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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 267 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. Codie Atkinson says:

    5 stars
    When it comes to “dinner the day before payday” this was awesome 🙌🏻

    1. Natasha says:

      Haha great!!

  2. Leslie says:

    5 stars
    Thank you so much for this. All I had was tuna, pasta, garlic, and olive oil. Added Trader Joe’s onion salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and a little balsamic. So amazing!

    1. Natasha says:

      You’re very welcome! 🙂

  3. Rfa says:

    5 stars
    Easy and delicious with pantry staples. Done in as much time as it takes to boil the pasta.

    1. Natasha says:

      So happy you enjoyed it!

  4. RTE says:

    Your garlic will taste better if you let it sit 10-15 minutes after cutting it up & before adding it to the pan. Enzymes, baby!

    1. Natasha says:

      Good tip!

  5. Tizu says:

    5 stars
    Super easy recipe. I added cherry tomatoes and chillies flakes. My teen boys absolutely it!

    1. Natasha says:

      So happy to hear it! ☺️

      1. Laura says:

        I loved it, first time making paste with tuna! A+

        1. Natasha says:


  6. Christine says:

    5 stars
    Wow! My husband and I LOVED this recipe. It was delicious!!! I followed your recipe, but added one anchovie and some chili flakes, and an extra can of tuna. FANTASTIC! I can’t wait to try your other recipes. Thank you.

    1. Natasha says:

      You’re very welcome! ❤️❤️

    2. Margie says:

      I’m making this recipe tonight for dinner. I’ll let you know how it goes

      1. Natasha says:


  7. Stephanie Leogrande says:

    5 stars
    This was SO PERFECT! We were out of power most of last month thanks to PG&E shutoffs and are still restocking our cabinets. We didn’t have any lemon juice but we did have pickled jalapeños so I used some of that juice and chopped up a little bit of jalapeño and threw that in with a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Topped with a bit of red pepper flakes made for one TASTY meal. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Natasha says:

      I am so happy you enjoyed it. Sorry to hear about your power issues. Love the jalapeno idea!

  8. CrittrKpr says:

    5 stars
    So glad I found your site. I used a whole pound of spaghetti, for the 4 of us. Leftovers tomorrow will be great! I tripled the garlic, added red hot pepper flakes and seeds, 2 cans of tuna, EXTRA lemon juice and some Cavanders Seasoning. THIS WAS GREAT! For an Italian Family to rave about it, you know it is good.

    1. Natasha says:

      Wonderful… I am so pleased you all liked the recipe!! Your additions sound fab. 🙂

  9. Rome says:

    Thank you for this recipe! I wanted to try something for breakfast, but all I had was shirataki noodles, a couple can of tunas, some olive oil. Mixed them together and wow what an amazing treat!

    1. Natasha says:

      You’re very welcome!!

  10. Kiera says:

    5 stars
    I Added Butter The Olive Oil And Garlic , Then Fresh Spinach , Sauteed The Fresh Spinach For A Bit Then Continued With The Recipe . I Aslo Used Small Rigatoni , And Added Parmesan And Provolone Cheese

    1. Natasha says:

      Wonderful! Sounds delish!

    2. Jana says:

      5 stars
      I doubled tuna(my husband loves meat), used ginger root pasta and curry salt.
      Next time i won’t have these extras, but this will still be a good and fast dinner. Thanks for posting it

      1. Natasha says:

        So glad you liked it!