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This canned tuna pasta recipe is quick, healthy, and comforting. It’s the perfect recipe when you don’t have a lot in your pantry!

You may also like my Healthy Tuna Pasta Salad or my Canned Salmon Pasta recipes.

healthy 15 minute canned tuna pasta in a white bowl

Why you’ll love it

This tuna garlic pasta recipe takes me back to my childhood. My mom used to make something similar when I was a kid, and I just loved it. I’ve even made this with just tuna, garlic, and olive oil when I’m in a rush and I really have nothing in the fridge.

I never put this recipe on the blog because I wasn’t sure people would like it even though I know it tastes great. I did a little research, and there definitely is demand for canned tuna pasta, so I figured I’d do it! If you’re busy with after school activities, this tuna spaghetti recipe is one way to save some time and keep your sanity.

What you’ll need

  • Pasta – I use spaghetti
  • Olive oil – for the base of the sauce
  • Garlic – use even more than suggested if you’re a big fan. I like using a garlic press to easily mince the cloves.
  • Tuna – the star of this inexpensive pasta recipe! I recommend using a can of tuna packed in oil for maximum flavor.
  • Lemon juice – for a pop of acidity and brightness
  • Parsley – a little freshness and herb flavor
ingredients for tuna pasta in prep bowls

Pro tip

  • Check out the comments section below for reader suggestions to change up this simple tuna pasta!

How to make tuna pasta

This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.

making garlic sauce in a small pan for tuna spaghetti

Cook the pasta until al dente. Meanwhile, prep the other ingredients. When the pasta is almost done, heat up the oil in a saucepan. Once hot, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the tuna, lemon juice, and chopped parsley.

tossing pasta with tuna sauce in a saucepan next to photo of a bowl of spaghetti

Let it heat through. Once the pasta is done, drain it, reserving some of the pasta water. Add a couple of tablespoons of it to the sauce. Toss the spaghetti with the sauce, and season with salt & pepper as needed.

Substitutions and variations

  • This healthy tuna pasta recipe can be jazzed up or even made more simple than it already is. For the photos I added some grated parmesan cheese and a little lemon zest (I used the same handy tool to do both so it took me like 30 seconds), but in real life I don’t usually bother.
  • I like to add a handful of fresh spinach and let it wilt at the end. Sometimes I cut a handful of little tomatoes (grape, cherry, etc.) into halves and then toss them in and cook until they’ve softened.
  • My mom would sometimes chop up celery leaves instead of using parsley, but I never have those on hand, so parsley it is!
healthy 15 minute garlic tuna pasta in a bowl with spaghetti twirled on a fork

What to serve with tuna pasta

Leftovers and storage

  • This tuna pasta is best eaten fresh, but it’ll keep for a few days in the fridge in a covered container.
  • Reheat leftovers in a saucepan over a low heat until warmed through.
  • I don’t recommend freezing the sauce. Because it’s a small quantity and so simple, it’s worth making fresh each time.
easy canned tuna pasta in a white bowl

Will you give this easy canned tuna pasta a go? What’s your favorite clean-out-the-pantry recipe? Questions? Talk to me in the comments below! You can also find me on Instagram.

This healthy 15 minute canned tuna pasta is a great time-saver when you're short on time and ingredients!
4.80 from 268 votes

Easy Canned Tuna Pasta

This canned tuna pasta recipe is quick, healthy, and comforting. It's the perfect recipe when you don't have a lot in your pantry!
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 2


  • 4 ounces uncooked pasta (I used spaghetti)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic minced
  • 1 (5 ounce) can tuna, drained I prefer tuna packed in oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  • Boil a salted pot of water for your pasta and cook it al dente according to package directions. Prep your other ingredients while it cooks.
  • When the pasta is close to being ready, add the oil to a small pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook it for 30 seconds.
  • Stir in the tuna, lemon juice, and parsley. Let it heat through. 
  • Once the pasta is done, add some of the pasta water (a couple tablespoons) to the sauce and then drain the pasta and toss with the sauce. Season with salt & pepper as needed. Optional: serve pasta with freshly grated parmesan cheese and lemon zest.


  • See blog post for some ideas on recipe variations!


