Tuna Pasta Salad
Creamy Tuna Pasta Salad is a combination of tuna salad and pasta with veggies, herbs and aromatics in a simple creamy and delicious dressing. This easy versatile recipe has been a favorite for years, a staple recipe and a crowd pleaser. No barbecue, pool party, potluck, cookout or picnic is complete without a giant bowl of this tuna pasta salad – and this creamy slightly tangy loaded one is oh sooooooo good! What’s not to love about tender pasta and peas with flaked or chunky tuna fully loaded with green onions, celery, bell peppers, red onion in a dressing combination of sour cream, mayo, parsley, dill, green onions, pickles, and mustard which create a fabulous ranch flavor / dill pickle flavour which makes this creamy tuna pasta salad irresistible. My go-to recipe for classic, zesty, creamy tuna pasta salad - a great side dish or main dish perfect for make ahead lunches too. You will love every bite!
Tuna Pasta Salad Ingredients
- TUNA: this recipe uses canned tuna - feel free to use tuna in water or oil but drain liquid well either one you use. Light vs. White tuna? Albacore tuna is the only kind that can be labeled as white tuna. “Light” tuna is usually skipjack or yellowfin, with slightly darker meat and more flavorful. Use whichever one you prefer or have on hand. Feel free to use canned salmon too to make these into salmon pasta salad. Tuna is high in two kinds of Omega-3 fatty acids- It’s naturally low in carbohydrates and sugars, it’s also rich in protein too so its a great for this pasta salad - feel free to add more tuna to the recipe if you like a meatier pasta salad
- PASTA: fussili, rotini or Cavatappi pasta is what I like to use or any short pasta - or elbow macaroni fo a tuna macaroni salad
- PEAS: use either fresh or frozen for this recipe - they get cooked in with the pasta the last minute of cooking time - I don’t recommend canned peas but if that is all you have feel free to use canned, which will not need to be cooked at all just drained and tossed through
- OLIVE OIL: adds richness to the creamy dressing
- RED & GREEN ONIONS: Add nice flavor to the salad and goes so well with the dressing. Feel free to use shallots or white onion instead of the shallots and chives for the green onions
- FRESH HERBS: I used parsley and dill for this recipe. However, you can add other herbs or herbs of your choice like cilantro, basil, mint or thyme or tarragon as well.
- MAYONNAISE: Mayonnaise provides the creamy base of the dressing and binds all of the ingredients together, helps prevent them from separating. Feel free to use regular mayo which is tangy and rich or Miracle Whip which is sweeter - feel free to use whichever one you prefer but I always go for the classic savoury creamy mayo in mine. Please adjust amounts to taste
- SOUR CREAM: It adds a fabulous tanginess to the dressing. Its a wonderful addition but if you prefer yoghurt to sour cream you could definitely use that as a substitute. I know some recipes call for buttermilk - feel free to add some to this potato salad for extra tang in place of the sour cream
- PICKLE JUICE or LEMON JUICE: I love to use pickle juice as I’m also adding chopped pickles but instead of it feel free to use freshly squeezed Lemon juice or white vinegar, red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar instead.
- CELERY, BELL PEPPER & PICKLES: the pickles add some briny goodness or sweetness if you are using sweet pickles and celery and red bell pepper adds some crunch - all are optional. You can also use sweet pickle relish
- MUSTARD: I like to use dijon mustard but you can use whole grainy mustard or regular yellow mustard or a combination of then - feel free to use any type of mustard you like
- SEASONING: I used salt and black pepper and garlic powder - more seasoning options below
Make your tuna pasta salad even creamier
Love a super creamy tuna pasta salad? The amount of mayo used in this recipe is about ½ the amount of a traditional super creamy pasta salad. So you could say this is a lighter tuna pasta salad - but feel free to make it even creamier. You can add one of two things to this pasta salad to get an even creamier texture: add ¼ cup extra 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. Instead use sour cream as the best option or if you don’t really care about calories and want to add more mayo that is totally fine too
How to Make Tuna Pasta Salad
- COOK PASTA & PEAS: Cook pasta according to package directions and add the peas in with the pasta 1 minute before pasta is done - drain both, rinse with cold water, and toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper
- PREP THE SAUCE/DRESSING: In a large bowl whisk together the dressing ingredients (mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, pickles and their juice, olive oil, garlic powder, scallions, parsley, dill,)
- TOSS EVERYTHING TOGETHER: Add the pasta and peas, tuna, celery, red onion and gently toss to combine.
