Tuna Pasta Salad

This creamy Tuna Pasta Salad is one of my favorite comfort foods! Perfect for bringing to a BBQ, potluck or for serving at any party!

We just love this pasta salad recipe, which in our opinion can either be a side dish or a main course! Lots of crunchy, sweet vegetables to round out the creamy pasta and tuna, it’s really the perfect bite!

Tuna pasta salad in a large serving bowl

The BEST Tuna Pasta Salad Recipe

Why is this tuna pasta salad the best, you ask? Well, because we’re comfort food classic experts and when we say this recipe is the one, it’s the one.

The addition of bell peppers in this pasta salad recipe adds crunch and a pop of sweetness that I just love. We also have a tip for making those red onions a little less sharp in flavor, but we’ll get to that later.

Tangy, creamy tuna pasta salad can be served as a side dish or the main course! I’m telling you guys, you won’t be able to stop eating this one, it’s literally so addicting!

ingredients for making tuna pasta salad


Of course the ingredients for this pasta salad can be switched up, but this recipe is our favorite combination of ingredients. Each one plays a role, so read on to see what each ingredient adds to the recipe!

  • Albacore Tuna Fish: Honestly, I really don’t think this pasta salad is the right application for a fancy, oil based tuna fish. This pasta salad is from the roots of picnics and BBQs and a good quality, firm Albacore tuns fish is the way to go!
  • Elbow Pasta: Regular elbow macaroni is fine, but we like this large elbow pasta too. There’s more room for the tangy, mayonnaise dressing to seep inside and burst out when you bite into it, and that, my friends, is kind of what we live for.
  • Bell Pepper: Any color of bell pepper will do, except we tend to avoid green bell pepper for this recipe. BUT if you love green bell pepper then go ahead and add it. The green peppers have a delicious flavor to them but they sort of take over the flavor of everything else, so we stick with red, orange and yellow.
  • Celery: Celery does add some flavor, but it’s the powerhouse for adding crunch to any salad!
  • Mayonnaise: If you’re asking, and we think that you are, go with full fat, regular mayonnaise for this tuna pasta salad. Of course, we’re going to get all the questions about using low fat or fat free mayonnaise but full fat is best.
  • Red Wine Vinegar: For that certain tanginess in the background, red wine vinegar is the perfect addition! Think about an Italian sub with mayo, that’s the flavor we’re going for here. Also, the vinegar helps to cut through the richness of the mayo; again, that balance that we’re looking for.
  • Red Onion: Soak your diced red onion in ice water for 15 minutes, rinse and dry on paper towels before adding to this pasta salad. You’ll get all the flavor of the sweet red onion without it being as harsh. You’re welcome.
A creamy, mayonnaise dressing or tuna pasta salad recipe

Can You Make This Pasta Salad Recipe Ahead Of Time?

While we definitely recommend that you make this tuna pasta salad at least an hour ahead of time for the flavors to blend, you don’t want to toss the salad too far in advance.

If you need to get this pasta salad done the morning of or even the day before, just keep the dressing separate and then toss an hour before serving. The pasta will soak up some of the dressing so it will dry out a bit if it sits in the fridge for more than a few hours.

Just make sure that you give it another toss before serving to make sure all that creamy mayo goodness is mixed all the way through!

Tuna pasta salad in a bowl with red napkin

Can I Make This Pasta Salad Without The Tuna?

If tuna fish isn’t your thing and you just want a really delicious pasta salad recipe, this recipe is still delicious. The mayonnaise dressing is literally perfect, sweet and tangy and easy to make.

Go ahead and make this pasta salad however you like, just make the dressing to go along with it!

Tuna Pasta Salad recipe in a clear bowl with parsley and napkin

What Other Ingredients Can I Add or Swap Out In This Pasta Recipe?

Pasta salad is one of those recipes that can be tailored to your likes and dislikes, or even just what you have in your refrigerator. Here are a few ingredients that you might like to add or swap out!

  • Peas: A lot of tuna pasta salad recipes have peas in them for another pop of sweetness. You can use defrosted peas or canned peas, but canned peas will be softer so just make sure to gently toss the pasta salad so they don’t mash up on you.
  • Shredded Carrots: Another great vegetable for sweetness, you can finely dice carrots or grate some on a box grater, or even grab shredded carrots at the store!
  • Fresh Herbs: Parsley is our go to for this tuna pasta salad because it’s got tons of flavor, but it’s a neutral flavor. So if you’re serving to a crowd, stick with parsley so everyone, including the kiddos, will dive in. Another popular herb for pasta salads in fresh dill.
  • Hard Boiled Eggs: Another popular addition to pasta salad, the yolks will blend in with the dressing which is something I love, so if you have some hard boiled eggs leftover then definitely add them in!

Looking For More Salad Recipes?

Tuna Pasta Salad in a glass bowl with parsley

The BEST Tuna Pasta Salad

  • Author: Dan
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 10 servings 1x

Tuna Pasta Salad is one of my favorite comfort foods! Perfect for bringing to a BBQ or party, make it ahead and it just gets better! This pasta salad works both for a side dish and the main course. The mayonnaise dressing has a secret ingredient for just the right amount of tanginess!



  • 1 pound large elbow macaroni, cooked, drained and rinsed with cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups diced bell pepper (red, yellow or orange – see note*)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 4 cans albacore tuna fish, drained

For The Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 cups regular mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Fresh black pepper, to taste


  1. Add the elbows, bell pepper, celery, onion and tuna fish to a large bowl.
  2. Add the ingredients for the dressing into a bowl and whisk together to combine. Taste for seasonings and adjust if needed.
  3. Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Toss again before serving.

Recipe Notes

Bell Peppers: Any color of bell pepper will do, but we tend to avoid green bell pepper for this recipe. BUT if you love green bell pepper, then go ahead and add it. The green peppers have a delicious flavor to them, but they sort of take over the flavor of everything else, so we stick with red, orange and yellow.

To Make Ahead: While we do recommend that you make this pasta salad at least an hour before serving for the flavors to blend, if you need to make it the morning of or the day before, keep the dressing separate and toss an hour before serving.

  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: mantitlement, pasta salad, tuna pasta salad, bbq sides, picnic sides, potluck recipes, pasta recipes, recipes with tuna fish

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