Perfect for lunch or potlucks, this crowd-pleasing cold tuna pasta salad is the perfect balance of creamy dressing, tender pasta, and fresh crunchy veggies.

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Tuna Pasta Salad! Perfect for lunch or potlucks, this crowd-pleasing cold tuna pasta salad is the perfect balance of creamy dressing, tender pasta, and fresh crunchy veggies. |

About Tuna Pasta Salad

Classics remain classics a very good reason, and tuna pasta salad is no exception.

From the flavorful dressing to the mix of tender pasta and crunchy veggies, there’s bound to be someone who loves everything about what makes a tuna and pasta salad so delicious.

That’s why it’s one of my favorite “I don’t know who’s going to be there” foods to whip up and bring to all types of gatherings, from potlucks to picnics to holidays.

How to make tuna and pasta salad.

What kind of pasta should you use?

I personally prefer to use shell pasta with this recipe, and any size is fine – small, medium or large. The veggies have a habit of tucking into the shells of the pasta, making it easy to get the full flavor profile in just one spoonful.

But if you’re looking for something different, you could also try elbow pasta or bow tie pasta.

Do you have to use frozen peas?

For this recipe, I highly recommend frozen or fresh peas. The goal is for the peas to be a little firm with a vibrant green color.

You can use canned peas if necessary, but remember that they tend to be soft and more prone to breaking. You’ll lose some of the texture and presentation with canned peas.

Can you make tuna and pasta salad in advance?

Yes, you can make this in advance. In fact, this pasta salad will taste better once it’s had a chance to marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Once prepared, this pasta salad will remain good in the refrigerator for two to three days.

How long is this pasta salad good for?

Once prepared, tuna pasta salad can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Can you freeze tuna pasta salad?

Bad news here, guys. I personally can’t recommend freezing pasta salad. It can be done, but you might get wildly different results depending on when you freeze it, how it’s packaged, etc. And even if you do everything correctly, freezing and thawing will ultimately remove a bit of water from all ingredients, which could greatly impact the texture of the salad.

However, if you’re dead set on freezing a pasta salad for later, check out this article for a complete guide: Tips to Freezing Pasta Salads.

A simple cold tuna pasta salad recipe.

Notes & tips for cold tuna pasta salad

  • If you don’t already have one, you’ll need an extra large bowl to mix all of the ingredients together.
  • Red onions can pack a bit of a bite, so if you’re looking for a milder flavor, try soaking the onions first. To do this, submerge the red onion in a bowl of ice cold water and let it soak for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the onions, pat them dry, and then use in the recipe as directed. 

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How to make tuna pasta salad

This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.

Step 1 – In a medium saucepan, boil some salted water and cook the shell pasta to al dente (per package instructions). Drain the pasta and quickly drench with cold water to stop the cooking process, then set aside.

Step 2 – In a large mixing bowl (I like using this one), add the mayonnaise, pickle relish, dill weed, and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and then whisk everything together. Do a few taste tests to see if you need to add any extra pepper or salt.

Step 3 – Toss in the cooked pasta, tuna, peas, celery, and red onion, then use a spatula to gently mix it all together.

Step 4 – Chill for at least one hour.

Step 5 – Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Details

Prepared tuna pasta salad served in a large wooden bowl.
4.67 from 12 votes

Tuna Pasta Salad

15 minutes prep + 10 minutes cook + 1 hour Chilling Time
506 kcal
Yields: 8 servings
Perfect for lunch or potlucks, this crowd-pleasing cold tuna pasta salad is the perfect balance of creamy dressing, tender pasta, and fresh crunchy veggies.



  • In a large saucepan, cook orzo per package instructions. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water, then set aside.
    16 ounce shells pasta
  • In a large mixing bowl (I like to use this 13 quart mixing bowl), whisk together mayonnaise, pickle relish, dill weed, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.
    1 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup pickle relish, 2 teaspoon dried dill weed, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 pinch salt, 1 pinch black pepper
  • Add cooked pasta, tuna, peas, celery, and red onion to bowl, then use a spatula to thoroughly toss and mix ingredients together.
    10 ounce tuna, 1 cup peas, 1/2 cup diced celery, 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • If desired, chill for 1 hour to let flavors marinate.
  • Serve immediately.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 506kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 485mg | Potassium: 303mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 253IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 2mg

I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I’m not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.

Author: Chrisy

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Recipe Rating


    • Kerri
    • 5 stars

    I’m pregnant and had a craving for tuna pasta salad. This was great and exactly what I wanted! I love the crunch of the fresh veggies, and that the ingredients are things I had on hand. Thank you for a great recipe.

    • Kathy Woodson

    I actually have a question. Do you use sweet or dill relish? Looks delish either way

    • Jeff

    I haven’t had a salad like this in ages! And I don’t know why, because I’ve always loved it! Your pictures are so amazing – especially the closeups – that now I’m craving it! This looks like a great recipe.

    • larry kennedy
    • 5 stars

    iam making today