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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!
4.79 from 265 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! I’m Natasha.

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  1. 5 stars
    I used Fettucini with Tuna in Water (drained) and doubled the lemon juice and I also added 2 Tbps of Nonfat Greek Yogurt… excellente!

  2. 3 stars
    Used broccoli slaw mix, roasted red peppers, capers, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, italian seasoning, tuna, and olive oil. Tasty lunch.

    1. 5 stars
      Hallo, ihr Lieben, ich bin leider die einzige in meiner Familie, die Thunfisch mag… aber ich brauche für mich selbst immer mal was schnelles& leichtes zum Kochen, vielen Dank, salt&lavender

  3. Thanks Natasha for the great recipe!
    I literally had just googled “canned tuna recipes” (as a broke student) and so glad I stumbled upon your dish 😀
    I didn’t have parsley, but added the fresh garlic, lemon and some dried herbs like rosemary and basil. What a delight!

    1. Me right now. Didn’t have parley so I used chives instead and added some oregano, paprika and ground geera (cumin). Pretty great!

    2. live in Zimbabwe and did your tinned tuna recipe using garlic, onions, celery leaves and a few cherry tomatoes, a hint of chili and of course the tinned tuna. Very easy and simply delicious.

  4. Ok your target is back to school? Def would talk about scaling and using the full 16 oz package.would advise only 2 cans tuna and in oil! with salt/fish sauce/msg to help extend the flavor. Yum.

  5. 5 stars
    What a great way to make a MEAL with very few ingredients or with whatever ingredients you have on hand! I was getting low on veggies & some pantry items but found a bunch of cans tuna. I was out of celery and mayo to make a tuna salad, so I started a internet search for a tuna recipe. I found this one and I am so glad that I did!

    I doubled this recipe except for the tuna which I tripled b/c I had so many cans of it and wanted to use it before the expiry date. I used dried parsley in place of fresh b/c I didn’t have fresh. I also added a tsp each of dried dill & dried chives, 1/2 cup finely diced onion, 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, the rest of a bag of leftover frozen peas and used gluten free linguine.

    I also decided to use up what was left of some white wine (a lil over a cup) mixed with a tsp of Organic Veggie Broth base and added it to the pan with the tuna to cook down a bit before adding the pasta water & pasta. I didn’t use any cheese due to dietary restrictions, however I clearly did not need it because this dish was delish without it!! Thanks so much for a delicious, healthier & easier dinner option with tuna than just than just tuna salad & tuna casserole!🙆

  6. Could this be doubled for 4 servings and made ahead in a casserole dish to be reheated at mealtime?

  7. 5 stars
    Thank you for such an easy recipe! I had all the ingredients except for the cloves but I did have garlic powder and that was a great substitute! Me and my 5 yr old son are full and satisfied 🙂

  8. I’ve been making a version of this for years, except I sauté minced onion & shallots in olive oil & butter then add an entire (small) stalk of celery, leaves and all well chopped, afterwards I add the zest and juice of a lemon before adding several cans of tuna in water – all drained except for one and one can of tuna in oil (also drained). Plenty of fresh pepper and finished with crunchy salt. We prefer it with spaghetti.

  9. Omgosh, I made it today with Cajun sausage thin sliced and added yellow peppers and seasoning. It was so good. I am so happy I have something new to make. Thank you