This classic tuna pasta salad is perfect to have in the fridge all summer long! It’s great for lunch, as a side for dinner, or as a perfect addition to picnics or BBQs.
Why you’ll love this tuna pasta salad
- This tuna pasta salad has been my Summer go-to salad for years. What sets it apart from the masses is the delicious dressing, that has so much more flavour than mayo alone!
- I love that it makes a big batch, so it sticks around in the fridge a bit, to grab and eat or for summer entertaining, when you need a big bowl.
- This is a hearty and filling salad, with the addition of tuna and egg, so it’s perfect for a lunch or as part of a salad plate, for dinner. I also have some variations to share, if you’d like to change it up a bit. Scroll down for those!
Ingredients and Substitutions
Tuna – I generally use the flaked tuna packed in water, but you can use any canned tuna you like.
Pasta – I love to use rotini (corkscrew) pasta for this pasta salad, as it has lots of surface area to grab the dressing and tuna pieces. Fusilli works well, as does penne and small shells.
Mayonnaise – I have to confess, I don’t use real mayonnaise when I make this particular salad. I find it a little heavy for Summer salads, to be honest. I always use salad dressing, aka Miracle Whip™ I love the tangy flavour and I find it lighter tasting. You can use whichever, as it will work fine with both.
Hard Boiled Eggs – adding egg to this tuna pasta salad is optional, but it is a lovely addition to this salad. Simply hard boil, chop and stir in.
Variation to Try
Add a bit of shredded green cabbage to the bowl, to add a bit of vegetable to the mix.
Be sure to taste your salad after it has chilled and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.
Making ahead and storing
Making this salad ahead is required, as you’ll want to give it at least a couple of hours in the fridge, to chill.
Store this salad in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. Tuna Pasta Salad will keep well in the refrigerator for 4-5 days! If it becomes a little dry, simply drizzle a tiny bit of milk over it and stir. That’s all it usually takes to loosen it up.
Get the Recipe: Tuna Pasta Salad
- 12 oz. rotini pasta, (or any short pasta) about 4 cups
- 6 oz. (170 g) canned tuna packed in water, drained and flaked
- 1 rib celery, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise or salad dressing, *see Note 1
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons ketchup
- 3 Tablespoons sour cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon white vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Cook pasta to al dente. Drain well, then rinse with cold water until cooled.
- While pasta is cooking, prepare the celery, red onion and hard-boiled eggs, if using. Mix the dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients and mixing well.
- Place the rinsed, cooled pasta into a large bowl. Add the tuna, celery, red onion, eggs and dressing and stir well to combine. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours before eating. *Taste before serving and season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.
- Refrigerate well-covered. Will keep 3-4 days in the fridge. If salad thickens as it sits, add a splash of milk to the bowl and stir in to loosen.
- I actually prefer jarred salad dressing (aka Miracle Whip) with this salad, as I love the tangy flavour and lighter taste. You can use any mayonnaise or salad dressing you prefer here.
More Classic Summer Salad Recipes to Love!
Hi! I’m Jennifer, a home cook schooled by trial and error and almost 40 years of getting dinner on the table! I love to share my favourite recipes, both old and new, together with lots of tips and tricks to hopefully help make your home cooking enjoyable, stress free, rewarding and of course, delicious!
Thought I should comment as I have been making this for awhile now :) I love the zingy taste & it is always delicious. Sometimes I add a few peas for colour if my celery is pale. Thanks for a great recipe!
So glad to hear, Alison and yes, I love the zing in this one, too :) Thanks so much!
Wasn’t sure this would have much flavour but it sure does. It hasn’t finished cooling and the last third of the dressing still has to go in and I can’t leave it alone. Hope there’s some left for the rest o the family :)
So glad to hear, Randi :) Thanks!
Followed your recipe exactly … except I used rice vinegar. Easy & very tasty. Served as a main course with green salad. We won’t get 10-12 servings!
Have made tuna pasta salads in the past but not as flavourful as yours. A definite keeper!
Thanks Irene and so glad you enjoyed it. I’ve tried lots of tuna pasta salads over the years and I always come back to this one. Hits the right notes for me. Glad it did for you, too :)
Would you believe me when I say that I have never made a tuna pasta salad…..never ever!
Not sure why, my mom never did either, but, she doesn’t like tuna so maybe that’s why.
This recipe looks very tasty and it does seem easy enough to make.
This is going on my “must-make-soon” list.
Thanks Jennifer, have a nice day!
Thanks Dalila and I hope you get a chance to make it. It really is a lovely summer salad. I’m always glad to have a bowl of it in the fridge :)
I’m not sure why, but I never think to make a tuna pasta salad although I know I could eat my weight in this one. Could I swing by next time you make it?
Absolutely Chris! :)
Oh yum! This is the perfect salad dish to take on a picnic or to the beach. Happy weekend lady :)
Thanks Sarah and happy weekend to you, too!
We love adding tuna to our macaroni salad. Perfect picnic food!
It is perfect for picnics, for sure! And the tuna adds such nice flavour :)
I love the simplicity and flavours in this dish, Jennifer. I often make a linguine with canned tuna and throw some tomatoes, lemon and fresh herbs in there. Tuna and pasta rock! I will make this for our next family get together. I bet it would be a big hit on Father’s Day as well.
Enjoy your weekend. The heat is finally here!
Thanks Robyn and have a great weekend, too! It’s going to be a scorcher :)
Made this and it was AMAZING. The dressing makes it very unique rich and creamy
So glad you enjoyed it, Crystal! It’s one of my favourites to have in the fridge :) Thanks!
I have actually never had this flavor combination before but it sounds like the perfect picnic dish!
Thanks Sara. I’m sure it sounds like an odd combination of ingredients, but somehow, it all works :)
Adding sour cream is a great idea! We make tuna salad all the time but we only add mayo to our version. Will try this out next time. Sounds so delicious :)
Thanks Maggie :) I find the bit of sour cream, besides adding a bit of tanginess, lightens up the richness of the mayo, as well.
I grew up on this, and have continued to make it every summer for years, but oddly enough, both my kids can’t stand it! Oh well, that just means more for me!
My daughter doesn’t eat it either (she’s vegetarian :), so yes, more for me!!
Ok Jennifer, I’m a huge tuna salad fan, so I need to make this pasta salad soon. My Mom used to make a killer tuna pasta salad and tuna casserole too when I was growing up too! They were some of my favorites! This one brings back memories! Thanks!
Thanks Mary Ann :)
Omg, I haven’t had a good ‘ole tuna pasta salad in ages, Jennifer!! I absolutely love that you developed this recipe to use the ingredients in French salad dressing instead of using the actual dressing! This is so perfect, totally thinking I am going to have this for lunch today! Cheers, friend!
Thanks Cheyanne :) This is a nostalgic salad for me, but even after all these years, I still love to have a bowl of it in the fridge!
Hi Jennifer – I love that you add the dressing to the warm pasta – I bet that trick really works to carry the flavor throughout the dish. I haven’t had tuna noddle casserole in years but am craving it now. The homemade french dressing will make my husband very happy. He often makes his own with Greek yogurt and ketchup and who knows what else! Thanks!
Thanks Tricia and yes, with this recipe, I do find adding the dressing to hot pasta, then cooling works better for some reason. And yes, for your husband, French dressing is just mayo, ketchup, a bit of vinegar and paprika! (Not as much mayo as is used here though. The sour cream in the dressing is an extra, for a bit of tang).