A classic cold tuna salad is a perfect dinner option on these hot summer evenings. It’s super easy to make and I’ll show you how I’ve made it over the years.
This salad is tasty, creamy and crunchy with chopped onion, celery, and tomatoes. And don’t forget the peas which add an additional brightness to the salad.
Ingredients in cold tuna salad
I started out with 8 ounces of medium shells. The salad works best with smaller sized pastas. Small and medium shells are perfect. You can also use rings, macaroni elbows, and bow ties. I could see using rotini which is quite a bit larger, but the corkscrew shape is easy to dig a fork into.
I always put peas into a cold tuna salad. There is something about the color and the additional flavor you get from peas.
Next, I dice up onion, celery, and tomatoes. Celery…the crunch maker in the salad. Big honking slices of celery can overwhelm a forkful of salad. For me, I like smaller sized celery pieces. The stalks are split in half or even thirds to get 1/4″ to 3/8″ pieces. You still get the crunch but it doesn’t consume your mouth.
The tomatoes I use are Roma or plum tomatoes. They have an outer flesh which stands up to the stirring and they don’t turn into mush. They are also less watery than your regular slicing tomatoes. Halved cherry or grape tomatoes work well too.
What tuna to use
There are lots of varieties of canned tuna. I happened to have on hand Genova Yellowfin Tuna packed in olive oil and that’s what was used in this salad.
What I prefer, and what MaryJo usually buys and has on hand is Wild Planet Wild Caught Albacore Tuna. It’s just 100% tuna and sea salt. No added water or oils. It’s available at Cost-co stores and at Target. Also available online.
Check your local grocer too as they may stock Wild Planet.
So on one of these hot summer evenings, mix up this easy to make cold tuna salad. It’s refreshing in so many ways. The printable recipe is just below.
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Cold Tuna Salad for Hot Summer Nights
- 8 oz. pasta, medium or small shells also could use macaroni elbows, bow ties, rings or rotini
- 1 tbsp kosher salt for the pasta water
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 large Roma tomatoes, diced about 1 cup diced
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced about 1 cup diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced about 1 cup diced
- 8 oz. canned tuna, (2, 5 oz. cans, drained) I used Genova yellowfin tuna packed in olive oil. I really prefer Wild Planet Wild Albacore Tuna, which is only tuna, salt, and no added fillers.
- 1/2 tsp Lawry's seasoned salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper, fresh ground
- 2/3 cup Miracle Whip salad dressing also could use mayonnaise, or a combination of mayo and plain Greek yogurt
- green onion, sliced as a garnish if desired
- Cook pasta in water with about a tablespoon of kosher salt added according to package instructions. Once there is 1 minute left to cook, add the frozen peas to the water. When finished, strain the pasta and peas in a colander or wire mesh and run cold water over them until cooled, about 45 seconds. Place into a large mixing bowl.
- Open the tuna cans and drain off excess oil or water and add to the bowl along with the chopped vegetables, spices and salad dressing. Fold together until all the pasta has been coated evenly.
- Refrigerator for an hour before serving.
- The nutrition information is based on having the salad as a main entree. It works well as a side dish too. In this case you'd probably have enough for 6 or 7 servings, (maybe like taking the salad to a potluck).
- No additional salt was added, just the Lawry's seasoned salt. You could taste before serving to add some more salt but I like to leave that up to the individual.
- This recipe is super flexible and the quantities are not set in stone. Use what you feel is best for you.
- I have always used Miracle Whip salad dressing for tuna salad but I realize it is full of calories. If you'd like to cut some of the calories you could use a 50/50 blend of Greek yogurt. Even whole milk Greek yogurt is half the calories of Miracle Whip.
- Adding the frozen peas to the pasta water right at the end is a genius tip I saw somewhere. It works so that's how I do it.
Here are some other cold summertime salads to try:
- Mexican Street Corn Salad
- Garden Greens Salad with Fruit and Yogurt Dressing
- Fresh Greens Salad with Basil-Mint Vinaigrette