Nothing beats a classic Tuna Pasta Salad. This easy salad makes a satisfying main dish for lunches on the go or a tasty side salad for your summer barbecue.
At NWTN, we have pasta salads for everyone. Cheese lovers will adore this Three Cheese Ranch Pasta Salad guaranteed! If you want to go beyond tuna or cheese pasta salad, check out this round-up of 100+ Simple Summer Salad Recipes.
Creamy Tuna Pasta Salad
Sometimes, you just can’t beat the classics. This tuna pasta salad hits all the flavour notes you would expect from a salad that has withstood the test of time. Perfectly cooked pasta that holds all the creamy dill flavoured dressing, while the flaky chunks of tuna bring much umami flavour to the forefront.
Simple vegetables like celery and red onion add a textural crunch, while green peas and orange cheddar cheese add a bit of visual excitement. When combined together, all of these ingredients make a mouthwatering salad that will have you coming back for seconds.
This tuna pasta salad makes an amazing side dish for summer backyard barbecues or even a great main dish for easy lunches at home. It’s a family favourite!
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What Goes into Tuna Pasta Salad?
This comfort food salad is filled with all of the usual suspects in most tuna pasta salad recipes; there are no surprises. It’s a classic for a reason! All of the ingredients should be easy to find at your nearest grocery store.
- Canned Tuna
- Red onion
- Cheddar Cheese
- Sour Cream
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Dill weed
- Salt and Pepper
When buying canned tuna, try to be selective about the brand. As is the case with many ingredients, you get what you pay for. One of the best-canned tunas on the market is Rio Mare (see link above) because it is canned in light olive oil. The flavour is very high quality, and the fish is in large flaky chunks. It maintains this texture as you gently stir it into the salad.
A simple mixture of sour cream, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, dried dill, salt and pepper makes a great dressing. However, if you would like to lighten the dressing up just a touch, feel free to substitute Greek yogurt for the sour cream.
The apple cider vinegar brings a slight sweetness to the dressing while also thinning it out slightly. Both rice wine vinegar and red wine vinegar are suitable substitutes.
There’s a combination of fresh and dried herbs in this salad; however, you can use what you have on hand. Dried or fresh dill is a classic herb to use with fish. However, you can also use cilantro or tarragon in its place. Omit the parsley if you find the flavour overwhelming.
The add-ins (red onion, peas, celery, and cheddar cheese) are just a suggestion. Other vegetables such as diced carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers would also work in this salad. Even chopped boiled eggs are great in this salad.
Pro tip for the home cook: If the red onion is quite strong or pungent, dice it up, then soak it in a bowl of cold water for at least 20 minutes. Drain it well, then use in the salad. This mellows out any harsh flavours that could have been overpowering.
How to Make Tuna Pasta Salad
Start with the Perfect Dressing
The dressing is a simple mixture of sour cream, mayonnaise, dried dill, and apple cider vinegar. It’s simple to make and has the perfect tanginess that goes so well with the tuna.
This tuna pasta salad recipe includes enough dressing to coat the pasta perfectly. The salad doesn’t become laden with overly rich creamy dressing, drowning out the other ingredients. However, it isn’t dry and tasteless either. Choosing the right kind of pasta shape has a great deal to do with the amount of dressing you will need in a pasta salad.
Then Find the Ideal Pasta Shape
The pasta you choose for this creamy tuna pasta salad is really important. It should either be an extruded (hollow) shape or have exterior texture that holds the creamy dressing. Macaroni salad using elbow macaroni is one of the most common choices. However, adding a fun pasta shape is one way you can bring visual interest to a classic salad.
Try using interesting shapes such as orecchiette, gemelli, rotini, penne, cavatappi, or rocchetti. Additionally, you could make this tuna salad a more substantial meal by adding cheese-filled tortellini. Wander the pasta aisle at your favourite Italian grocery store and find a unique shape of your own to use.
Prep the Ingredients
Let’s begin with the cooked pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and lower the heat to medium-low to maintain a slight boil. Cook the pasta until it reaches al dente stage, meaning it still has a bit of a bite and is not crunchy or overly mushy.
Drain the pasta, then rinse with cold water several times. Allow it to cool while you get on chopping the other ingredients. You can add the frozen peas directly to the cooling pasta so that they thaw as the pasta cools.
Here’s a chance for you to practice those knife skills. Try to dice the onion into uniform pieces no larger than 1/4 inch. Then move onto the celery, which can be a little bit larger, maybe 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces. The cheese will be the easiest (and largest) to dice because it already comes in block form. Lastly, roughly chop the parsley, and then it will be time to mix the salad.
Putting it All Together
As with any salad, a light touch when tossing is key. Some pasta shapes are more delicate than others. Even though they are cooked al dente, aggressive mixing may lead to broken pasta shapes.
Place the cooked pasta with peas in a large bowl. Add the red onions, celery, and cheese to the bowl and toss lightly. Next, pour the dressing over and gently stir until everything is well coated. Add in the flaked tuna and chopped parsley, and stir a few more times.
How Long Does Tuna Pasta Salad Keep?
In short, how long this salad will keep depends upon how you are serving it. As with any mayonnaise-based cold pasta salad, food safety is of the highest concern. When stored properly in the fridge until you are ready to serve it, this salad will keep for 3-5 days. However, this time will be shortened if you leave it out on the counter for a longer length of time.
When serving this salad at a backyard summer gathering, try to keep it cool in the shade. Placing it in a larger bowl filled with ice is a good idea. At room temperature, this salad can sit out for two hours maximum (ideally 1-2 hours). However, when serving outside on a hot day, it should be the last salad you set out on the picnic table.
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- 3 cups pasta
- 1/2 cup cheddar cheese; cubed
- 1/2 cup celery; chopped
- 8.5 oz canned tuna
- 1/2 cup peas
- 1/2 cup red onion; diced
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp dried dill
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh parsely; chopped
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add the pasta and lower the heat to medium-low to maintain a slight boil. Cook the pasta until it reaches al dente stage.
- Drain the pasta, then rinse with cold water several times. Add the frozen peas directly to the cooling pasta so that they thaw as the pasta cools.
- Dice the onion into uniform pieces no larger than 1/4 inch.
- Then dice the celery larger (1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces). Chop the cheese into 1/2 inch pieces.
- Roughly chop the fresh parsley.
- Open the cans of tuna and drain them well. Place the tuna in a small bowl and break it up into large flaky pieces.
- Place the cooked pasta with peas in a large bowl. Add the red onions, celery, and cheese to the bowl and toss lightly.
- Pour the dressing over and gently stir until everything is well coated.
- Add in the flaked tuna and chopped parsley, and stir a few more times.
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Chuster Rotini Spiral Macaroni Pasta | Vitamin Enriched | Perfect for Meat, Cheese, Butter-Based Sauces| Cooks in 15 Min | No Eggs, All Natural, No Sodium, Cholesterol Free, Kosher Parve| 3Pack (12oz)
Rio Mare Tuna In Olive Oil, 5.6 Ounce Can (Pack of 3)
DOWAN 9.5" Large Serving Bowls, 2.8 Quart Big Salad Bowls, Porcelain Pasta Bowl Set, Sturdy Mixing Bowls, Microwave & Dishwasher Safe, Deep Soup Bowl for Family Kitchen, White Bowls, Set of 2
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 424Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 596mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 18g