This is not your average tuna pasta salad. It uses olive oil and lemon instead of mayo, and Mediterranean flavors like tomatoes, olives, capers, and basil. This tuna pasta salad is healthy, fresh, bright and light!
No-Mayo Tuna Pasta Salad Is Healthier & More Delicious!
Classic tuna pasta salad is heavy, with lots of mayo. This tuna pasta salad is so much better! It’s a light and refreshing summer meal and it’s also perfect for a picnic.
The worst thing is bringing tuna pasta salad to a summer picnic, and 10 minutes later, no one wants to eat it because the mayo is warm and icky. Since this tuna pasta salad is olive oil based, it lasts longer and tastes better in a picnic setting.
Tuna pasta salad can be relatively generic and bland. But every time I make this recipe, the reaction is “tuna pasta salad can taste like this?” and “it’s so light and lemony and fresh”! Mediterranean flavors make this tuna pasta salad pop!
If you’re a tuna lover like me, try my Tuna Avocado Bruschetta Toasts, Italian Tuna & White Bean Salad, or my Seared Tuna Avocado Boats while you’re at it.
Ingredients for Tuna Pasta Salad
Tuna pasta salad doesn’t have to be unhealthy!
- Short pasta of choice – short pasta, like penne or fusilli, is perfect for pasta salad!
- Tuna in olive oil – tuna in olive oil that’s good quality is important since it’s the star of the show!
- Cherry tomatoes – cherry tomatoes add bursts of sweetness and tartness.
- Kalamata olives – kalamata olives add a touch of brine and Mediterranean flavor.
- Shallots – shallots add texture.
- Garlic – garlic, because garlic!
- Capers – capers add that salty, Mediterranean touch!
- Extra virgin olive oil – olive oil binds everything together.
- Lemon – lemon adds freshness and acidity.
- Basil – basil adds a summery flare.
Here are a few of my favorite variations and substitutions for this recipe:
- Serve warm instead of room temperature: this pasta salad is just as good served warm. Skip the step that says to rinse your pasta under cold water, and simply toss your hot pasta with the other ingredients.
- Long pasta instead of short pasta: while pasta salad typically calls for short pasta, you can use a long pasta, like spaghetti, if preferred.
- Whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta: whole wheat pasta is delicious in this dish.
- Chicken instead of tuna: shred cooked Chicken Breast or rotisserie chicken instead of tuna.
- Salmon instead of tuna: shred cooked salmon as a tuna substitute.
- Onion instead of shallot: if you can’t find shallots, use a yellow onion or red onion.
- Vegetable oil instead of olive oil: Sometimes olive oil can harden in the fridge. That’s why I recommend serving this pasta salad at room temperature. Vegetable oil typically won’t solidify in the fridge if you’d like to serve this tuna pasta salad straight out of the fridge!
How to Make Tuna Pasta Salad
Tuna pasta salad doesn’t have to be difficult! The full recipe with step-by-step instructions is in the recipe card (this is just an outline!).
- Add ingredients to a bowl.
Add tuna, olives, capers, basil and tomatoes to a large bowl.
- Boil pasta and heat oil.
While the pasta is boiling, sweat shallots and garlic in olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
- Drain pasta.
Drain pasta in a colander and run the pasta under cold water to remove excess starch.
Pour the pasta into the bowl with the tuna. Then add the oil mixture, lemon juice, and salt & pepper to taste. Toss.
Serve room temperature or slightly chilled.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
It is best enjoyed within 3 days. Store in the fridge, covered, and bring to room temperature for at least 20 minutes before serving, adding an extra splash of olive oil to refresh.
Tuna in olive oil is the best option. The better the quality, the better then pasta salad! I really like yellowfin canned tuna in olive oil.
It is gluten free if you use gluten free pasta!
Yes! Add lots of black pepper or add a generous pinch of crushed red hot pepper flakes!
I love to serve it with Garlic Bread or simple Broiled Asparagus.
More Salad Recipes On Tastefully Grace!
- Turkey Club Pasta Salad
- Greek Pasta Salad
- Easy Curried Chicken Salad (With Grapes & Cashews)
- No-Mayo German Potato Salad
- 1 pound short pasta of choice like penne or fusilli
- 4 5-ounce cans tuna in olive oil drained
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes quartered
- ¾ cup kalamata olives halved
- 3 medium shallots finely chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons capers
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon juiced
- Handful fresh basil cut into ribbons
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Add drained tuna, olives, capers, basil and tomatoes to a large bowl.
- While the pasta is boiling, sweat shallots and garlic in olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. When shallots and garlic look soft and just-cooked, turn off heat and set aside.
- Drain pasta in a colander and run the pasta under cold water for 1 minute to remove excess starch.
- Pour the pasta into the bowl with the tuna. Then add the oil mixture, lemon juice, and salt & pepper to taste. Toss.
- Serve room temperature or slightly chilled. It’s best served right away!
- Enjoy within 3 days. Store in the fridge, covered, and bring to room temperature for at least 20 minutes before serving, adding an extra splash of olive oil to refresh.