Garlic Lemon Tuna Pasta

4.99 from 577 votes

Garlic Lemon Tuna Pasta is a 10-minute meal loaded with Mediterranean flavor. You can make it with basic pantry ingredients - a meal the family will love!

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If you’re a fan of quick 10-minute dinners, this Garlic Lemon Tuna Pasta has you covered. It’s full of flavor, but you really only need a handful of ingredients to make it. Including canned tuna, a little lemon and garlic, and, of course, pasta!  I love how tasty it is, practical for weeknights, and overall, Tuna pasta is a pretty cheap meal to feed the family when you don’t have many fresh ingredients on hand.

top down shot of garlic lemon tuna pasta
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This easy canned tuna pasta is one of those meals that actually looks more fancy than it is. You’d be surprised how little effort goes into making the recipe. Feel free to adjust the garlic and lemon juice to your taste. Either way, you’re going to love this tuna pasta recipe, and you’ll never look at canned tuna the same way ever again!

“This was SOOOO good, easy, and filling! Omg. Literally had to stop myself from eating out the pot. 🤣🤣🤣🤣 I tossed in some sun dried tomatoes along w/ the tuna and other base ingredients. 10/10, chefs kiss, will make again. Lol.” – Zephaniah

Recipe at a glance

Cuisine Inspiration: Mediterranean/American
Primary Cooking Method: Stovetop
Dietary Info: Fish based, contains gluten (can be made gluten free), dairy optional.
Key Flavor: Zesty lemon, garlic, tuna
Skill Level: Easy

Summary

  • Quick and Easy: Ready in just 10 minutes, this tuna pasta recipe is perfect for a last-minute or quick meal.
  • Budget Friendly: Utilizes pantry staples like canned tuna and pasta for an affordable yet delicious dinner.
  • Customizable: Easily adaptable with various add-ins like beans, peas, greens, or tomatoes. For a burst of color add thinly sliced peppers.
  • Mediterranean Flair: Offers a burst of Mediterranean flavors with ingredients like Olive oil, garlic, and lemon.

Ingredients you’ll need to make canned tuna pasta

  • Spaghetti/Pasta: Provides a hearty base and soaks up all the flavors of the sauce.
  • Olive Oil: Enhances the Mediterranean flavor and adds richness.
  • Garlic: Offers a strong, aromatic flavor that pairs excellently with tuna and lemon.
  • Tuna in Olive Oil: Higher quality tuna in oil lends a richer, more nuanced flavor compared to water-packed tuna.
  • Lemon Juice and Zest: Adds a fresh, zesty kick that brightens the overall dish.
  • Salt and Pepper: Basic seasonings to enhance all the flavors.
  • Capers: Introduce a tangy, slightly briny taste that contrasts nicely with the lemon and tuna.
  • Fresh Parsley: Brings a fresh, herbaceous element to the dish.
  • Grated Parmesan: Adds a salty, umami flavor that rounds out the dish beautifully when served.
  • Flavor rich add-ins: Sun-dried tomatoes or kalamata olives, both offering a different intense flavor, can bring this dish to another level.
  • Gluten Free pasta: For those with gluten sensitivities, swapping regular pasta with gluten-free varieties maintains the dish’s structure while catering to your dietary needs. 
  • Chicken or Salmon: For a different protein, canned chicken or salmon can be used in place of tuna. The flavors will vary some.
  • Spice: For a very subtle spice, toss in fresh arugula, or for a bolder spice flavor, mix in red pepper flakes or chili oil.

How to make lemon garlic tuna pasta

Heat some olive oil in a large pan, then sauté the garlic until it’s fragrant, making sure not to brown it so it doesn’t get bitter. Next, add the tuna, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Cook those together for a couple minutes just to warm up the tuna and mix in the flavors.

And then you’re ready to add the spaghetti, chopped parsley and capers, which are totally optional. Add some reserved pasta water as well at this point to stop the spaghetti from drying out.

process shots of how to assemble garlic lemon tuna pasta in a bowl

Give the tuna and pasta a stir and serve it immediately. I would definitely recommend adding some parmesan cheese when you serve it. It just brings the flavors together wonderfully!

Watch this video to learn how to make garlic lemon tuna pasta.

“Super good, super easy! I doubled the garlic, free poured the capers, was liberal with parmesan, and cream, and also added a couple of chopped anchovies just for the added umami. It was gobbled up by my whole fam. It’s a keeper for a fast dinner out of the pantry.” – Christi

Tips for making the best tuna pasta

  1. Check out my How to cut garlic post for tips on the easiest way to cut garlic for this recipe.
  2. Use tuna in extra virgin olive oil for best flavor. If using tuna in water, make sure to drain all the water out for best flavor so it doesn’t dilute the pasta. I use the StarKist E.V.O.O.™ Wild-Caught Yellowfin Tuna.
  3. Have all the ingredients prepped next to the stove top. The recipe moves pretty fast and you want to make sure that you’re not burning the garlic or overcooking the tuna. So make sure the pasta is ready along with all the ingredients before heating the oil.
  4. Cook pasta al dente. Since you’ll be adding the pasta to the tuna and mixing it all together under low heat, it’s best not to fully cook it. It will get slightly softer as it warms up again with the other ingredients.
  5. Make it more creamy by swapping pasta water with milk or cream. I love how light and fresh this tuna pasta is with the Mediterranean flavor. The pasta water mixed with the olive oil and lemon juice creates a fresh sauce for the recipe. But you can easily make it more creamy if you’d like.
  6. Make it more hearty by building on to the base tuna pasta recipe. You can add some drained white beans to bulk it up or a handful of spinach or kale that will wilt down with the warm sauce.