- SEASON: Taste and season with salt and pepper, to taste and check for creaminess adding more mayo or sour cream as needed
- CHILL: Serve right away if you wish but for best results chill for 1-3 hours, or overnight. Garnish with extra green onions or chopped fresh herbs
What can you add to tuna pasta salad?
There are so many flavor possibilities and combinations for this pasta salad. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Hot Sauce
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Hard-Boiled eggs
- Cherry tomatoes
- Beans - white beans for extra protein
- Other add-ins: mix and match from, Kalamata olives, avocados, artichokes, radishes, sundried tomatoes, etc.
- Use different seasonings: you can season the potato salad with virtually any spice blend such as Italian seasonings, Cajun seasoning, Old Bay seasoning, Everything Bagel seasoning etc.
- Make it vegan: Just swap in your favorite vegan mayo to make this a vegan potato salad recipe.
Storage & Make Ahead
- How long Can Creamy Tuan Pasta Salad Last outdoors or out of the fridge? If you plan on serving this tuna pasta salad at an outdoor gathering I recommend keep it in the refrigerator or cooler until right before serving. It is not recommended to eat this type of salad that has been sitting out or at room temperature for one - two hours, even less depending on how warm it is outdoors.
- How long can I store Tuna Pasta Salad In the Fridge? Tuna Pasta salad should always be stored in the fridge in an airtight container. When properly stored, it’s good for up to 3-5 days, but at its best within the first 24 hours because the veggies will get a bit soggy and the pasta will get a bit waterlogged
- Can I Make Tuna Pasta Salad Ahead of Time? Yes this creamy tuna pasta salad can be made 24 hours ahead of time or stages of it can be prepped in advance. Here’s how:
- Make the entire salad ahead of time: make the tuna pasta salad the night before. Store tuna pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Cook pasta and peas ahead of time: you can cook the pasta and peas ahead of time, cool and toss with olive oil and keep them in the fridge. Store in the airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- Make Dressing ahead of time: whisk all of the dressing ingredients together and store in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours before tossing the rest of the ingredients with it
More Pasta Salad Recipes You Will Love
- 16 oz/1 lb fussili, rotini or Cavatappi pasta
- 11-12 oz. Canned tuna, drained (I like to use light chunk albacore tuna)
- 3 stalks celery, Finley chopped or sliced
- 1 cup frozen peas
- ½ cup sliced red onion, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeds and stem removed and diced
Pasta Salad Dressing
- ½ cup mayo
- ¼ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup dill pickle juice or lemon juice if you prefer or white balsamic or white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil + 1 teaspoon
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ cup chopped pickles, sweet or dill
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill + more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley + more for garnish
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta (and peas): Cook pasta in a large pot of water according to package instructions/directions until al dente. In the last 1 minute, add the frozen peas. Drain the pasta and peas, then rinse with cold water. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly and set aside to fully cool.
- In a large bowl combine dressing ingredients: mayo, sour cream, mustard, pickle juice, remaining olive oil, green onions, pickles, dill, parsley, garlic powder and season with salt and pepper
- Add pasta with the peas, red pepper, tuna, celery, red onion to bowl with the dressing and toss well to coat. Taste and adjust flavors if desired, adding black pepper as necessary. Adjusting creaminess as well with more mayo or sour cream to liking.
- Garnish with fresh dill, parsley, and lemon slices and enjoy!
- Store leftovers refrigerated for up to 3 days: before eating, allow to come to room temperature or enjoy cold. You may want to add a swirl of mayo or sour cream and a pinch of salt to refresh the texture and flavor.
- Please adjust amounts to your liking - if you like your tuna pasta salad meatier feel free to add more tuna, creamier adjust amounts of mayo and sour cream etc.
- Although leftovers can keep for up to 3 days - for best flavour and texture, this salad is best eaten the day its made