Spicy Tuna Pasta Salad is an easy cold pasta salad to serve during grilling season or to bring to your next potluck. It’s perfect as a make-ahead side dish or lunch. You’ll love the delicious, creamy, sweet and spicy dressing!
If you’re looking for more make-ahead salads, try my Mediterranean Bean Salad!
This Spicy Tuna Salad is such a fun twist on classic creamy tuna salad. The dressing has sweetness from the relish and heat from the hot sauce, which pairs really well with the tuna and pasta. The vegetables add lots of colour, texture and nutrition. We love this salad as a meal prep lunch or for bringing along to potlucks.
Here’s what you’ll need to make the salad. See the recipe card below for exact quantities and detailed instructions!
For the salad you’ll need
- Rotini or fusilli pasta – one pound, uncooked
- Tuna – two 5-ounce cans
- Bell pepper – I used red, but yellow and orange would be nice too!
- Carrot – grated so you get little bits in each bite!
- Celery – diced small
- Red onion – ditto on the small dice, so its flavour doesn’t overpower
For the dressing you’ll need
- Mayonnaise – for creamy texture and flavour
- Greek yogurt – to add creaminess, but with fewer calories, less fat and more protein than mayonnaise. I used a 2% variety. I initially tested the recipe with just mayonnaise, but the tuna basically soaks up all the dressing, so you need more volume of dressing to cover the noodles really well.
- Sweet pickle relish – adds sweet flavour to the dressing that complements the heat of the hot sauce
- Apple cider vinegar – for acidity
- Sriracha – or substitute your favourite hot sauce. We also tested this with Frank’s RedHot, but you need quite a bit more of it to get a spicy kick!
- Sea salt and ground black pepper – I suggest a teaspoon of salt in the recipe, but add more to taste, if necessary.
How to make it
First, cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain the hot water, then rinse with cold water to cool the noodles quickly and reduce stickiness. Be sure to drain the cold water very well.
Next, make the dressing. Whisk together the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, relish, hot sauce, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.
Then, assemble the salad. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, tuna, bell pepper, carrot, celery and red onion. Gently stir in the dressing until everything is well coated. Chill covered in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.
Tips for Success
Rinse the cooked pasta with cold water. Don’t skip this step! There are two benefits: first, it cools down the pasta quickly, and second, it removes excess starch from the noodles that would cause them to stick together.
Drain the noodles well. After you rinse the noodles, be sure to let them drain really well. Excess water would dilute the flavour of the dressing!
Let it chill. Letting the salad chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour gives the flavours a chance to blend and the salad tastes best served cold.
Adjust the heat. Use more or less hot sauce to suit your taste! The recipe as written (3 tablespoons Sriracha) gives a moderately spicy aftertaste. Different types of hot sauce vary in their level of heat, so keep that in mind when you decide how much to add. Taste as you go!
More make-ahead salads
Spicy Tuna Pasta Salad
For the salad
- 1 lb uncooked rotini or fusilli pasta (use a gluten-free variety if necessary)
- 2 five-ounce cans tuna, drained
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup grated carrot
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1/2 cup small-dice red onion
For the dressing
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
- 2-3 tablespoons sriracha, or your favourite hot sauce (adjust amount to taste)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions. Once it's done cooking, drain the hot water then rinse with cold water. Allow the cold water to drain well. Rinsing will stop the pasta from cooking further and reduce the stickiness of the noodles.
- Make the dressing. In a medium bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, relish, hot sauce, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.
- Assemble the salad. In large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, tuna, bell pepper, carrot, celery and red onion. Gently mix in the dressing until all ingredients are evenly coated. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving. Store any leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator and eat within 4 days.
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