Tuna Pasta Salad is a traditional side dish recipe perfect for summer potlucks and sunny picnics! Ready to feed a crowd, this easy and creamy tuna salad recipe tastes even better the next day once the ingredients have time to really marinate together.
Plus, as a cold salad recipe, this pasta salad is also fantastic next to a juicy burger, grilled chicken or even pulled pork sandwich.
Why you will love making Tuna Pasta Salad
In many old fashioned tuna salad recipes, macaroni noodles are used. But in this recipe, we used Rotini. Rotini is a beautiful corkscrew pasta that does an amazing job of letting the homemade mayo dressing just cling to each bite.
And with tuna as the main protein, it’s flexible enough to allow bits of meat between the wedges, making every bite as flavorful and filled with all ingredients as possible.
As a big tuna salad fan, there is no doubt in my mind that you will LOVE this totally refreshing cold tuna pasta salad. And out of all my cold pasta salad recipes, this is the BEST tuna macaroni salad recipe around!
Yum! You won’t believe how easy this pasta salad with tuna is! And while tuna is one of my favorite pasta ingredients, you could easily substitute it with shredded canned chicken if you don’t like seafood. It’s just as delicious and makes a different kind of salad!
Here are all the pasta ingredients you need to gather to get started on this recipe.
- 8 oz. rotini pasta
- 1 can, 9 oz. tuna, in water and drained
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup matchstick carrots
- 1 cup real mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Italian dressing, dry powder
- salt and pepper
How to Make Tuna Pasta Salad
- To get started on this creamy pasta salad with tuna, use boiling water to cook the Rotini pasta according to the package directions, making sure the pasta is cooked well. Some like al dente pasta in pasta salads as the creamy dressing base already makes the Rotini quite soft. Ultimately, the choice is up to you!
- Drain pasta and rinse with cold water. Make sure you shake off as much excess water as possible so you do not leave excess moisture in the salad, which will water down the dressing and flavor.
- Add dry cold pasta to a mixing bowl and add drained tuna, tomato, celery, and shredded carrots.
- Mix all salad ingredients super well to incorporate the veggies and tuna in all parts of the salad.
- Add real mayonnaise and dry Italian dressing packet and mix again. I add mine directly to the salad separately, but if you prefer, it’s fine to mix the herb seasonings and mayor together first and then add.
- Generously season rotini tuna salad with salt and cracked pepper.
- Refrigerate this delicious pasta salad for 4 hours (or overnight) if possible. This side salad is best when given some time to marinate in the flavors and served really cold (like most pasta salads!).
- Stir salad again well before serving to mix up any settling of dressing or vegetable ingredients on the bottom of the bowl.
What to add to Tuna Pasta Salad
There are a lot of alternative ingredients that go great in a tuna pasta salad and also supply a variety and change each time you make the recipe. Common changes and additions that do not affect the creaminess are:
- Boiled Eggs
- Cold Peas
- Chickpeas or Garbanzo Beans
- Altering pasta type – use elbow pasta (macaroni), bowtie pasta, baby shell pasta
- Red Onions
How long after making tuna pasta can you eat it? I have a hard and fast rule that no pasta salads with mayo or any type of dairy past 2-3 days. This salad is meant to be made and consumed all in a few day’s time. Remember that tuna itself has a smell to it, so make sure to keep it in an airtight container to avoid all foods in the fridge smelling like tuna.
What do you eat pasta salad with? Most pasta salads are served as a side dish and go great as a fresh summer salad. However, tuna salad draws a different kind of side dish since it has healthy fish proteins. This side salad still goes amazing with grilled chicken but can be less complimentary to beef.
Is Tuna Salad with Pasta healthy? There are a lot of arguments on what is considered healthy in the food world. Is pasta in and of itself the healthiest thing you can eat? No, of course not. But as a side dish, it’s still an excellent choice and healthier than some alternatives like Watergate Salad.
More Cold Pasta Salad Recipes
Need many different salad recipes? Try one of our other favorite recipes that are perfect as spring approaches:
- Pea Salad : With red onions and shredded cheese.
- Frog Eye Salad : This is a dessert salad made with pudding and pasta.
- Cold Macaroni Pasta Salad: Such a colorful pasta dish, this salad is full of delicious veggies.
- Ranch Pea Pasta Salad: Twist on pea salad with the fun flavors of the ranch that everyone loves!
If you try this recipe or one of our many different salad recipes and have feedback, I’d love to hear how you changed it up and made it your own!