Calories: 400kcal, Carbohydrates: 44g, Protein: 21g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 26mg, Sodium: 180mg, Potassium: 253mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 83IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 29mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

© Salt & Lavender Inc. Content and photographs are copyrighted. Sharing this blog post is much appreciated, but copying and pasting full recipes without authorization to social media is strictly prohibited.

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Hi! Iโ€™m Natasha.

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4.80 from 268 votes (13 ratings without comment)

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  1. Bev says:

    5 stars
    My husband really enjoyed the TUNA PASTA SALAD that he took to work
    Made a nice refreshing change to his lunchtime meal ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

    1. Natasha says:


  2. Stephen says:

    Turned out terrible I’m afraid. Thought I’d try a different way of cooking tuna pasta and found this recipe. I’ve tried to cook it a few times now but to no avail. I’m obviously not talented enough to cook like yourself and other commenters on here. I’ll stick to my standard tuna pasta with mayonnaise, at least I can get that tasting okay.

    1. Natasha says:

      What did you not like about it? Did you read through the blog post and step-by-step photos?

      1. Stephen says:

        It just tasted burnt to me, maybe I cooked the garlic too long or didn’t add enough pasta water, I don’t know, I tried to cook it several times and followed it like you said. Like I said I can’t cook to save my life, I don’t know why I tried, it’s obviously a talent. Back to prepacked meals and my simple tuna pasta. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have wrote a review.

        1. Natasha says:

          Hi! Yes it sounds like you cooked the garlic too long. I would cook it at a much lower heat for a shorter amount of time if you want to attempt it again. It’s never bad to try so don’t beat yourself up about it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Ana Oprisan says:

    5 stars
    I absolutely adore this recipe. A very simple and tasty one. My mom hates pasta but she keeps asking me to cook this tuna pasta. Amazing, 5/5

    1. Natasha says:

      I’m so happy to hear that, Ana!! ๐Ÿ˜€ Thank you!

  4. Mari says:

    5 stars
    Great simple meal served with a salad!
    Thank you!๐Ÿ˜Š

    1. Natasha says:

      You are very welcome, Mari!

  5. Molly says:

    This is so good. It’s easy and quick and uses ingredients I always have in my kitchen. Delicious as is. I like to add anchovy paste and capers.

    1. Natasha says:

      Thank you, Molly!

  6. Jan says:

    5 stars
    I first found Salt and Lavender when I was looking for a tuna pasta recipe. I love this recipe. It is easy to make and tastes great.
    I also want to thank you Natasha for giving me โ€œpermissionโ€ to use my garlic press again.

    1. Natasha says:

      You are very welcome, Jan!! ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s one of my favorite kitchen tools… I don’t care what anyone says haha.

  7. Zea Estillore says:

    5 stars
    I used dried parsley and added more garlic since we love garlic. I used powdered lemon cause it was what we have. Added black olives. It turned out really good. Excellent recipe!

    1. Natasha says:

      That’s fantastic!! ๐Ÿ˜€ Thanks for letting me know, Zea!

  8. Asiah Alsalem says:

    this was incredible!!!

    1. Natasha says:

      Thank you so much, Asiah!! ๐Ÿ˜€ Glad you liked it!

  9. Cat says:

    5 stars
    Quick, easy and delicious. My 14 year old can make this recipe. This will be permanently added to our list of Friday Lent Dishes.

    Modifications I made:
    Dried parsley instead of fresh worked just fine.
    Shaved Parmesan cheese added to the texture.

    We paired this dish with ceasar salad and it was perfect.

    1. Natasha says:

      I’m thrilled to hear that!! Thank you, Cat!

  10. Sharon Gray says:

    5 stars
    Thanks for the idea. Usually I don’t mess with a recipe the first time I make it; however,I did add some chopped red onion and fresh mushrooms because the original sounded a little bland. It came out great and I was able to use gluten free pasta in this recipe without any problems. The touch of lemon was nice. I will definitely make this again. I might add the spinach next time.

    1. Natasha says:

      Glad you liked it! Yes, it’s definitely easy to tweak. Just depends what you’re in the mood for. I usually make it as-is like my mom used to do it, or I’ll sometimes add in tomatoes and spinach as described in the blog post. ๐Ÿ˜€