This Tuna Pasta Salad is fresh and packed with lean protein. A few secret ingredients makes this the BEST summer side or light lunch.
July and August are the hottest months of the year here in North Carolina. What better way to beat the heat than with a giant bowl of refreshing pasta salad? This tuna pasta salad is a new favorite, because not only are you getting a bowl of perfectly chilled noodles, you’re also packing in tons of lean protein, and bonus: fresh, crunchy veggies! Serve this as a side at your next summer BBQ or eat it alone as a light lunch or dinner… you can’t go wrong!
What type of tuna to buy
Buy canned tuna packed in water. I don’t recommend using tuna packed in oil, because it will likely make the dish slimy.
Here are some key words to look for:
- “Solid” – this means less mushy, better texture.
- “Packed in water” – the mayo is oily so any added oil is unnecessary and weighs down the salad.
- “Pole and line fishing only” – this means the tuna weren’t mass-caught.
- “MSC-certified seal” – this means the tuna were sustainably caught.
What to serve with tuna pasta salad
Serve this pasta salad alone as a light lunch or dinner, or serve it next to your favorite sides and proteins at your next summer cook out!
- Main Dishes: BBQ Pork Chops, Smash Burgers, Hot Dog Chili
- Other Sides: Grape Salad, Potato Salad, Cornbread
- Desserts: Strawberry Pretzel Salad, Blueberry Cobbler, Lemon Bars
How to store
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. I don’t recommend freezing this recipe.
Tuna Pasta Salad
Equipment for this recipe
- 1 cup mayonnaise I used an olive oil mayo
- 6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons sweet relish
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons salt plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 (16 oz) box medium pasta shells cooked al denté according to package directions
- 1/2 small red onion finely diced
- 2 ribs celery finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper finely diced
- 3-4 (5 oz) cans tuna packed in water drained (don’t worry about flaking the tuna, it will break apart as you stir everything together)
- 1 cup frozen peas optional (if using, be sure to thaw)
- Place mayo, vinegar, sugar, parmesan, relish, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, curry powder, parsley, dill, and paprika into a large bowl and whisk until smooth.
- Add in cooked pasta, red onion, celery, bell pepper, tuna, and optional peas, then use a rubber spatula to gently fold the mixture until everything as been coated in the sauce.
- Cover and chill in the fridge until cold.
- When ready to serve, stir, then taste and re-season, if necessary!
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*Note: Nutrition information is estimated and varies based on products used.