Tuna Pasta Salad is easy to make and perfect for potlucks, picnics, and backyard parties. It’s hearty, flavorful, and a great side dish or complete meal-in-itself.
Chicken macaroni salad is a favorite dish in our house and for good reason. It’s creamy and tasty with loads of mix-ins from shredded chicken, diced ham to crushed pineapple.
This tuna pasta salad, however, is fast taking the top spot, especially now that we’re relying more on pantry items for our meals at home. It delivers the same hearty taste but with a lot less effort.
The recipe is so easy to put together, I’m embarrassed to even call it a recipe. Just cook the fusilli according to package directions, prep the rest of the ingredients, and toss everything in a large bowl. Give the creamy mixture time to chill and meld in the fridge and bingo! A hearty side dish or complete meal-in-itself the whole family will love!
- For best texture, cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente or firm to bite. Make sure to rinse after cooking to bring the temperature down and stop the cooking process as well as remove starch residue and keep the noodles from clumping together.
- Allow the pasta and the egg to cool completely before tossing with the rest of the ingredients.
- To trim down calories and fat, swap all or half of the mayo with plain yogurt or sour cream. You can also use canned tuna packed in water instead of oil.
- This recipe calls for fusilli but other medium shape pasta such as shells, elbow macaroni, bow tie, or penne are also good options.
- The half a tablespoon or so of pickle juice adds tang and balances the rich flavors of the dish; feel free to substitute lemon juice to taste.
Other choice add-ins
I use red onions, bell peppers, and celery to add color and crunch, but feel to find your favorite combination from the suggested list below.
- sliced green or black olives
- frozen green peas
- crushed pineapple
- diced cheddar cheese
- diced ham
- diced apples
- shredded carrots
- halved cherry tomatoes
- diced cucumbers
- chopped green onions
How to serve and store
- This pasta salad is a great make-ahead meal and can be prepped in advance. It actually tastes better when refrigerated to chill and for the flavors to meld.
- Store in a container with a tight-fitting lid and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Due to the nature of the ingredients, it does not freeze well.
- Pasta tends to soak up the mayo dressing, drying out the salad over time. When ready to serve, stir in a bit of mayo, sour cream, yogurt, or milk to moisten and add back the creaminess.
- For food safety, keep the container of pasta salad over a bed of ice. Do not keep at room temperature for more than four hours.
Creamy Tuna Pasta Salad
- 1 cup uncooked fusilli pasta
- 1 can (6.35 ounces) tuna, drained well
- 1/4 cup gherkins pickles, chopped
- 1/4 cup red bell peppers, chopped
- 1/4 cup celery, chopped
- 1/2 red onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and chopped
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 tablespoon pickle juice
- salt and pepper
- In a pot of boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.
- Using a colander, drain pasta and rinse well. Let cool completely.
- In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta (about 4 cups), tuna, gherkins pickles, red bell peppers, celery, red onions, hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and pickle juice.
- Gently stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Refrigerate for about 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Serve cold.