the tuna pasta salad.

Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.