A healthy and delicious cold tuna pasta salad is a summer staple in our house. It offers a tangy lemon flavor with tender pasta, flavorful and flaky tuna, and fresh crunchy vegetables. This recipe is the best tuna salad dish to win a crowd and perfect for a summer picnic, barbecues, side dish, or meal prep.
Growing up, I loved eating a creamy and cold tuna macaroni salad on a hot summer day. But a classic tuna pasta salad isn't exactly healthy for you nor your summer figure. The high carb pasta and the high-fat mayo is making tuna pasta salad a high-calorie dish. As a health-conscious foodie, I got to give my healthy twist to this classic dish, so I can feel good about indulging without any guilt.
I love pasta salads that are packed with lean protein, healthy fats and loaded in fiber-rich vegetables. With my healthy twist, you can enjoy tuna pasta salad, knowing it contains ingredients that nourish your body. It is healthier, skinner, and feels better about indulging. Not to mention this tuna pasta salad is super easy to make, and you only need a handful of ingredients. You can make this delicious pasta salad within 30 minutes. I love making this dish because you most likely already have all the ingredients right at home because I made it with all my kitchen staples. You can use boxed pasta, canned goods, and frozen vegetables to make this delicious dish. Read below to learn how to make tuna pasta salad.
What Is Tuna Pasta Salad?
If you never had tuna pasta salad before, this is a classic American dish made with canned tuna, pasta, fresh vegetables, and smothered in a creamy, flavorful dressing.
What You Will Need To Make This Healthy Tuna Pasta Salad
For this pasta salad, I used organic red lentil and quinoa fusilli from Thrive Market. You can use any type of pasta that is in your pantry or even fresh homemade pasta.
I choose the red lentil and quinoa fusilli to make this dish healthier because it is more nutrient-dense than your traditional pasta. If you decide to go with pulse-based pasta, it will contain more protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients. They are also gluten-free while tasting like the real deal.
Here are some of my favorite healthier pasta that you can check out:
For this tuna pasta salad, I used Safe Catch Wild Albacore Tuna With No Salt Added. On a very rare occasion we eat canned goods in our home, but this is something we carry a few cans in case of emergency. So every year, I will stock and restock just a few cans.
I love this brand's canned tuna because they have a stricter mercury limit than the FDA's limit. Tuna is a very nutritious and healthy protein source, but tuna is also high in mercury compared to other types of fish. Therefore, it should be eaten in moderation, or seek canned light tuna if mercury is a concern of yours. Light tuna comes from either Skipjack or Yellowfin Tuna. The meat is darker in color, softer texture, and more flavorful than white meat tuna.
When it comes to choosing a good quality tuna, be sure to read the ingredient list first.
Here are some of my favorite canned tuna that you can check out:
Thrive Market Non-GMO Chunk Light Tuna (No Salt)
Wild Planet Albacore Tuna (No Salt)
Safe Catch Wild Albacore Tuna (No Salt)
Crown Prince Natural Chunk Tongol Tuna (No Salt)
To make a cold tuna pasta salad, you will need to let the pasta cool once it is cool down. To ensure the pasta doesn't stick together, you will need to toss it with some oil.
Traditional tuna pasta salad is smothered with mayonnaise dressing, and mayo is high in fat and packed in calories. To give this pasta salad a summer and refreshing vibe, dress it with fresh lemon juice.
You can add in your favorite produce. Below is some produce I used in this salad:
Frozen corn and peas
I added frozen corn and peas to this tuna salad pasta. Both frozen corn and peas are cheap, nutritious, and delicious. Plus, they add great texture and sweet flavor to the tuna salad.
You can use canned corn and canned peas instead. Be sure to drain before use.
Traditional tuna pasta salad is coated in creamy mayo. If you love the creaminess in tuna pasta salad, add some avocado instead. Avocado is creamy, fatty, and it is nutritious! This makes avocado a great addition to a creamy tuna pasta salad.
You can add any type of greens to this tuna salad. I used chopped lettuce in this recipe, but you can use other greens such as arugula, kale, broccoli, or spinach.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- This recipe is super simple to prepare. You can make this recipe all within 30 minutes. All you need to do is boil water for the pasta and chop up some fresh vegetables.
- Budget-Friendly. I made this recipe using boxed pasta, frozen corn and peas, and canned tuna. Most likely, you already have all these ingredients right at home.
- This is a Healthier Recipe. The classic recipe is loaded with mayonnaise, which contains a high amount of saturated fat and calories. This recipe is dressed in fresh lemon, which is low in calories, no fat, and packed in Vitamin C. But you won't miss any creaminess because this pasta dish does contain creamy avocado.
Tuna Pasta Salad Recipe
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Passive Time: 10 Minutes
Serving Size: 4
1 8-10 oz box pasta
2 5 oz Tuna or light tuna drained and shredded
1 Small Head Of Lettuce chopped
1 Whole Avocado sliced
1 Whole Small Lemon Juiced
1/4 Cup Of Frozen Corn
1/4 Cup of Frozen Peas
1 Teaspoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Pinch of salt
- Boil your box of pasta according to direction. Once it is cooked, drain pasta and rinse with cold water. Then place them in a medium or large mixing bowl.
- Drizzle olive oil on top and give it some tosses, so it is coated in oil. Let it cool on the countertop or cover it and place it in the fridge.
- In a separate bowl, add your frozen corn and frozen peas. Pour hot water over until it is submerged, and let it soak for at least 5 minutes. Then drain the excess water.
- Open the cans of tuna and drain the excess liquid.
- Once your cooked pasta is cool to room temperature, add the corn, peas, drained tuna, chopped lettuce, and sliced avocado in the large bowl. Also, add a pinch of salt, paprika, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. You may need to shred the tuna into smaller pieces before tossing it.
- Give it a few good tosses, or use a spatula and mix. Cover it and then place it in the fridge. Recommend chill before serving for maximum flavor.
Serving size: 4
Amount per serving: Calories: 470 calories. Total Fat: 18.9g, Saturated Fat 2.6g. Cholesterol: 28mg. Sodium: 121mg. Total Carbohydrate: 42.9g. Dietary fiber: 12.8g. Total Sugar: 7.1g. Protein: 39.9g.
**The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.**
- Recommend letting it chill in the fridge to let all the ingredients marinate.
- You only need a pinch of salt in this dish. Especially if you are using canned tuna that contains salt.
- For a creamy salad, you can add greek yogurt to mesh up some avocado.
- You are not limited by what vegetables to add to the recipe. Other ingredients you can use include sweet pickle relish, sour cream, olives, chopped dill pickles, red onion, chopped celery, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and other fresh veggies.
Is This Tuna Pasta Salad Healthy?
There are 470 calories and 40g of protein in this tuna pasta salad recipe. Compared to the classic tuna pasta salad recipes, this recipe is healthier for you, as it lowers in calories and is packed with healthy fat.
Is This Recipe Gluten-Free?
As long as you use gluten-free pasta, this recipe is gluten-free friendly!
What Is the Best Pasta Shape To Make This Dish?
To create the best bite, choose a shape with plenty of nooks and crannies to take on all the goodness. Some good shapes to use include macaroni, shells, rotini, fusilli, penne, Gemelli, ditalini, or bowtie.
How Long Do Pasta Salads Last?
Store any leftovers in an airtight container and place them in the refrigerator. With proper storage, it can stay fresh for up to 3 days because this recipe does contain avocado. If you remove the avocado, it can last up to 5 days.
Avocado will turn black over time due to oxidation, but it is edible. You can squeeze an extra lemon into the dish to preserve the avocado to last longer.