What to serve with your tuna pasta

overhead shot of garlic lemon tuna pasta with parmesan

How to store & reheat your tuna pasta

Before storing, allow your tuna pasta to cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container. 

How long will tuna pasta last in the fridge?
Tuna pasta will last about 3 to 4 days in the fridge when stored properly in an airtight container.

Can I freeze tuna pasta?
You can freeze any leftovers, but if you’re doing so, make sure the pasta is cooked al dente because if it’s too soft, it will get even softer when frozen. Toss the pasta with some olive oil before freezing to make sure they don’t clump together. This is one of those dishes though that you can easily double or halve, to accommodate any servings, without worrying about leftovers.

Reheating tuna pasta: To reheat the tuna pasta, gently warm it on the stovetop over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally to ensure even heating. Add a small amount of water or olive oil to the pasta if it seems a bit dry. 

Frequently asked questions

What type of tuna should I use?

I would opt for Yellowfin Tuna or Albacore tuna that comes in the larger thick-cut chunks that’s sustainable and packed in olive oil. It’s higher quality and will lend itself to a better tasting dish overall. For this tuna pasta recipe, I use the packaged tuna that comes in extra virgin olive oil.

Can I use canned tuna in water instead of oil?

Yes, but make sure to drain it thoroughly. Tuna in oil has a lot more flavor, so consider adding an extra drizzle of olive oil to the dish for richness.

How can I prevent my garlic from burning?

Saute garlic on low heat and watch it very closely. If it starts to brown too quickly, lower the heat or add a bit more oil.

For more pasta recipes:

Now when you’re in a pinch at dinner time, just turn to your pantry, grab a box of pasta and can of tuna and get cooking. I love the bursting Mediterranean flavor in this tuna pasta recipe, but also that you can customize it to add beans, greens and even tomatoes. Hope you try it soon for your family!

If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feelgood Garlic Lemon Tuna Pasta recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!

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Garlic Lemon Tuna Pasta

Garlic Lemon Tuna Pasta is a 10-minute meal loaded with Mediterranean flavor. You can make it with basic pantry ingredients – a meal the family will love!
5 from 577 votes
Servings 4 servings
Course Dinner, Entree
Calories 348
Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 9 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
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Video

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces spaghetti or other pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 pouches 2.6 ounces tuna in olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice plus zest
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped divided
  • Grated parmesan for serving

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Reserve ½ cup pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta. Return to the pot to keep warm.
  • In the wide pan, heat the olive oil at medium heat. Then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tuna, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper, and heat through for 1 minute.
  • Add the pasta, capers and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, and continue to stir until the spaghetti is well coated. Add as much of the reserved pasta water as needed to thin out the sauce.
  • Garnish with remaining parsley and serve warm.

Notes

Recipe: Inspired by Bon Appetit
Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last about 3-4 days in the fridge.
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However here are some common substitutes that would work well in this recipe.
  • Instead of pasta water, you can use any milk or cream.
  • Instead of olive oil, you can use butter
  • To make it gluten-free, you can also make this with gluten-free pasta.
  • Leave out the capers if you don’t like them.

Nutrition

Calories: 348kcal, Carbohydrates: 44g, Protein: 18g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 6mg, Sodium: 241mg, Potassium: 220mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 196IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 23mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Course: Dinner, Entree

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Comments

  1. Lindsay says:

    So easy, quick, and delicious! Will be a go-to for fast dinner.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Yay, I love to hear that! So happy you found it easy and delicious, thank you!!

  2. Linda Ehrlich says:

    Always flop-proof and delicious

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Thanks so much, Linda!

  3. Maritza laboy says:

    Was so so so good will make again and again. 5 starts.

    1. Yumna says:

      Yay, thank you!

  4. Melissa says:

    Wondering if you could substitute frozen peas instead of capers??

    1. Yumna says:

      Sure! It won’t have the same umami kick, but if you don’t like that flavor, feel free to swap in for peas. I would just cook them first before adding them to the pasta.

  5. Krystel says:

    This recipe looks so simple and yummy, looking forward to trying it! Quick question- would it be okay to use canned tuna in water? If so, would you recommend increasing amount of olive oil used? Thanks!

    1. Yumna J. says:

      I have not made this recipe with canned tuna in water, but I think you could! I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. As far as the olive oil, you may need to add 1 to 2 tablespoons extra if the pasta is feels on the dry side. I would taste as you go and gauge that while cooking. You’ll have to let me know how it turns out when you try it!

  6. Hank says:

    This was delicious and you wouldn’t even expect it.

    I used to do a weekly / delivered meal plan and a recipe like this was included.

    Pro tip, add a few dashes of Tapatio and it really kicks it up a notch!

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Love that idea, thanks for sharing Hank!

  7. MArc says:

    Wife and I loved it. Served with baguette and crushed galic+olive oil to dip bread. Nice Portugese vino verde to accompany. Used linguini as pasta+ spinach. Thanks.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Yum! So happy to hear that you guys enjoyed it!

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