This tuna pasta salad makes a super light yet filling summer lunch, and it’s made almost entirely with cupboard staples. There’s no mayo in sight and the Mediterranean flavors are absolutely mouthwatering!
Tuna pasta salad is a definite summer favorite in our home and this lighter, healthier version is just perfect for a quick lunch, picnics or potlucks.
Even though there’s no mayonnaise and not even a dressing in it, this cold tuna pasta salad will surprise you with its Mediterranean-inspired flavors.
It’s also a recipe that’s super easy to customize — you can add anything you have in the fridge to make it uniquely yours.
Why you’ll love this tuna pasta salad
- Super easy to make yet full of flavor
- Customizable to your heart’s content
- Perfect for a quick lunch, picnic, potluck or family gathering
What goes into this healthy tuna pasta salad?
Pasta — I used mezzi rigatoni here (which means half rigatoni) — their ridges are perfect for this recipe. Fusilli, penne, elbow macaroni or bow-tie pasta all work great for holding the flavors. To keep it healthy, use gluten-free or whole wheat pasta.
Red onion — Thinly sliced red onions add a sweet crunch and vibrant color. Leave the sliced onions in water for 10 minutes for a milder flavor.
Olives — I used a mix of black and green olives but feel free to add your favorites. For a more intense flavor, you can use a tapenade.
Capers — These little green gems add a touch of brininess to the tuna pasta salad to enhance the Mediterranean vibe.
Artichoke hearts — I used artichoke hearts packed in oil here. Drain them well before adding to the pasta salad.
Tomatoes — Grape or cherry tomatoes work perfectly in this salad to add sweetness and color. You can use sun-dried tomatoes for a different flavor profile.
Tuna — Go for high-quality canned tuna in olive oil for the best flavor and texture. Since there’s no mayo or dressing in this salad, the olive oil from the tuna acts like a binder and provides lots of flavor.
You should still drain the tuna before adding it to the pasta salad but don’t overdo it — you still want some of that oil in the salad.
Fresh basil leaves — Chopped fresh basil brings a fragrant freshness that ties everything together. You can substitute with fresh parsley or dill if fresh basil is not available.
What else can I add to it?
If you’re looking to add more oomph to your tuna and pasta salad, here are some ideas to try:
- Mozzarella balls or feta
- Toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds
- Diced cucumbers or bell peppers
- Baby spinach or arugula
- Frozen peas
- Dill pickle
- Green onion
- Diced avocado
- Hard-boiled eggs
How to make tuna pasta salad without mayo
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, salt it and cook the pasta until al dente, according to package instructions.
Drain the pasta and rinse it under cold water to stop the cooking process, then transfer it into a large bowl.
Sprinkle the shredded basil leaves on top, then season with salt and freshly black pepper to taste.
Serve immediately or refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
Leftovers and storage
- Place any leftover tuna pasta salad in an airtight container and refrigerate. It will keep all those beautiful flavors fresh for up to 3-4 days.
- The salad tasted great chilled but you can also serve it at room temperature if you like.
- Although this salad is best enjoyed fresh, you can freeze it if needed. Place the salad in a freezer-safe container, leaving a little room for expansion. It will keep for up to 3 months.
- To thaw, transfer the container to the refrigerator overnight, then enjoy chilled.
- Note: Freezing may slightly change the texture of some ingredients, but the flavor will still be delightful!
Recipe notes and tips
- Quinoa or rice noodles are excellent choices for a gluten-free option. You can also use zucchini noodles (zoodles) as a low-carb alternative.
- Cook the pasta just until al dente for the best texture. It's the foundation of your salad, and you want it to be just right!
- Transform this into a creamy tuna pasta salad by stirring in some Greek yogurt.
- This tuna pasta salad tastes even better after the flavors have melded. Prepare it a few hours ahead, or even the day before, and let it chill in the fridge.
- A little lemon zest can add a bright, citrusy zing to your salad.
- Serve your salad with a side of crusty bread or garlic toast and a crisp white wine or sparkling water with lemon.
If you liked this tuna pasta salad recipe, you might also like some of my other easy salad recipes:
- Deviled Egg Pasta Salad
- Summer Tortellini Salad
- Creamy Cucumber Salad
- Chicken Pasta Salad
- Orzo Pasta Salad with Feta
- ½ lb (250 g) short pasta
- 1 small red onion (½ cup or 60 g)
- ½ cup (100 g) black olives, sliced
- ½ cup (100 g) green olives, sliced
- ½ cup (60 g) capers in brine, drained
- ½ cup (90 g) artichoke hearts in oil, drained
- 12-14 plum or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 10 oz (280 g) tuna, packed in oil, drained
- 6-8 fresh basil leaves, roughly shredded
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, salt it and cook the pasta until al dente, according to package instructions.
- Drain the pasta and rinse it under cold water to stop the cooking process, then transfer it into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the diced red onion, sliced olives, capers, chopped artichoke hearts, halved tomatoes, and tuna chunks to the bowl with the cooked pasta. Toss well to combine.
- Sprinkle the shredded basil leaves on top, then season with salt and freshly black pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 412Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 33mgSodium: 1249mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 7gSugar: 24gProtein: 27g
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator.